Thursday, January 29, 2009

Meeting Some Running Heroes

Living in New York, I don’t usually get too excited when I see the occasional celebrity traveling about town. Most of the time, depending on who it is, I’ll rarely even do a double-take to verify if the celeb is who I thought he/she was. Tonight was the first night I ever found myself somewhat awestruck by who I was talking to.

It all started when I showed up in RUN NYC tonight, hoping to meet a couple of the elite runners who were coming to the city to run in the Millrose Games being held in Madison Square Garden tomorrow night. Because I decided to join the group for a quick training run prior to the Meet and Greet session, I was slightly out of breath and sweating profusely when I first entered the store. There was a handful of people who were already there, but definitely not the huge crowd I was expecting for an event of this magnitude. This was good for me because within five minutes of my entry, I somehow found myself standing in front of this guy talking about running.

In case you are not a runner, did not watch the Beijing Olympics or one who doesn’t following the sport (in that case, I’d wonder if you’re REALLY a runner), that’s Bernard Lagat, the winner of the 1500m and 5000m races at the U.S. Olympic Trials last year in Eugene, Oregon. He was here to run the Wanamaker Mile tomorrow at the Millrose Games. Ever since he became the first ever world champion at the 1500m and 5000m simultaneously when he won both event at the Osaka games in 2007, I have known about his story and consider him one of my running heroes. So imagine my surprise when I found myself standing right in front of him with his hands extended awaiting mine in a handshake. It was a thrill and a half for me. I shook his hand, told him I was a big fan, and proceeded to spent about 5-10 minutes talking about racing, training, and the mental preparation the night before a big race. He gave me some sound advice on what I could do to improve my strength (more hill training) and my general speed (shorter, but more intervals). I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and learned a lot from our talk. He was the consummate profession and a really down-to-earth guy. In my mind, it proved once again, that runners, even the elite ones, are genuinely good people.

U.S. distance running, Kara Goucher, strolled into the store and joined Lagat on the stage for a Q & A session. For those who are unfamiliar with Kara’s story (shame on you), she is a gifted runner who made the transition from short distance track to marathoner runner late last year. Like Lagat, she also represented the country at the Beijing Olympics and competed in both the 1500m and 5000m race distances. After the Olympics, she made her marathon debut in the New York City Marathon, and finished 3rd with a time of 2:25. Before her, it had been 14 years since the last time an American female stood on the podium at a New York City Marathon. Currently, she is training to run her very first Boston Marathon. She is also here to run in the mile at the Milrose Games, an event in which she is the defending champion. I can’t lie. I have a special affinity for Kara because we share so many similarities. We both call Queens our hometown, we both made our marathon debuts in NYC marathon and we’ll both be running our first ever Boston Marathon in twelve short weeks. During her session, I was struck by how candid she was about her diet, her training and her general approach to running. She runs about 95-100 miles a week, does not really do additional cross-training and tries to eat a well-balanced diet all year round, regardless of the race she’s preparing for. I train with the same philosophy (except my mileage is about half of hers) so it was refreshing for me to hear that an elite athlete trains the same way.

After the brief session, we all got to go on stage and meet both athletes in person. I shook Bernard’s hand, got his autograph and wished him good luck in his race tomorrow. Then I moved over to Kara where I spent a few minutes telling her about our similar running stories. She admitted to me that she was also slightly nervous about Boston (because “it’s not New York) but she’s running more volume and has more time to train than she had in New York. I told her that I’m trying to train diligently and maybe break 3 hours in Boston. She wished me luck and posed for a picture with me. Afterwards, she said I should come by and say Hi if I run into her at the expo. I told her I most definitely will and wished her the best of her luck in her race tomorrow.

I left the store very inspired to run well this year and feeling like I had just met running royalty. For some reason, I don’t think I’ll have much trouble motivating myself to get up early this weekend for my long distance run. All I got to do is think to myself, Hmmm…what would Bernard Lagat and Kara Goucher do?

18 comments:

Oz Runner said...

how cool that you got to meet 2 such great runners, and even get advice from them.

Cowboy Hazel said...

I was also at the Running Company last night for the Q&A. It was, as you say, so inspiring to hear such great runners talk about running. I wanted to go out and do some speedwork as soon as I left (but I restrained myself...)

nwgdc said...

Wow! I'm completely jealous at the moment. How inspiring!
I also have a special affinity for Kara, as she's pretty damn good looking too.

Chic Runner said...

I met Bernard a long time ago when I was dating someone and he knew of him. It was crazy. So glad you got to meet them and get some great advice and be inspired. I'm so jealous!

Heather said...

What a great experience to meet those runners - I really admire Kara, and it seems like she is really down to earth.

k said...

I think this may be the first time I've commented here even though I read pretty regularly.
As silly as it sounds, but I might have been a little star struck seeing Kara Goucher. I find her really inspiring (and she also kicks my butt...I downloaded one of her nike podcasts)

X-Country2 said...

What a cool event! I love when people you admire turn out to be wonderful in person.

Meg said...

How cool! I'm jealous!!

Cheetah Girl said...

OMG so so so jealous! That is awesome! 100 miles a week though, wow, I had to read that twice.. makes my accomplishments seem rather puny lol! Nah just something to motivate you I guess. Thanks for the awesome story!

Marie said...

Even though I live in NYC, I still get excited when I see a celebrity and feel the need to tell everyone I know when I see Selma Blair/Kate Hudson's ex-husband/Drea DeMatteo/etc.etc. Wish I could run into John Mayer though.

Awesome that you got to meet Kara Goucher!

Susan said...

I'm so jealous that you were able to meet Lagat and Kara! I've always thought that runners are generally nice people, so it's good to hear that that extends to the elites as well.

Steve Stenzel said...

That's AWESOME you got to meet those 2!!!

And Kara is SOOO pretty!!

J said...

That is so cool that you got to meet kara!! So lucky!

Shilingi-Moja said...

Sounds like a great day -- a good run and the chance to spend some time with a couple of great runners. It's no surprise that Lagat was so pleasant - that's a typical Kenyan trait.

Run For Life said...

:) !!!

The Happy Runner said...

SO COOL!

Nice pic, too.

sRod said...

What fun!

audgepodge said...

That is so awesome that you got to meet them! I would have loved to meet Kara myself.

 
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