I was talking to a group of runners the other night before their first marathon at the Rock N Roll San Diego Marathon. I was repeating my mantra to them — “Don’t freak out” — and telling them not to worry. “You’re prepared, I promise” I told them. One of them came to me afterward and asked me, “how can you promise that we are prepared Coach?” I answered her by telling her the story of my first marathon many years ago. In the age of the Internet, great web-resources, astonishingly detailed race web-sites and fleets of personal coaches, think about this next time you wonder whether you are prepared for your next race.
Let me take you back to 1989. I was the tender age of 18. I found myself at the time running with the University of Puget Sound, where I was spending my Freshmen year in college. I was a lean (read: scrawny) teenage (read: stupid) runner (read: fast) with tons and tons of racing experience (read: almost none in reality). I could talk a good talk with runners though. One day, precisely seven days before the Portland Marathon, someone asked me if I wanted to run the marathon the next weekend. “Sure!” I exclaimed. That sounds great.
I had no idea at that moment what a marathon would entail. In fact, I didn’t know how long a marathon was. In those days, there was no such thing as a half-marathon. I had raced plenty of 5K and 10K races. I was well prepared for those distances, which is to say I had a giant blind-spot for anything longer than that. I didn’t want to ask anyone how long the marathon was, because, well, I didn’t want to look stupid.
In those days, we didn’t have the Internet, so I went to the library. I looked up the word “marathon” in the dictionary, which is a big, thick “book” made of paper that normally was the place to start in doing research. Here was the definition of the word marathon: “An endurance contest. . . Something (as an event, activity, or session) characterized by great length or concentrated effort.” Thanks Noah Webster for nothing. In went to another set of “books” called encyclopedias and in them I found out that someone in ancient Greece had once run from the a place called Marathon to Athens and had dropped dead at the end. Great.
I proceeded to make my preparations for the event. I filled out the entry form, which didn’t ask for my e-mail or cell phone number, because we didn’t have those things at the time. The only information I had to give was my mailing address, which I presumed was so the race organizer could mail home the bodies of those that dropped dead at the finish.
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