Only recently have I started to pay a bit more attention to the professional runners who make a living doing the sport that I so very much love. Since starting triathlon three years ago, I have followed the professional world quite a bit – reading Iron War & Chrissie Wellington’s book, attending Tri Club meetings with pro-triathletes both in attendance and as guest speakers, meeting and running with local pros (Beth!) in Encinitas, and of course, following the epic battles on the Queen K Highway every year at Ironman Kona.
In the last year or so, I’ve shifted my focus a bit more toward the running side of the world. Being a part of the Oiselle team has definitely been a reason for this change, as I’ve come to greatly admire Lauren Fleshman, Kate Grace and Kara Groucher as well as the many women from Oiselle’s Little Wing pro team who I met at Bird Camp. As for men road-racers, I’ve only really followed Meb, a San Diego local who I have had the chance to interact with both times I ran the San Diego RnR marathon, but I’m learning more and more about the others.
There’s a lot we can learn from the pros. There are out there doing what we love and instead of it being just a fraction of their life, it’s their whole life. If anyone knows what works, what doesn’t, what’s normal, what’s not, and what it means to run, it’s the pros. Here’s some of the best things I’ve learned from them so far:
1.Bad days happen to us all & they don’t define us. Unfortunately, Kara Groucher’s comeback to the marathon today at NYC Marathon didn’t go as planned. The gusting (up to 30 mph!) winds put a wrench in her original pacing plan and she and her coaches decided to have her follow the lead pack to block the wind. Unfortunately the lead pack was running too fast and she backed off early and spent the majority of the race fighting the fierce winds on her own. She also, for the first time in her career, hit the “wall” and had one of the worst races of her life. But, she finished and she wasn’t afraid to show her emotions at the finish line. We all have bad races, and those races don’t define us. I don’t think any differently of Kara as an athlete. I respect her and her performance today did not interfere with that respect. I think it’s a great reminder for all of us to remember that when we have our own bad races, it doesn’t mean we are now bad runners.
2. There are no short-cuts. We also learned this week that Rita Jeptoo, who was about to be awarded the World Marathon Majors award (and $500,000 to go along with it), based on her first place wins at the 2014 Chicago Marathon and 2013 and 2014 Boston Marathon, tested positive for doping this week. I was extremely disappointed to learn of Rita’s disqualification. Her test results along with too many others, really put a lot of doubt in my mind about whether or not the majority of pro’s are doping, not just in running but also in triathlon. Put in the work, skip the short-cuts, and at the end of the day you will still have your honor.
3. Let’s be thankful we can run. know we don’t think about it often, but women haven’t been allowed to run for very long. It honestly sounds absurd as I write it but it’s true. Katherine Switzer ran the 1967 Boston Marathon and was the very first woman to finish a marathon road race. She almost got pushed off the course for doing so (read an excerpt from her memoir here), but she did it. My mom was a teenager when Katherine ran that marathon – it wasn’t that long ago! And it wasn’t until 1984, just a 8 months after I was born, that women were finally allowed to run the marathon at the Olympics, with Joan Benoit, an American, taking home the Gold. Because these things happened so close to our births, we often forget (or don’t even know) just how recently things were very different for women as runners. I am so thankful for women like Katherine Switzer who didn’t listen to everyone who told her that women were too fragile to run. Now, women run more running races nationwide then men (57% vs. 43% in fact).
4. When things change, it’s ok to modify your goals. At Bird Camp, Lauren Fleshman gave an amazing speech on goals. She told the story of her high hopes for qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in the 5k, yet being derailed by an injury that only allowed her to run 11 miles per week (whereas most professional runners run upwards of 100 miles a week). Although there were times she wanted to quit, instead of giving up on her goal, she modified it. She set a more realistic goal – make it to the 2nd round of the Olympic Team trials. That was the motivation that fueled her hard workouts. Instead of putting so much emphasis on a far-reaching and likely unrealistic goal given her current circumstances, she switched it up. Her goal was still difficult, but attainable. And she did achieve it (see her post-race interview here). Lauren’s lesson – when things don’t go as planned, readjust and you can still achieve success.
5. Age is just a number. As demonstrated by Deena Kastor, who at 41 years old ran a 1:09 36 at RnR Philly this year, breaking the World Master’s Record and holds the current American marathon record of 2:19:36. Her half marathon pace, a blazing 5:19 min/mile, is faster than the average person could maintain for one lap around the track (myself included). Despite her age, she hasn’t backed down and is still chasing big goals. She has proven that you can still be extremely relevant even if you don’t fit the typical mold.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much inspiration to be pulled from pro-runners and I have so much more to learn from them. I feel like my running journey has just begun.
What have you learned from Pro Runners? What is your favorite Pro Running moment?