Sunday, January 30, 2011

"To the Victor Go the Spoils"

A friend posted a link to the 1971 US National Championships 3 mile race the other day in observance of Steve Prefontaine's 60th birthday. For those of you who aren't running nerds, like me, Pre was a legendary runner from Oregon who boasted "A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run it to see who has the most guts." Below is the you tube video of the 3 mile race, run in an astonishing 12:58.6, & won by the gutsiest guy of the bunch. (Watch it, it's awesome. It's also not the whole race so don't think you have to watch guys run in circles for almost 13 whole minutes).

Several things crossed my mind while watching that video clip:

     1) I would be thrilled to run the 2 mile in that time.

     2) My right arm moves in an almost identical way as Pre's when I run.

     3) How bad do I want it?

They said Pre was favored to win, but a lot of those guys were holding their own with him up until the final yards. You had that gutsy move by Stageberg, surging past Pre for just a moment, the guys playing off each other, & then ultimately Pre overtakes him for the win. You have a bunch of guys running out front, guys with similar ability, & yet there can only be one winner. Who determines that? I think it was already decided before the race began. A champion is a champion long before he ever sets foot on the track (my brilliant husband told me that, but it had something to do with wrestling). He who wants it the most will have the guts to do what it takes.

This can apply to a runner of any ability. I know that I can't compete at an Olympic level, but I can still compete against myself. I know all my numbers & I know what I need to do to improve them, but how bad do I want it? That's what it comes down to. Anyone can set a goal of, say "I want to run the Chicago Marathon this year," but do you really want it? Do you want it badly enough to train for 16 weeks, lay it all on the line, give it everything you've got... This is actually the question I've been faced with. Tuesday is the registration date for Chicago, & I keep thinking I should run it. Right now, however, marathon is not my best friend. Right now, I just can't imagine... But these races fill so quickly that I feel the need to sign up, even though I may not even want to run it when we get right down to it. I know myself, too. I'll think that because I've registered that I have to do it, & I will, but right now my heart just isn't in it. I have a lot of other big goals this year with triathlon, cycling... Not that I can't squeeze a marathon in, but 26.2 miles is a long way to run if you don't really want it.

When I go out to a race, I'm not there to wear a tutu & glitter & goof around. That stuff all has it's place, so no hate-mail please :) But I am usually there to accomplish a goal. I come well-trained & prepared, & though I may not be able to compete at that high level, I am still there to compete against myself & to run my best race possible. I know that isn't the goal of every runner on race day, & that's perfectly fine. No harm in having a little fun. No matter what your ability, we can all strive to be our very best as long as we really want it.

**See below: I'm about to beat the pants off an old man. That's what I'm talking about ;)

Running is a total mental game. Race day hurts. It's hard. Your brain tells you to stop. That you can't do it. That you'll get injured. I think what Pre was talking about when he referred to his "guts" was the ability to fight through the pain & the head games & go out there to do what he came to do: WIN. I wonder if that's something he learned to do, or something that was just in him. Sometimes I think I could run a lot faster if I wasn't such a head case myself. Each time I push through my own mental weaknesses, I have victory over myself, & gain confidence & fitness. The mind is a powerful thing... Maybe one day I will want the marathon badly enough to go after it again. To hunt it down & not let up, no matter what happens during that long 26.2 mile trek. When I want it, I'll know... & there will be no stopping me.



  1. You want to compete the best you can, but you want to have fun, too. If you're heart isn't in a full marathon, skip it this year, you're young, you can run it next year. Concentrate on your bike riding, on killing the half marathon, on triathlons.

    I watched a documentary the other day, One Day in September (1999), about the kidnapping and killing of the Israeli athletes from the Munich Olympics, but it started out with footage of the competitions. '72 was the first Olympics I remember, Olga Korbut, those massive Russian weightlifters, E. German female swimmers so doped up they looked like men, those were the days.... They also showed a clip of Prefontaine running, it was so effortless for him. I know he worked hard, but he also had a gift.

    Run Kerrie, run!!! And bike, and raise your kids, and love your husband, your parents. You've got a pretty full plate.

  2. You are very wise... Always appreciated :-)

  3. I was going to comment on watching the clip- awesomeness! I a newbie can barely run ONE mile in under 13 - 3 miles in that - wow! Also as a newbie I really liked reading your thoughts on just competing against ourselves. I get down on myself sometimes because I am SOO slow and so out of shape- my friends have been running for years and are always done way before I am.. But I have to keep that in mind- I am competing against myself- and my own thoughts/goals. AND I can't let myself quit- even emotionally..

    I agree with the above- you do as long as it adds to your live. When something begins to take away more than it adds- time to cut back and find the joy again.

  4. Stephany, Thank you for your thoughts! We all have to start somewhere... I started running a couple of years ago & remember that feeling. The good thing about running is that the more you move forward the more you improve. You have a lot to gain & a lot of years of accomplishment ahead of you. I hope you enjoy your journey as much as I have :) You will catch your friends in no time! One step at a time...

  5. Kerrie, right now I am also not having the desire to really train for a marathon. I think 2011 may be the first year since 2007 that I don't run any full length marathons. Part of me is a little sad and disappointed that I don't want to train for that distance, but part of me says (just like you) that I don't want it bad enough right now and therefore I shouldn't sign up for one. When I trained for 2008 L.A. Marathon I wanted it really bad. I worked SO HARD. That was my best marathon to date. I'm waiting until I feel that kind of desire again to really train for one. I know I will want to do it again some day. But for now I'm doing the other things...triathlon, swimming, cycling and run races of shorter distances. I may try for a half marathon PR in 2011, which would be a really tough goal for me. But I think maybe I could do it. My PR is such a time that I once thought I'd never be able to get under it, but now I think maybe I could. If I believe, if I want it, I can do it. Wishing you all the best with your racing goals this year. I completely understand where you're at with the marathon and I think it's a perfectly valid place to be.

  6. @Sheila - thanks for reading & for your comment. I know you are extremely motivated, like me, to always do your best on race day. I think we are both being smart in realizing that there's no point in doing something that we don't actually want to do. Even if it sounds good "Sure, I'll run a marathon," it's actually a really big deal. No point in putting in all that training if your heart isn't in it.