Like a true running nerd, I streamed the Boston marathon on my phone in between various appointments. I missed the start and jumped in about mile 17 of the women’s marathon. Seeing two Americans as the front-runners, Dathan Ritzenheim for the men and Desire Avila Linden for the women, blew my mind that far into the race (well, it was early for the men’s race, but still).
I love Desi for reasons that don’t really make sense–like she doesn’t get enough publicity (compared to other runners that don’t perform as well but seem to be considered more marketable), she’s not blonde, and she wears darker, more modest racing get-ups. See? I told you it doesn’t make sense. Maybe all those things make her seem more humble or under-doggy (yeah, that’s right, I’m making that a word). Either way, I was thrilled to see her perform as well/strongly as she did. I wish she had won, but considering she held the lead past the 20 mile mark, she did amazing. You could see her running with all of her heart and pushing as hard as she could. I’ve seen running coaches talk about racing as leaving everything out there on the road/track and holding nothing back. She did exactly that. Even when you don’t win, if you do everything you can to throw down and do your best, you need to be proud of yourself.
I thought the same thing about Shalane Flanagan. I heard the commentators say she was having some physical problems earlier in the race, but she caught back up close enough to be in the camera frame by Heartbreak Hill. For a moment I thought she might have a chance to get back with the lead group, but she faded back as the leaders pushed the tempo further.
I can’t imagine running 20 miles at a 5:30 pace and then cranking it down to a 5 min mile. It is mind-blowing. One thing I’m always amazed by with elite runners is how the blistering pace they run looks so easy. They often look like they’re just out for a jog while they’re running a 5 minute mile. I know one part of it is form, as I’ve seen folks analyze Meb’s form. The man literally spends more time in the air than he does on the ground. In other words, he’s a human gazelle. It truly is a joy to watch him run.
I know some people must think just watching people run for hours is boring, but the ending to the marathon was amazing. To see the lengths to which people can push themselves and give every ounce they can is inspiring. Caroline Rotich and Mare Dibaba were neck and neck up to the end. I think neither of them had placed first before so I was rooting for both of them, although Dibaba had placed second several times so I rooted for her a little more 🙂
The marathon truly is a test of the human spirit, the ability to push yourself to your limits and even beyond. It’s why I run it. There’s so much in life that’s about making things easier, from remote controls to cars that drive themselves, running is about seeing what you can do when things get hard. It connects us back to our bodies, but also sets up a battle between mind and body. You train and physically prepare yourself for a race, but it’s your spirit and mental ability to push yourself that will get you across that finish line. I plan on channeling the spirit of all those elite runners on Saturday to scrape off the 5-7 minutes I need from my last time time to qualify. So get out there today and push yourself a little harder today (unless you’re tapering–then just think about pushing yourself harder on race day, ha).