A couple of Saturdays ago, a bunch of us were sweating our way through yet another long run and, as marathoners do, the general topic of the morning was which marathons we were doing in the fall and winter and why we were running them. The reasons why who was running which were the usual: Course, logistics, race goodies, tradition, cost, proximity and 100 other rationalizations for choosing a particular marathon. As we cruised along, one of the newbies asked innocently enough: “Which marathon is the easiest?”
“The easiest?” the group gasped collectively. “The easiest marathon?”
Stunned, I needed a minute or two to digest this notion because I had never heard “easy” used before to describe a marathon. Easy and marathon just doesn’t compute.
I sure could use some easy just once, but the very idea of running an easy marathon is—at least to me—hard to imagine. To this day, I can remember the late Grete Waitz telling me that pacing New York City Marathon director Fred Lebow for 5 ½ hours in the 1992 NYCM was harder than any of her world records. She was used to 2 ½ hours of marathoning, but to spend an additional three hours on her feet was mind boggling to her.
My own marathon pacing experiences weren’t quite that bad, but several years ago I paced marathon groups an hour slower than I normally ran at the time and even that was hard. The distance is so long and the time spent on your feet is so long that nothing about the marathon—regardless of the pace–ever comes easy.
Certainly, some marathon courses aren’t as hard as others are (so I understood what the newbie in our group was asking), but as long as the distance remains 26.2 miles, it will always be a daunting and formidable race.
Which is exactly the point. It’s also why so many of us accept the challenge year after year and put in so many months and miles to get ready for it.
I’ve run somewhere north of 35 marathons. Some I ran well, some were OK and some not so great. But even my best ones when I was able to keep it together in the last few miles and finish strongly, were incredibly hard. So were the rotten ones when I fell apart.
At least for me, every marathon has been the ultimate test of mind and body. Nothing else I’ve done comes close to it. Every one has been a struggle between my body that wants to walk and my mind which absolutely won’t allow it. Even top marathoners have to battle the mind and body. One national-class marathoner once told me the marathon was: “Mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”
He was wise in his own way. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized every single race I have ever run in my life has been hard and involved some type of struggle.
Then, this morning while running, it dawned on me that I have never run a race that I could classify as easy. Never once have I just danced to the finish without the least bit of difficulty. Nor, have I ever been disappointed to see a single finish line come into view and wished the race could go on for a few more miles.
For every race I have ever run (and there have been hundreds), I have pushed myself to whatever limit there was on that particular day. Some races were faster and more successful than others, but every race has taken whatever effort I could summon on that day.
That’s the harsh beauty of racing. Racing is hard; running is easy.
As the noted philosopher Steve Prefontaine once said, “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.”
My particular gift is endurance. And for me, a race is a test of my ability to endure while still getting to the finish as quickly as possible. That’s why I race. It’s my pass/fail test against the distance, the course, the conditions, my fellow age groupers and—of course—to prove to myself that I can continue to endure time and time again.
The only thing I can’t endure is easy.
O This is that time of year when many Texans trade thick, humid air for the thin, dry air of Colorado, namely the Pike’s Peak Marathon and the incomparable Leadville Trail 100. Pike’s Peak was last weekend and the Texas flatlanders were led by Matt Harrington of Austin in 5:29:25. Mike McGinn of Georgetown doubled: He ran the ascent on Saturday in 3:32 and followed that up on Sunday in the marathon in 5:51. Zach Ginnings of College Station ran the marathon in 5:56, Nate Ramsey of Cedar Park did 6:35, Chris Null of Austin finished in 6:39, Jesse Barrera of San Anton went up and down in 8:11, Luke Marino of Pflugerville in 8:23 and Brent Buxton of Austin doubled. He ascended on Saturday in 4:34 and ran the marathon the following day in 8:47. Dirk Sheridan of Austin finished in 9:287. Ty Meighan of Austin completed it in 9:54.
O The Leadville Trail 100 begins Saturday morning at 4 a.m. There are a ton of Texans running and they will likely be led by Liza Howard of San Antonio. The 43-year-old was second among women last year and 10th overall in 20:01:15.
O The IAAF World Championships begin on Saturday in Beijing in the famed Birds Nest. The American team includes the following Central Texans: Shelby Vaughn (discus), Jessica Beard (4 x 400 relay) and Shamier Little (400 hurdles) of College Station, Natasha Hastings (400), Michael Tinsley (400 hurdles) and Michael Rodgers (100) of Round Rock and Trayvon Bromell of Waco (100). Texas Ex Michelle Carter is in the shot put, Trey Hardee—a two-time World Champ—will duel with Ashton Eaton in the decathlon, Sanya Richards-Ross (400 relay), Marielle Hall (5000) and Leonel Manzano will run the 1500.
O UT coach Mario Sategna has arrived in Beijing to coach Trey Hardee. Sategna will also be doing plenty of observing in Beijing as he has already been named as the throws coach for the ’16 Olympic team. Former UT coach John Hayes is also in Beijing after working with Leonel Manzano at a pre-Worlds training camp in Japan.
O Also certain to be in attendance in Beijing will be Seb Coe, the newly elected president of the IAAF. Coe…er, Lord Coe served two terms as VP of the IAAF and was the head of the ’12 Olympics in London. Surprisingly, Coe, who won four Olympic medals and set eight world records, never ran in the World Champs. He was sick before the inaugural Worlds in 1983 in Helsinki and four years later, was injured and didn’t run in the Rome World Champs.
O Nice job by Ed Childress of Austin who got out of our summer heat by running the Big Wild Life 49-K in Anchorage, Alaska in 5:47 and finished seventh in his age group (50-54). Ed’s following that up this weekend with the Bobby Crim 10-Miler in Michigan.
O Will Nation, the former UT runner who won the 3M Half Marathon last January in his very first road race, has decided that the New York City Marathon will be his first 26-miler. Nation qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials in June and his coach—former UT distance coach John Hayes—wants him to at least dip his toes in the marathon waters before the February Trials. NYC has included Nation in its elite field, but the 23-year-old is planning a conservative approach. The weekend before New York Nation will go to the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon to support former UT teammate Rory Tunningley in his attempt to qualify for the Trials. Parker Stinson is also running Philly.
O The Dallas Marathon on December 13th announced this week that Dathan Ritzenhein, a three-time Olympian and a favorite for the Olympic Trials Marathon, will join fellow Olympians Ryan Hall, Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi as ambassadors at this year’s marathon. Just don’t expect any of them to compete in Dallas (all will probably run as part of celebrity relay teams). Kastor, the American record holder in the marathon (2:19:36) and half (1:07:34), will try to break the US masters record (2:28:40) at the Chicago Marathon in October.
O Former Austinite and one-time Rogue runner Tia Marie Martinez is having labor induced today today up in Oklahoma City. Her baby girl has already been named Ricki Marie Reagan.
O Congrats to my friends Anne and Kenny Hill on the marriage of their son Drew to Jennifer Leong.
O More congrats to Beaux Benson, a trainer at Pure Austin, who became engaged to Amber Dawn Arbo on Sunday on top of Mount Bonnell.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “The Turning Point” by John Mayall. Well before unplugged, Mayall recorded one of his greatest albums with mostly acoustic instruments—and no drummer—at the Fillmore East in New York.
Have any news for me? Send it along to email@example.com.
The weekly “Heard Around the Lake” is brought to you by Albert Saenz and The Cadenza Group – an Austin-based real estate company involved in the running community, serving your home buying, selling and leasing needs!
Want to receive each article via email? Subscribe at http://texasrunningpost.com/