I came upon a strange post today. Someone wrote of having recently run a PR that was out-of-line with her other PRs and how this created a conundrum: if I’ve gotten as fast as I’m going to get, why bother? Invoking an image akin to Bruce’s “Glory Days” — “old runner guy” who “used to be able to run a 2:50-something in some marathon once in the distant past” — why not quit while on top, at the pinnacle, and not become a mockery of her former self or, as Woody Allen would have it, “a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”
That’s crazy talk. When we were up at the Rockies a few weeks back, we, all Masters, all lifers, joked about accepting the inevitable. I recall it taking me a bit of time to get over the fact that I was getting beaten in five-milers by youngsters running at my easy-run pace years back as I was running as hard as I ever had trying to keep up. But once I accepted that, things became much clearer and easier. Because although the sport has always been about PRs, it’s never really been about them. It’s been about the journey. Not in some smell-the-roses fashion but in feeding the passion.
So I just don’t understand the narrowness of some people’s view of this. We don’t run marathons to check something off a list of things to do before we die. We run them, or half-marathons or 5Ks or 400s, because we’re runners, and we’re not passing through. Sure, age-grading helps us to feel competitive again as does the reality of NYRR club races in which the age-group competition is rather intense. But it only gets us so far. And for those youngsters who want to pass, just tell me whether it’s to the right or the left.
On a separate topic, some comments on today’s world champs. The 10,000 was great, and what can you say about Kenenisa Bekele and Zersenay Tadese. Galen Rupp held on for a goodly while, and Ritz held together and finished strong. Here’s LetsRun’s analysis.
On the women’s side, we had the continuing saga of Maggie Vessey in the women’s 800 semis and for the men the passage of three Americans to the 1500 final. LetsRun.
Jenny Barringer set the American Record today in 9:12.50 for the 3000 meter steeplechase, good for fifth in the World Champs. As I watched, I didn’t realize how fast the race was ahead of her. She lagged back from the start, and only started to move in the final 800 or so. Here’s a nice post-race interview on Flotrack in which she expresses no regrets.
After some comments on LetsRun, Jim Spivey chimed in, rather well.
I think you need to really sit at your computer, and think about what you just wrote …. “she should have gone out faster, and she would have medaled.”
Do you realize how hard it is, to be 5th in the World Championships? How much has to be right, on the day? She ran a PR, American Record, ran the race that she set out to run by not going out too fast.
When you have won before in a Championships race, then, as Seb Coe told me, “you go for Gold again, or nothing. What is the point of getting 8th if I did not try to win?” Look at Steve Cram in 1987 – he ran 24.9 for the 500 meters to go, to 300 meters to go, had the lead with 150m to go in the World Championships 1500m final, and finished well back, being beaten by many in the last 80 meters, including me.
The other side is if you would have walked up to Bob Kennedy when he ran his great Atlanta Olympic final in ’96, taking the lead with 2 laps to go, and making it his race to lose. He did lose, but as he walked off the track and you could have asked him this question: “Bob, you are 26 years old, great race! You will not make another Olympic team.” An extremelty harsh statement, but that is what happened. He was in a car accident for one Olympic Trials, and an tendon injury in the other in 2004.
I look back at 1984 5th, 1993 World’s 5th – and I can say, I ran the best race that I could have run. Pr in the Games ’84, and 33 years old in ’93. I hang my head after ’92 games, as I let it go slow (2:07 at 800m), and should be critized by those that wrote, and WAS blasted by my coach, Mike Durkin after the race by telephone. But I can sit and write today, that I learned from ’92, and when the pace slowed in ’93, took the lead to keep the pace honest.
Give her her due. She ran a PR, AR, and ran great. I bet she is hanging her head right now, wondering if she had gone 200m earlier, considering her great 3:01 finish, could she have medaled? Been there, and done that. I appreciate the races where I laid it on the line more as I became old. I salute her and her coach.
So kudos to Jenny. And is she a heel-striker?
Oh, and one final item. On Friday, I hosted the RunnersRoundTable with Matt, Ari, and Colin. You can listen to it here. It’s about running track and cross-country.
Edited to add: I make a reference to Bernard Lagat’s post-final interview in my comments. Here it is: