For many of you dear Mature Runners who persist in reading this column every month, you have to be wondering if I’ll ever really talk explicitly about running anymore!! Not being able to run as I am accustomed to has of course modified my focus to….cogitate on the more existential elements of life. I mean, if you can’t run freely, without pain, then is life (as we remember it) really worth living? I’m serious. So, my mind wonders around in the abstract world of delving into what is really running our human lives. I’ve talked about determining if we’re all being controlled by some kind of advanced computer program. I’ve wondered why I can’t change, modify, or at least control what my body does, so I can keep on running freely. I’ve even followed the career of a young idealist who went off in search of beauty and disappeared off the face of the planet. No, I’m not ready to do that!! And today in researching for this article, I googled my question of a few months ago “Are we the result of an elaborate cosmic experiment?” and was shocked to see among the results on page 3 – “David’s blog – are we the results of an elaborate cosmic experiment?”. Eeeegads. I feel like I’m being watched now. I better be careful what I’m saying. I might have to choose between Neo’s blue or red pill, and either erase all my lucid memories, or get thrown into the rebels’ ship outside the Matrix. So……let’s quickly talk about running J
Boston Marathon is looming, I can always feel it coming when it’s just 2 weeks away. It was the focus of all my serious thoughts for so many years. And for those of you not following the progress of the US Olympic Marathon qualifiers, here’s a list of who we are sending to the Rio Olympics: men – Galen Rupp (yippee – I’m an Oregonian too), Meb Kefliezighi (again!!!), and Jared Ward; women – Amy Cragg, Desiree Linden, and Shalane Flanagan (with Kara Goucher 1 minute behind in 4th place). So, those favorites in the field won’t be running Boston. But, I couldn’t help but read Shalane’s build-up to the 2014 Boston Marathon – and just have to include elements of it here for those starving to read about someone’s intense will to win at all costs. Years of living in the middle of competition (coaching and running ultra-competitively) have mellowed me out. I see all the danger signs, and wonder, “was I really ever like that???” Anyway, here are some of my favorite quotes from Shalane’s interview leading up to the 2014 Boston, in which she placed 7th, took almost 4 minutes off her lifetime best, and probably hardened her resolve to get better and better.
(from a CBS interview with Anderson Cooper): Anderson: “The Boston Marathon has been a part of Shalane Flanagan's life since she was a child. Both her parents were marathon runners. Her father ran 11 minutes off world record pace at the Boston marathon in 1980. Her mother set a women's world marathon record in 1971.” Shalane: “I thought everyone's parents ran. I thought everyone got up and went to the, you know, Sunday long run.” Anderson: “You thought everybody's parents did that?” Shalane: “Yeah. I thought it was like church of Sunday long run.” Anderson: “The church of Sunday long run?” Shalane: “That's what my dad would call it.” Anderson: “Obviously, marathons are painful. But for you, it's about being able to deal with pain yourself, and also, inflict pain on others.” Shalane: “Uh-huh (affirm).” Anderson: “That's part of the strategy.” Shalane: “Yes. You know, when I start to feel fairly uncomfortable, it's -- it's all about embracing it and realizing it's inevitable and…” Anderson: “Embracing the pain?” Shalane: “Embracing it, yes. So if I'm uncomfortable, I usually know my competitors are uncomfortable. If they're straggling behind, that's kind of the time when I say, ‘I'm gonna put the screw in.’ I can tell that they're either struggling mentally or physically. So I'm gonna just push it and just see if I can break them.” Anderson: “This is gonna sound like an odd question, but do you like inflicting pain on your opponents?” Shalane: “I think everyone who's got a competitive bone in their body-- to a certain degree, enjoy seeing a little bit some of the-- having their competition fall apart.”
When Shalane started running in high school, there wasn't much strategy to her racing. Shalane: “I would run so hard that I would literally make myself collapse.” Anderson: “I've heard you refer to it as kamikaze racing.” Shalane: “Yeah. I mean, it's not...” Anderson: “Kamikazes don't end up very well.” Shalane: “I know, but sometimes it could be brilliant.”
Shalane: “Boston has this really fun way of trashing your quads. As much as you tell your legs to respond and to pop off the ground and, like, as much as you want it spiritually and mentally, if your legs don't have it, they don't have it. There's nothing you can do. Like, I try to talk to 'em. I'm like, ‘Legs, you have to keep moving. You have to turn over. You need to be coming and giving me more energy.’ But if it's not there, it's not there. It's not much you can do.” Anderson: “You're actually talking to your legs while you're running? Shalane: Oh yeah, I have talks with 'em. Yeah, I'll look at my quads, and I'm like, ‘Come on, you can do this.’ And-- so I mean no one sees that.” Anderson: “Do they respond?” Shalane: “No. They're usually like, ‘Hey, screw you. You know, we've been running for a long time.’” Anderson: “To you, winning the Boston Marathon would be bigger than winning an Olympic medal?” Shalane: “Yeah. You could say, ‘Here, Shalane, you have an Olympic medal, or you could win the Boston Marathon.’ A no-brainer to me would be winning the Boston Marathon.” Anderson: “Why?” Shalane: “It is personal. It's where my inspiration started. It's where I fell in love with running.”
So, there you have it. Shalane is now shooting for a medal in Rio, and not winning Boston this year. Have fun following the Boston Marathon on Patriot’s Day, April 18th. There’s always a contingent from Bozeman, I wonder who we’ll send over there?
- David Summerfield
David Nutter Summerfield
The following blogs were first published in The Windrinker, a running newsletter published in Bozeman, MT (www.Windrinkers.org). There is a constant attempt at viewing the foibles of long distance runners in a humorous light so we don't take ourselves too seriously.