Saturday, July 28, 2012

Push Just a Little Harder!

People will watch this race and say "Why didn't that guy who finished 2nd by one-tenth of a second run a little harder? It's just a tenth of a second!" And the answer is: Because he couldn't. That guy couldn't run a one-tenth of a second faster. - Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon Race Director

Every one of us, no matter what level runner we are, have been in a situation during a race where we were in a race, giving it everything we could and finish just short of...our time goal...our adversary...our goal finish place...a myriad of goals we set up for ourselves. A few minutes later, we're thinking "Where could I have picked up just a little more time" and here and there memories pop up as possible places where in our minds we just didn't push. The fact of the matter is that we did push. It doesn't matter most of the time, but if we're in a race, we're going to give the best we can on that given day at that given time in the race.

A few weeks ago, during the Olympic Trials, there was that now classic race where Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix finished in dead heat for third place in the 100 meter finals. Tied to 1/1000th of a second for the last place for a Olympic Team berth! Couldn't one of them given just a little more? C'mon, just a final last ooommmph? No, they couldn't. I guarantee you some joker was sitting on some couch, eating Cheetos, saying "I would have pushed just a little harder". Yeah, right! These girls were pukin' their guts out for that finish line and no chronograph was going to separate them. It was finally settled when Tarmoh pulled out of a one vs. one run-off.

It doesn't have to be a sprint to the finish for that "Couldn't he push a little harder" thought to enter your mind. Last week was the Badwater 135 race in Death Valley, California. I wrote about it in a blog two weeks ago - 135 miles through the desert, with temps approaching 120 degrees, from 262' below sea level to halfway up Mt Whitney at 8800' above sea level. Three major climbs (one 17 miles long!). Now, in this race is a fellow named Mike Morton. Mike, back in the 90's set a course record at the Western States 100 Mile Trail Run in a little over 15 hours. Mike had a severe hip injury shortly after that and had to quit running. He joined the Marines, made that his career, did a tour or two in Iraq/Afghanistan and then was reassigned to an office job back in the States. He decided to pick up running again and has been putting up some super-human times at 100 milers (13+ hours) and 24 Hour runs (163 miles) since...and this is at 40 years old! So, he decides to try Badwater and finishes in 22:52:55...misses the course record by 86 seconds! Surely his crew let him know how close he was to the record. Surely he could have pushed a little harder. Wouldn't you or me pushed a little harder? No, I'm sure Mike was pushing his tachometer into the Red Line the whole last 11 miles (did I mention the last 11 miles of the race is uphill?). On this day, in this race, Mike could not push any harder.

As we always say in endurance training, just worry about the things you can control. Train your best, whatever your "best" is. Run your "best", whatever your best is. And when you give it your all, that's your ALL, and there is no room for "Where could I have done better". If you had to slow down during the race...if Mike had to slow down at's because it was needed at the time so you could finish your best. I've hit the finish line many, many times where I was disappointed with my times, but I must say, more times than not, I said to myself as I hit that line "As crappy as that run was, that was all I had today". You have nobody to answer to you but yourself, but under NO circumstances should anybody ever say "Couldn't you have gone just a little faster? Couldn't you push a little harder?".

Ok, we're two days into the Olympics. Here's my quick observations:
1) Let's just admit that Beijing pretty much ruined the Opening Ceremonies for all Olympics to follow. London was too disjointed, too much attempted humor, too much rap singing, and with NBC throwing in their "Be sure to show our spoiled basketball players in the crowd", I just felt I wasted a couple of hours of my life that I'll never get back.
2) It's going to be a long Olympics because this morning I actually got excited watching the USA beat World Champion Korea in...are you ready?...ARCHERY!!! How the heck can I get excited watching Archery? I better not watch Fencing because I sure will never admit that I got excited watching THAT!
3) As an endurance athlete, I know just a touch of what goes into the training of all these athletes and what a thrill it must be for them to be at this level. One of my favorite quotes is "A champion is someone, bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion...when no one is watching". All of these Olympians have been there.

That's it for this week guys. Hope you all stay hydrated, run smart, don't run with scissors, and I'll see you on the road - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"


Bob Evans said...

I swear you have told me that I could have pushed a little harder. ;)

Geoffrey said...

Just a couple comments on this one, Al. 1. For me, when things go REALLY wrong in a race, I can always find the answer in my nutrition. 2. You know what archers say about marathon running? "How can anyone get excited about watching someone run 26.2 miles?". -Geoffrey

Bob Evans said...

Ah, nutrition the 4th discipline.

AL said...

Never would I ever say that! Especially after writing this post, I'm not going to admit it!

AL said...

Yeah, Geoffrey, Nutrition is often the answer, but this was about when things ARE going right, but you just CAN'T go any faster. If you find something nutritionally to help me go faster, call my batphone immediately!

Bob Evans said...

LOL. I think the actual exchange was well placed based on your running with me and knowing what I could do. I know I do often wonder after a race for which I almost made a goal, "hum, could I have pushed harder?" Sometimes it is hard to know.

Yo Momma Runs said...

Wait, is there such a thing as too much rap music?:)

Those olympic athletes are amazing! So much of pushing myself during a race seems to be a mental game.