Monday, July 2, 2018

I wasn't sure if I was worthy

It seems like many lifetimes ago but it was really 20 years ago when I was trying to break four hours in the marathon. I did everything that I thought I could do. I learned about my body and how I handle hydration and nutrition while running. I was a regular at the gym and I had coaches. The coaches simply taught me two things that if I wanted to run a marathon faster I had to get myself acustom to running longer distances regularly and get used to running faster. Then just combine these skills on race day. One day I was out on the track with the coach and he had me running 90 second quarter miles and then a 90 second rest and then repeat 10 times.

I was without a doubt pushing my body to its maximum and in order to distract myself from the wonderful suffering this was causing. I did what many other athletes do during this kind of training. I did math. Yeah, it might sound a little kooky but I dod math in your head to distract youtself from the pain and suffering. First I figured out how fast my marathon would be at the pace I was sprinting at. A minute and a half around the outdoor track would get me a six minute mile. A six minute mile would get me close to 2 1/2 hours in the marathon. Not close to the winners times all below 2;10. Yeah, the entire men's league pack in the New York City Marathon were banging out five minute miles with occasional bursts of speed considerably faster.

Running a mile in five minutes means running 4 consecutive quarters at one minute and 15 seconds each. I realized I couldn't do that once and the guys who run the New York City Marathon would doing it 105 times without stopping. Yeah, these guys can run hundred and five consecutive quarters faster than I can run one. After the workout I asked the coach to check my math. My math was right. I couldn't keep up with the lead pack in the New York City Marathon for a run around a city block. The coaches next response could've gone into different directions. He could've said something that would've made me give up and running altogether. Instead he went the other way, "Isn't it humbling".

Eventually I did break four hours in the marathon. I didn't do it in one of those urban mega races like the New York City Marathon nor in some destination race through some beautiful wooded countryside. I found a flat as a pancake 1 mile loop marathon organized by the Shi Chimnoy running club Shi Chimnoy was a person who believed that the path to spiritual enlightenment was found through physical fitness. Specifically, endurance athletics. His disciples organized endurance athletic events, like marathons. They organized a marathon monthly on Randall's Island. It was the winter 2000 and my kids were going to be born in May I realize that if I didn't break four hours before they were born then it probably wasn't going to get to happen.

I showed up for the race in February with the idea of seeing what it was like to run nine minute miles and if I can get up to 20 miles and fetl like I had six more nine minute miles in me I was gonna go for it. If I didn't feel like I had it in me I was going to walk off the course and try again in a month. And that's what I did. The end of March in the year 2000 I went back to Randall's Island and was one of nine athletes to put their toes up to the starting line. Two dropped out the other six were much faster than me but they were all there when I finished my 25th lap and was told that I can run the next mile in 11 minutes if I wanted and would still break four hours. I remember laying on the grass and and watching them pack up the clock which still hadn't gotten to four hours and seeing my wife's stomach you with our twins in it. The site was poetic because I knew I was moving on having completed the quest of breaking four hours to my new job which was about the start as being a parent

Then the race director came by and gave me a trophy. (I wrote this back when the Internet was young.)
"Congratulations, you were forth* in your age group."
"But I was last"
"Sir, I said, "\congratulations you were forth in your age group"'
*That's how it spelled on the trophy, I love it.

Yesterday morning I found myself in the middle of Queens with a little time on my hands and having just seen the premier of a film called 3100 I decided to see how far it was to Thomas Edison High School. It was already 90° but I was less than 2 miles away. I figured if  a bunch of people are running 3100 miles the least I can do is walk a couple of miles to give them some support.

The walk was through parts of Queens that I've never been to. So, I was really relying on my GPS to get me to where I wanted to go. It had told me I had arrived but I was still really a block away and kept looking forward. Then I looked up and realized I was across the street from my goal because I saw someone slowly running on the sidewalk. I knew all I had to do was follow her around the block and I get to the place where the runners start/finish/sleep/eat.

But I was a little frozen. I couldn't bring myself to cross the street yet. I couldn't bring myself to walk on that sidewalk. These people were in the middle of a race that would be 6200 times around this half-mile block. For a moment I understood the purpose of the run. They weren't just running, they were performing a meditation. They were bringing themselves a little bit closer to holiness. How can I walk on the same sidewalk as them?

I'm posting this picture because it has a picture
 of a turtle. Because in the GBS world it represents
 slow steady motion. Here, it represented immortality
But then I realized of all the things these people are doing they wouldn't want one of them to be stopping me from walking on the sidewalk with them. So I did, and never have I been more careful to not get in anyone's way. I took some pictures and hung around for a while. What the pictures don't show is how quiet it was. There were 10 runners and about twice that many people there to help them. They were also busy and also quiet.

Yes, that's means what you think it means. As of day 15
10 runners have completed between 1.022 and 819 miles
I didn't want to get in the way or even break the silence. I found a spot and watched everything with awe. One of the race directors the silence and made eye contact with me. He said, "Isn't it humbling." It was the same words my coach used when I compared myself to those world-class marathoners. But it was also the same voice of the man who gave me that trophy more than 18 years ago on Randall's Island.

I was starstruck and couldn't bring up the fact that we had met earlier. I just found a way to make some small talk and asked him if the high school kids getting out of school interfere with the race when it starts in June. He told me that interfere isn't the word he would use to describe it just that the students provide a different atmosphere for the race.

They will be out there for more than a month so I'll have time to go back and here. There is not much change from day to day or year to year. maybe have a real conversation with some of the people helping these demigods. Till then I'll just post these crappy pictures if you want to see more photos go to their official website

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