Hello Run With Gina blog readers! I want to acknowledge the fact that it has been a long time since I last composed a blog. Life just gets busy sometimes. In addition to working full time, commuting to and from work two hours a day, family commitments around the house, emailing/texting my runners, and training for an early December marathon, our daughter gave birth to a baby boy one month ago and last week, another daughter got married! There has been little to no time between the hours in a day and just plain old exhaustion to sit down and compose a blog post. I am proud of myself for getting all my run miles in through it all!
Last Sunday I watched the television coverage of the TCS New York City Marathon. I’m not going to lie, I cried as Shalane Flanagan crossed the finish line first for the women in 2:26:53. While watching the live race coverage and in the days after the race, a few thoughts have come to mind that I want to share with my readers.
Can you imagine running a 2:26:53 marathon? Can you believe that time is more than 5-minutes slower than Shalane’s fastest marathon and almost 10-minutes slower than second place finisher Mary Keitany’s personal best? Before the race Shalane mentioned that the 2017 NY marathon may be her last. One of the reasons is that she believes her days of personal best times are behind her. This time will come for all of us, the only difference is that professionals have an easier time accepting it, because there is no question of their ability and know when that ship has sailed off into the sunset. A lot of recreational runners try and try to chase after their personal best, but fall short over and over, for way too many reasons. One reason is because runners are impatient. To be the best you can be takes time and years of work, but also requires patience in a race situation.
Shalane didn’t run a personal best, but didn’t need one to win the race. She needed to be patient and race smart, which is what she did. At mile 23 when the pace had been slow-modest for elite female marathon runners, Shalane knew she was a much faster runner at the 5k distance than the other two women within striking distance. There is a lot of power in past experiences. Hanging tough with the best in the world at mile 23 and knowing you are the reigning American record holder at the indoor 5000 meters is a mental boost like no other. Shalane went on to win the race by 1:01. That is a huge time difference in an elite race and more so for elites that spent most of the race running stride for stride with each other.
After crossing the finish line, I heard Shalane say, “We did it”! Later in a Facebook post Shalane shared her finish line picture with the comment, “It takes a village”. Coincidentally, the day before I wrote #ittakesavillage when congratulating one of my runners in her 21-minute personal best time in the marathon. My graduate school professor, former Olympian, Olympic running coach, and exercise physiologist, Dr. Jack Daniels believes there are four ingredients to athletic success; ability, motivation, opportunity, and direction. Opportunity is described as the environment, while direction is described as leadership from coaches. The opportunity/environment is the people you surround yourself with. Similarly, goal-minded individuals, such as running friends and groups. What about the direction, the role of the coach? Probably the most misunderstood and underutilized opportunity available to recreational runners, but the most valuable asset to elite runners.
In her post-race interview, Shalane said she knew she could win because her coaches told her she could win. Her coaches told her that the longer she hung onto the leaders, the greater her chances of winning would be given her speed advantage at shorter distances. She had the power of her past experiences at shorter/faster races and the training load applied to her by her coaches would have continued to foster that ability. Also, when asked post-race if the 2017 NY Marathon was her last marathon, her reply included needing to discuss it with her coaches to determine what is still possible for her.
It takes a village folks to help you be the best you can be and to find out if what you want is what matches your ability and determining if your ability can even be improved. Training isn’t just about being consistent, but about being patient with a process and remaining honest through it all.