I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but for me, the more I run and the faster I run, the more I find myself being humbled by the sport. Whether it’s a female “rabbit” who I never thought in a million years could stay with me for 13.1 miles, much less outkick me by a good margin at the finish, or the much older gentleman who would’ve passed me in the final mile if he hadn’t yelled out to me from behind to “keep my head up, my arms pumping, and not let a 64-year-old man tell his grandkids that he beat an Asian man in a bandana!”, I’m constantly amazed by all the different age, shape and sized runners all around me as I’m crossing the finish line. In a way, it serves as good motivation to keep training and to keep getting faster so that the next time you meet the same runners in a different road race, you know you’ll be able to keep up with them, if not beat them outright.
Towards that end, I took the opportunity to run with and learn from the fastest runner in my running group, the Flyers, on Monday when I joined them for their weekly group run. Granted that I was still extremely sore from having run the Newport Half Marathon the day before and had showed up only expecting to run at a recovery pace, the fact that he ended up running with me was more than a little intimidating to say the least. For a bit of reference, we started the run with him describing to me how he ran the Continental Avenue Fifth Avenue Mile in . Yes, you heard right, ! (Actually, he was upset because he felt there was a slight timing problem because he actually had himself running a on the clock!) In comparison, my fastest mile, on my best day, is probably . Yeah, like I said, we’re not even in the same league.
To be honest, I “know” him but didn’t really get to “know” him until the Monday run. Although I always see him at the same first corral where I usually line up at all the local races, I always just say hello, wish him a good race, and scoot back at least a few rows behind, mostly out of respect than out of anything having to do with him. So this was really the first time I’ve actually spoken with the guy. And I have to say, for someone who runs so impressively fast, he is actually one of the friendliest people I’ve ever run with. Not only did he not try to push the pace on me even though I totally expected him to (we were only running a 7:30-7:45 min/mi pace for the duration of the run), he actually shared a lot of running and speed training tips with me as well. While he was talking and explaining things to me, I tried as much as possible to stay quiet and to absorb all the knowledge like a sponge. I actually wished that I had a recorder so I could’ve taped our whole conversation and replay it back again at home so I could take ample notes.
One of the most fascinating things he told me was that he doesn’t particularly like running marathons. As a result, he has only done three previous marathons even though he has been running in excess of five years. For example, he enjoys running the short distance road races so much that he hasn’t really even started long distance training for the NYC Marathon yet, which is only 5 weeks away. This was very interesting to me because comparatively I’m semi-injured from having done so many long runs and having done them, I’m not quite sure I’m so much better off than he is at this point. But then again, his expectations for NYCM is much more modest than mine – he just wants to run better than a 3:30 so he can re-qualify for Boston again, while I’m trying to PR and get closer to that ever-elusive 3 hour mark.
In the end, we both came to the realization that long distance training and running marathons dramatically decreases the number of short road races you can enter in a calendar year and probably shortens your running career in general as well. As someone who likes the challenge of marathon training yet enjoys racing the shorter distance road races as well, this is quite a conundrum. I’ll have to seriously sit down and figure out which direction I’d like to go during the off-season.
Meanwhile, I’m blown away by how smoothly the conversation went even as we were maintaining a good pace throughout the run. It was definitely one of the most enjoyable social runs I’ve had with anybody in a really long time.