Well, my plan was to write my next entry about all things tempo related, but that one’ll have to wait; instead I have two much more interesting subjects…
So Saturday was week 3 of my new “Marathon every Saturday” plan. I’m really not sure why I’m doing this to me honest, alternating trail with street marathons – actually if you count my Indiana run it’s week four, and I’ll tell you that without a doubt, at least in my opinion, its far easier to go out and cruise through a street 26 mile run, than it is a trail run at 50% slower speed! And Saturday again reminded me of this.
At the nearby State park, which amazingly is only 1 mile by 1.5 miles square, but yes, I can (and have) run marathons here! So not even 18 miles in and I was tired. I can’t say my legs were sore, and I wasn’t even really dehydrated, but I was mentally whipped. Now any Ultra runner (and non ultra runners too), knows how this goes – plan on “X” miles, only get “Y” miles, but that’s ok, because you’ve spent the last half hour coming up with rationalizations why your shorter distance was really a far better idea then, let’s just say, running a stupid marathon, every stupid Saturday! Would I have quit? I don’t know for sure, but just as I was at the park rest area, beaten and deflated, who shows up but the Trail Slammer himself! I could nearly have kissed him (and if he had shown up in his spandex pants that he’s been wearing lately, I may well have done just that!) But in seriousness, this was EXACTLY what I needed – he was only 7 or so miles in, a smiling face with an actual positive attitude (unlike mine), and offered to finish out my run with me. It was amazing; suddenly I was running again (although slowly; more than once I thought I had a good pace going, and looked to see the Trail Slammer WALKING!) But in any case, the man saved my run; I pulled off the 26.2, and as always with him had a good time talking about everything from religion to his Berkly hike / essay / compass thing. As much as I thoroughly enjoy teasing the TS at every conceivable opportunity, I will say I now understand something he told me a long time ago far better now…
It was the Trail Slammers first 100 mile run a few years back, and I had the privilege of pacing the little guy – of course I have an entire blog entry on this story, but suffice to say he was hurting at about mile 35, and that was when I jumped in to run with him. After he completed the run (and he made all 100), he made the statement that “That 100 was as much yours as it was mine Doctor”. I of course wrote it off as an overly generous statement, but after Saturday I know exactly what he meant. My Saturday run (although not exactly Wasatch) was as much his as mine – I’m not usually very good at running with others (except for the Trail Dog) but on that day, the Trail Slammer saved my run – Thanks again Mr. Slammer!
Ok, and on another note, I’ll let off a bit of steam, I think. How do I set the stage for this one? Ok, I’ll start by expressing my very serious respect for runners in general. And in honesty, the runners out after their first 5K, 10K, Half or Marathon hold a particularly solid place in my heart. I recall running Chicago in 2005 – absolutely the worst, and in some cases the best, marathon I’ve ever run. The problem was that I had hurt my back that summer; I really had no right to be out there to begin with. 9 miles in my back was screaming, and I was walking. In those days I was running about 3:40 marathons on a good day, but on that day I finished in about 5 and a half hours. So what could possibly be so good about that run? Well, I had a chance to run and walk with the 5-6 hour crowd, and I’ll tell you, these are some of the bravest and most determined people I have ever seen! Many charity supporters, and by mile 23 I watched the faces on these folks – looks of pure misery – and determination! Incredible courage! I walked with a very heavy gal who had a picture of a young boy on her shirt, and on her back it said “This is for you Mark”. Turns out that Mark was her younger brother who had recently died of cancer, and this gal was running in his honor. I walked with her, and swore I would have carried her if I had to – I mentally sent any running skills I had to her to try to help, and in the end, she finished (very deliberately ahead of me, because she deserved it). Well then, is it really so important to break 3 hours? To maybe run 130 miles instead of “just” 100? I really can tell you that this moved me in a big way, and with this in mind, let me tell you about the car I saw a few weeks ago.
So the Librarian and I are in the car and come up to an intersection, and the car stopped just ahead of us has quite a number of bumper stickers plastered on it; clearly a running enthusiast, with the “26.2” sticker, and every value beneath it – as well as all sorts of other pro running stickers – it was pretty cool! Looking a bit more I noticed a good bit of “Ultra” bumper stickers as well – “Ah, awesome” I thought, “A fellow Ultra runner…” “100” stickers and the like….
But then I saw it. The bumper sticker read: “So, you ran a MARATHON? That’s cute….”
I read it about 5 times in astonishment. I will tell you that I love my ultra community friends, I genuinely do. In general, we’re a group of fun people, not many of which take ourselves too seriously, always supportive of one another – and then I read it again… “Could that really be one of US displaying this?” I thought. I was instantly reminded of all the people I have known, and helped, to finish their first 5K. Their first 10K. I thought of the gal in Chicago struggling with everything she had for the memory of her brother, and for the first time ever, I was ashamed of one of us. I was ashamed of him, and furious on how he was demeaning others.
Ultra runners (or any runners) don’t do this. We NEVER belittle others to make ourselves feel better. It’s not who we are, or what we do, or how we feel. I’ll say it again, ANYONE who struggles to accomplish that next great challenge, be it a 5K, 10K, Marathon, 100 Mile, or 200 mile run is a hero to me; and the fact is that there is always someone that can run faster, or farther than you, no matter who you are. I suspect that not many of us will qualify for the Olympics, or even come close to making a living on these runs, so that said, it’s about challenges, fitness, and fun; a hobby – and that person in one bumper sticker I think brought a lot of shame to us – maybe I’ll just say differently, they are not one of us. And for the record, I’ve had 4 weekends of marathons, and I’d love nothing more than to invite them to run alongside me; maybe they could tell me how “Cute” our run is!
As my hero the Head Goat would say, “Run on, with your head up, and with pride – YOU are AWESOME”!