Melissa and I were recently went to George Davis Night at a UMass Lowell Hockey game. George was the Track and XC Coach at UML from when he started the program in the early 70's until 2003. It is a nice annual alumni event. The highlight this year for Melissa and I was a nice chat with Bob Hodge, 3rd at Boston in 1979 and a dozen other crazy good accolades including a 2:10:59 marathon PB. It was a great and varied conversation but one thing Bob said really stuck with both of us. He said "You know I had only two goals in running, to win the Boston Marathon and to make an Olympic Team. I didn't accomplish either one but I don't look back on it like I failed. I look back satisfied on what I did accomplish. It isn't what I set out to do but it was good enough." It struck very deep with both of us but I know particularly with me because I have been looking back a lot lately and I have been feeling the same way. If all my good running is over it is ok. I didn't get the things I set out to achieve but I did get some pretty darn good runs. Here are my favorites. Oh and by the way Melissa said I shouldn't post this blog because it sounds like something Craig Virgin would write. So far warning this is self aggrandizing feel free to not read on.
1. I married way out of my league. She is a great runner, a great person and way smarter than me and obviously really beautiful. Not a day goes by that I wonder how a girl like that ended up with a runner geek like me. Ok the rest are running things. I promise!
2. Being a member of team USA. I was the 5th man on my High school team. I was never an all american. Never a star. Heck at one point one of my high school coaches called me the best not talented guy in central massachusetts. Yet I eventually got to put on the Team USA kit at the biggest meet outside the Olympics. That is a heck of along road.
3. Olympic Trials. This one is obvious. It is what I am known for. What I'm most proud of is in the last half mile I passed Meb and he passed me back. For a moment I said ok that is all I got and he is just better than me. Then I remembered this is what I worked for my whole life and it wasn't about beating Meb it was about going back and forth with him in the home stretch. The result I assumed would be the same but the effort would be far greater. In the end the result was different too.
4. Finished third at Cow Harbor 2008. This was my first Cow Harbor. It is always a strong field so I had to beat some pretty darn good guys, including Jason Lehmkuhle who was one of the few who I had never beaten before. I got by him in the home stretch and he gasped "'bout fucking time." For those who don't know I breath very heavily when I'm going hard and he could hear me coming for a good while. It was a PR at the time but it was more about competing on that level effectively.
5. Top 10 at 3 BAA half marathons. 2005-9th, 2007- 7th, 2012- 7th. I'll be the first to admit the BAA half marathon is not the marathon and they don't bring in the deepest fields on the planet but it is a very strong race and it is in my backyard so I am really glad that I have cracked the top 10 a few times.
6. This race, , The time wasn't great, it was hot. At the time I didn't think much of it, just another race. Looking back however I see the guys I'm banging heads with and I take a lot pride in that one.
7. Top 10 at crescent city classic, it was a really weak field and I actually ran better there other times and finished higher but it is one of the great classic road races so a top 10 is pretty awesome for a road running nerd like me.
8. Top American at Boilermaker 15k, like Crescent City one of the absolute classic races. In fact to me running the boilermaker is what I imagine road racing in the 80's was like. In 2006 the Top American was Mike Morgan edging out Brian Sell. In 2008 it was Fernando Cabada edging out Nick Arciniaga and Me. But in 2007 I was top American and damn proud of it. Had to beat some solid Hansons guys to do it, Rizzo, Chad Johnson, Verran. It was a breakout race for me and I always want to go back.
9. Scalp list- have you ever played the 7 degrees of separation game with Kevin Bacon? I'm like the key guy in the 7 degrees of separation between most runners and beating the best in the world. I have run some God awful races and taken some bad beatings. I actually got highlighted on tv coverage getting passed by Kim Smith once, no I did't catch back up. But I have also been lucky enough to catch some very great runners on bad days and get that one beat. Here is a short list of some of the bigger names of people who were unlucky enough to have a bad day and let me slip buy. Meb, Khalid Khannouchi, Evens Rutto- one time Kenyan National Record Holder in the Marathon, Alan Culpepper, Fernando Cabada, Jason Lehmkuhle, Nick Arciniaga, Clint Verran, Jon Brown-fourth in two Olympic marathons, Richard Kipligat- had run right about 13 flat that year, Suehiro Ishikawa- 2:09:10 marathoner from Japan. Michael Aish- D2 legend and personal hero. There are others but you get the point. Also clearly all of these guys are better than me that is why I'm glad I got them once or twice along the way.
10. US 10k classic- This was a tough course and I had had a tough summer. They paid 5 deep and told me I was one of 7 elite runners coming in. This was 2008 when I paid the rent and food bill with prize money so a small field was nice to see. Only it wasn't to be. An agent brought in 14 other Kenyans and Japan's corporate Honda team who was training in Boulder decided to come down to Sea Level to test fitness. The course for anyone not familiar is a perfectly straight point to point course with non stop hills that look savage when you drive the course. Honestly I couldn't believe anyone had ever broken 31 and couldn't imagine I could break 32. I did. I finished in 13th place in 30:33 one tenth of a second behind 1:01:57 half marathoner Ernest Kimeli and 1.1 seconds behind Patrick Nthiwa who would go on to run 1:00:23 for a half marathon that fall. This is also where I scalped a few of the names above. The key though was I came in. I was intimidated but I just went out and raced. I lead, I fought, I surged and I competed. Then they tossed me in a van to the airport hours before my flight and it was awesome.
11. RRCA National Title- In 2008 I won the RRCA national 5k title. Ok it's not a "real" national title. Don't care. Ok I kinda care but it's the best I got.
12. Top 10 USATF 5k road championships, it was a weak year but a top 10 at a USATF championship is still a pretty big deal for a guy like me. I honestly take a lot of pride in getting to a 'top 10' level. It may not be flashy but I'm not flashy. I was no where near the top 1000 high school kids in the country when I was there. To get to where I had a couple top tens at USATF championships means a lot to me.
13. Qualifying for two USATF indoor championships. I qualified for and ran in the 3000m in 2009 and 2010. Both times I qualified by running under the old 5000m standard which was 14:07. Then they changed that to 13:30 so you have to actually split the 3000 qualifying time to get in through the 5000m. I joke they instituted the rule to get ride of smucks like me from the USATF championships. In 2010 I lined up with 14 other guys including Rupp, Lagat and Solinsky plus two other sub 28 10k runners on TV on a track. It was a very neat experience.
15. Top American in he BAA triple crown in 2012. Neat event, 100k on the line. Never had a shot at it but in the end. 1- Allan Kiprono, 2- Lani Rutto, 3- Sam Chelanga, 4- Ali Abdosh, 5- Nate Jenkins. One of these things is not like the others! By the end many of the initial competitors pulled out but still it was neat. Also I ran fairly well at all three races.
15. Sub 30 at Penn 2011 coming back from back surgery. I set out a crazy goal of breaking 30 on the track at Penn at the end of April after my back surgery on January 11. I had only been back running since about the start of march. I had only done a couple of semi workouts. I ran it on memory and super even splits. Not a great race in the scope of things but it was gratifying to set a very tough goal and achieve it. It was great to run a race perfectly for the fitness I was in. It was also a ton of fun with Tommy Neal, a good friend and one time roommate, and UMass Loweller Jeff Veiga both beating me and running real well. A great night and a real good race.