by Chris McClung
It’s January 18th. It’s the day after the Houston Marathon, and I sit here more inspired than ever to be a runner and coach in this family we call Rogue. I couldn’t think of a better way to start 2016.
Yesterday, I spent the first half of my day glued to this computer, obsessively checking the results of friends and athletes in this community. The Houston Marathon app was pretty amazing, but the darn thing only allowed you to track 20 runners at once. Don’t they know that when we descend on a race, we come in groups of 50 or more?!?
In the wake of recent IAAF doping and corruption scandals, I have more or less discarded my trust in the sport at the highest levels. But, I have not lost all faith because the inspiration I find in athletes throughout the pack is greater now than perhaps ever before. That was on display in HD sharpness yesterday as the performances and stories came rolling in.
There is the story of Steve Chase. Steve is 47. He ran his first marathon in 2010 in 4 hours and 36 minutes. The following year he joined Rogue and began training with Carolyn’s group in north Austin, the Northside Runaways. If you know Steve, he is nothing if not detailed-oriented, and few work harder at this sport than he does. With a steady progression in the last 5 years, he now trains with Jeff Knight’s Team Rogue group and regularly logs 100-mile weeks in the midst of working a full-time job. Steve finished Houston in two hours and 44 minutes yesterday, nearly 2 full hours faster than his first marathon. That result is impressive, but it’s no accident. It’s the product of thousands of miles of hard work and a singular focus that would make any elite athlete jealous. Congrats to you Steve. You are an inspiration because you aren’t afraid to set big goals and then leave no detail unattended in the work to achieve them.
There is the story of Tina Bizaca. She is 25. She ran her first marathon in 4 hours in 2013, but after her second marathon in Austin in 2014, she battled injuries that would cause her to take time nearly a year away from races. In all of the down time, Tina never gave up or lost her smile. She diligently did the physical therapy needed to strengthen her body and better prepare it for the work required to do this sport. In October 2015, she ran a personal best marathon in Toronto, running 3 hours and 38 minutes. When she told me as her coach that she wanted to follow that result with the marathon in Houston, I told her it was an ambitious plan. It’s hard mentally and physically to run two big marathons with only 3 months in between. Doing it successfully required patience in recovery from Toronto and then restraint in a modified build-up to Houston. She followed the plan diligently and then executed a perfectly paced race in Houston to record a new PR and her first Boston qualifier in 3 hours and 30 minutes, running the second half of the race 4 minutes faster than the first. Congrats to you Tina. You are an inspiration because you stayed positive in the face of adversity and committed to do the little things when no one is watching that separate those who qualify for Boston from those who just talk about it.
There is the story of Lori Brown. She is 56 and ran a personal best for the marathon yesterday in 4 hours and 37 minutes, beating her previous best from 15 years ago. Lori worked harder than ever in this training cycle and started the race perfectly on her planned pace. An old foot injury re-surfaced during the race, which caused her pace to slow, and her PR attempt to be in doubt. As the pain increased, she met two teammates at mile 22 who would run the final 4 miles with her. Working together with her teammates, she fought through the pain and even increased her pace in the final 2 kilometers to earn a PR by 2 minutes. Lori had nothing to prove to anyone, and a lesser athlete might have given in to the pain and either slowed dramatically or walked off the course. Lori did not and could not. She is one of the toughest and hardest working athletes I have ever coached. Congrats to you Lori. You are an inspiration for not giving up on achieving your fastest race when others surely would let age or pain beat them down.
I could tell 30 other stories like that from yesterday in addition to countless more from teammates and coaches who didn’t run but rather cheered and paced their friends and teammates on the course. The day was certainly magical, but there is no magic formula. Trust the plan. Do the work. Do it together. Big things will come. Simple, right?
It’s simple until the alarm clock goes off when it’s 32 degrees outside or the injuries come or fear sets in the night before a race. Our achievements are the sum total of a thousand decisions, starting with a single choice to reach for something we have never done before, to strive to cover an arbitrary distance faster than ever. Most don’t make the initial decision to strive for something big, often under the guise of what might be considered reasonable excuses – “I just want to have fun” or “I’m too busy” or “My body can’t handle the training.” Is that truth talking or is it the fear of what might happen when things get hard or when failure comes?
Within Rogue, we sometimes shy away from using the word “fast” too much so as not to alienate some who would call us “elite” or “exclusive.” I like to say there is no “slow” within Rogue, only degrees of fast. If you train with us, regardless of your pace, you do so because you aren’t satisfied with the status quo. You want more for yourself. You want to test your limits and find out how far and how fast you can go.
2016 is a year in which we will embrace that pursuit more than ever. You will see this come to life in a variety of ways as the year progresses. For example, we have planned a speed development block of training for all of our groups this spring (from TeamRogue to Fall Marathon to 5K/10K PR) that will lead up to the Daisy 5K on May 28. Why? Because you cannot be your best in the longer distances until you develop your speed at the shorter distances as well. Besides, we have seen what happens when a group of us focuses on a single race. What might be possible when the entire Rogue community is singularly focused on the oldest running 5K in Austin? Stay tuned – those details will come.
So, what will you choose in 2016? Will you set aside your fears like Steve and Tina and Lori and strive for your fastest year yet? I know my answer.