Saturday included a drive up to the mountains for a weekend camping trip, an opportunity to test out my new tent and sleeping bag, good quality time with the best of friends slash running buddies, beer, and a long awaited date with the September issue of Runner’s World Magazine.
It was to be 24 hours free from any anxiety-ridden thoughts of the Pikes Peak Marathon, a day to relax and to sloooooowwwww dooooowwwwwn, something I’ve been trying to do but failing at miserably. The time in the mountains just over an hour away from beautiful Denver turned out being just what the doctor ordered, and the timing of the trip couldn’t have been more perfect.
A bit to my surprise, though, what I found in those pages while reading about running - and trying to forget about the race - made me feel the most relaxed.
Enter Lauren Fleshman, two-time USA Track and Field 5K Champion, 7th in the 2011 World Championships 5K (the highest American finish in history), and a member of six world championship cross country and track teams among other accomplishments, who, according to well-respected running scientific evidence, has run a 5K 35 seconds faster than should be statistically possible.
If her article title, ‘To Heck with Science,’ doesn’t give the gist away, the subtitle will: ‘Runners love numbers, but we can’t measure heart, grit, or passion.’ The article is great – Well written and engaging with a lot of personality that draws you in to the very last word.
She is absolutely right. You can’t measure aptitude or ability based on mileage, pace, VO2 max, or any other running related number. There’s a lot going on that has nothing to do with any of these and everything to do with what makes runners runners, something that can’t be quantified but most definitely qualifies those who ‘do’ from those who ‘don’t’ in the one sport I love most.
Having had to use thought stopping techniques a handful of times yesterday and today at work when it hit me that four months of training will all come down to the gun in a mere five days – down to one hand - and counting, I thought of Lauren’s article and thought a little self-motivation was in order.
So, I reflected on the validation I’ve gotten the past few months - the words of encouragement idolizing the abstract and immeasurable whatever it is – heart, passion, maybe just plain ol’ hard-headed obstinance – that’s running around in this little nerd in running shoes’ body.
Without further ado, I give you the most memorable commends I’ve received while training for my first ever marathon:
“Wow, you’re hard core,” said to me on a day I felt particularly sluggish and slow while trudging up a trail incline. Damn, I wonder what she would have said had she seen me on a good day!
“She must really be in shape if she can run up here,” said more audibly than necessary to the fellow hiker directly to the woman’s left; and that’s OK with me.
- “How many times are you going to run up this?!” I heard several variations of this on my second trip up and down the first steep section of Herman Gulch on the day I lost my car key.
“That’s impressive.” Had I had the breathe at the time, I would have replied, “If you think this is impressive, you should see me spit!” Instead, I painfully gasped a “Thanks.”
- “You’re a beast!” ‘Nuff said.
- “You look younger and younger every time I see you! How do you do it?” OK, so that one has nothing to do with running per se; but it came from a running buddy. That still counts, right?
- “You’re fast!” Not as true this year as in the past. Still, I’ll take it!
I’m not sure of exactly what this says about me as a runner, but I’m hoping that not being able to assign any numbers to it might help my numbers when I cross the finish line on Sunday. Guess we’ll find out if that’s true soon enough. . .
Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.