What Have You Done for Me Latley?
By: Pam Adams, ISU Insurance Services of Colorado
It was about 6:15 a.m. on a chilly Monday morning in February when I hit the trail for a tempo training run. It involved about ¾ of a mile warm up, ¾ of a mile cool down, with 7 miles at marathon pace in between – at an approximately 8 minute mile pace.
I had gone out a little too hard and fast on my long run the previous Saturday, so I struggled a bit at the end of that run to achieve my marathon tempo pace – but today was a different day. I felt good and rested after a Sunday that included a bit of work, followed by a grilled steak and homemade macaroni and cheese dinner.
My normal tempo run locale is on the Highline Canal in southeast Denver where it’s a packed dirt trail about 8 -10 feet wide. There are handy mile markers at ½ mile intervals – or at least most of the ½ mile intervals! These are great because you can use a simple watch to track your pace, versus having to rely on a GPS model.
I was at about the 7 mile marker location on the trail, when I approached the third runner of the morning – a woman in black running tights, a bright yellow jacket, and a stocking cap. It was not a very busy day on the trail yet (remember it was 6:15 in the morning), and the temperature was in the high teens to low 20’s. I likely nodded or waved or smiled or something to acknowledge the oncoming runner, thought nothing of it, and proceeded on my way. I had 2 miles left at Marathon pace.
About a mile and a half later, the woman runner who I’d seen earlier came up from behind me. “Nice pace,” she said. “How far are you running today?” “Thanks – you too,” I said. “About 8 miles today. How ‘bout you?” “6,” she said. “I’m visiting from out of town and a friend dropped me off. Just doing an out and back. “This is a good place for that,” I said, and the woman was on her way.
Hmmmm, I thought to myself. Normally other runners on the trail don’t comment on each other’s pace. The way she spoke to me was not condescending, even though she was clearly running faster than me. She was a small woman with specks of somewhat frozen gray hair popping out from under her hat, and I started to wonder if she could be marathon runner Joan Benoit Samuelson. Joan Benoit (not yet Samuelson) was the Olympic Gold Medalist in the Women’s Marathon in 1984 in Los Angeles – which was the very first year that the marathon was an Olympic sport for women! (At the time she won this she had also already won the Boston Marathon two times.)
I’ve read about Joan for years in the various running magazines, so I’m familiar with her achievements. I also know that she lives in Maine, which is quite a few miles from Colorado! A few minutes later I hit my mile marker where I should start my cool down, but she’s still in my view, so I certainly can’t do that. I keep close to my same pace so that if she’s stopping where I am, I can have a chance to see if my hunch is true.
No such luck. She heads off the trail and down the road just as I’m approaching where my car is parked. I start to stretch and determine my plan to determine if it was her, without the chance to talk to her. I’ll see if she has a blog or website and whether she’s advised where she’s traveling.
As I’m stretching and pondering I see her heading back towards the parking area. I have a second opportunity! “Are you by chance Joan Benoit Samuelson?” I ask. “I am,” she said as she held out her hand. “What’s your name?” “Pam Adams,” I said as we shook hands. “It’s great to meet you. You’re truly an inspiration. What are you doing in town?”
“I ran the Austin Half Marathon yesterday, and now I’m heading up to the mountains for a few days,” she said. “My dad was in the 10th Mountain Division and it’s his 90th birthday! I’m just trying to get a run in when I can. What are you training for?” she asked.
“The Boston Marathon in April,” I said – as if she might not know when it is. She’s only there most years with a speaking engagement or training event – besides the fact that she’s won it twice and the date barely fluctuates. It’s always the third Monday in April – aka Patriot’s Day. The whole city is off from work and school to enjoy the race, followed by a home Boston Red Sox game and a day-long celebration.
“What’s your time goal?” she then inquired. I’m hoping to break 3 hours 35 minutes or get close to 3 and ½ hours. “With the pace you were keeping this morning you could hit 3:15!” she replied. “Well,” I said, “that would require my stomach and other parts to cooperate.” By other parts I meant bowels, and I think she got it – as she laughed and said that she understood. “Good luck with the rest of your training,” she encouraged, and she was on her way.
It was just a chilly morning in February. I was just heading out on one of many tempo runs in my training. But what a fabulous start to the day and week it was! How often do you head out to do something that you do pretty regularly, and then meet a super star athlete you’ve admired, watched and read about for years? I couldn’t take the smile off of my face. I couldn’t wait to tell my family, friends, co-workers, anyone who would listen and appreciate it!
The feeling I got from running into and visiting with Joan Benoit Samuelson is the same feeling we should be striving to give our clients, our co-workers, our friends and our family members on a daily basis. How have you inspired others lately?