The Congress Avenue Mile looms in just three days (Saturday morning) – and I have to admit that I am pretty far out of my element in preparing for this race. Never having run track in High School and only taking up running in the last 5 years when I was already 37 years old, to say that I am not a “miler” is a gross understatement.
So what in the world is this marathoner doing getting ready to toe the line on Saturday morning with a bunch of sprinters? I’ve been searching for the answer to that question this week as I have adjusted my training runs. I kicked around quite a few theories, but to be honest, I think it boils down to my fascination with Pre.
Steve Roland Prefontaine who I wrote about on his birthday back in January, helped get me excited about the sport of running. Click here to read about Pre: http://wp.me/sHGel-pre
When I learned about Pre’s accomplishments as a school-boy runner in Coos Bay, Oregon and then as an elite runner at the University of Oregon, Pre captured the spirit of the kind of runner I wanted to be. I wanted to be the guy that was an “all-go, no-quit” kind of runner. But when you take up a sport that you are already more than a decade “too old for” whatever that means, it is important to be realistic about the physical limitations you face.
That being said, for us “older runners” experience thankfully enters into the equation and matters on race day. I really enjoy the mental side or running and racing – the strategy side of the sport if you will – as much as the physical test.
A lot of people say that the Marathon is a thinking man’s (or woman’s) race. That tactics and your ability to stick to your plan when you are fatigued are a big part of your success in covering the 26 mile 385 yard distance. I don’t disagree. But I also feel that there is something magical about “the mile”. From Roger Banister breaking the 4:00 mark to Pre’s 3:54:6 in 1973 at Oregon – the mile is “sexy”.
Less than 1% of the population will ever run a marathon. Out of that 1%, less than 10% will ever run a “Boston Time”. That is pretty exclusive company – and it is that exclusivity that adds to the allure of the marathon for me.
But the mile is different. Everyone of us knows they “could” run a mile. It is just a matter of how fast. So for me, I am looking forward to Saturday as much as any race I’ve ever run. To be honest, I’m more nervous 3 days away from the starter’s gun than I was 3 days before the Boston Marathon.
I find myself thinking about strategy for the first 1/4 mile, the middle 1/2 mile and that final 1/4 mile to the finish. Will I go out too fast? Will I be able to hold pace over the middle portion of the race? Will I start my finishing kick too early? Will I wait too late and not push hard enough? All are questions that I will not be able to answer until 8:10 a.m. Saturday morning.
By 8:16 it will all be over (hopefully). I’d love to run something in the 5:00′s for my first attempt at the distance. Is that possible for this soon to be 43-year old marathoner? No telling. The one thing I do know is that I am going to look to channel my “inner-Pre” on Saturday. One of my favorite running shirts has a quote from Pre on the back that you see at a lot of races:
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift”
But there is another quote from Pre that I’ve been thinking about a lot this week when I have been pushing myself into a full-out sprint at the end of my 5, 6 and 8 mile training runs – focusing on my leg turnover and my form – trying to stay tall and fast:
“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.”
I have no illusions for any type of glory on Saturday, no age-group or division victories – I’m just hoping I can run the best race that I can and leave nothing out there on the course. In the end I think Pre had it exactly right. I’m going to turn Saturday morning into a “guts race” as Pre used to say, and if I do, I’m the only one who can win it.
So Dom, check back with me after breakfast – I’ll be running for you on Saturday. I know you would give anything to be out there with me if you could. Legs pumping, arms swinging, chest heaving – it’s going to be quite a race. Because at the end of the day, everybody likes to go fast.
Shake N’ Bake.