I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower complete the New York City Marathon. Numerous hulking ballerinas and “Larry the Lighthouse” have all crossed the finish line. More Elvises – (El-VI?) – than I can count.
And they’re adding a guinea pig to this year’s mix.
That would be me. On November 7, 2010, I will run the New York City Marathon for the third time; when it’s done, it’ll be my sixth marathon. I’ll run it for many reasons, most of them the kind that make your heart race, pump, or break.
It comes with the territory; as an athlete, I am physically stronger because I train to be. As a charity runner, I am touched by those that courageously fight a disease seeking to tear folks apart. My heart races with the inspiration of those that have touched it, pumps with enthusiasm from those that enrich it, and breaks with the knowledge that this disease exists to be fought.
As to the “guinea pig,” I’m training to set a personal marathon record…and Coach Kevin Leathers is setting the bar. He wants to make me an example of his coaching expertise for the rest of our team. Throw the spotlight on me, start the clock, and see what I can do.
See, I can’t really say I’ve run a marathon for TIME in fifteen years. My first two, in ’95 and ‘96, those were just “I’m gonna go do this” finishing goals. Since the formation of the Team McGraw program in 2007, my focus has been much more on our mission to support brain tumor research through the Tug McGraw Foundation and helping our runners achieve the goals they have set for themselves.
Never my performance, my time, my finish.
Now, I’m always out there. I’m training, and I do many of our team events. I’m not gonna participate in a program like this and talk my way around doing the work that our folks do. But on race day, I’m out there for them: the runners; the volunteers; those in their battles against brain tumors, brain trauma, and other debilitating diseases; the family and friends supporting all of us in our efforts; and those held in our memories along the way.
My time? Whatever.
Case in point: the first Team McGraw marathon was New York City in ‘07. My training was sufficient, but not especially hardy. I was out there to have fun, hang with the runners, grind out my race and practice what I preached: run smart, be patient, pace yourself.
And I’m not only a runner on race day. I’ve got a runner’s hat, a cheerleader’s hat, a photographer’s hat, and sometimes, (though it is small by comparison,) a coach’s hat. (Coach Kevin wears the big one…as well he should.) I’m pluggin’ along, yucking it up with stragglers, snappin’ photos, and making sure that I end the day better friends with some of my folks than when I started.
Alright, alright…yeah, I sit in with some of the bands along the race course, too; it’s just the musician in me that fights his way out in between mile markers!
Everybody finished that first year; the same in 2008. That second year, I intentionally started all the way at the back. Not one of the other 50,000 runners were behind me, which guaranteed I would run past half of our team. That was what I wanted – to spend a little time on the course with as many of our folks as possible.
That’s a hard way to go. Lots of weaving around slower runners, congestion, tighter crowds. There’s a reason you should put an accurate time down on your registration form and accept your starting placement with runners at your training level. I won’t do that again, at least not in New York, but it was a nice way to share the day with so many of our people.
New York City 2009, I didn’t run. I had planned to, but at the last minute, Coach Kevin and I figured I’d be of better use on the sidelines. He was right. Early in the race, we were both on hand with smiles, cameras, and backpacks full of “Attaboys!” and “Go get ‘em, girls!”
Later on, when things got hairy, we were there with the needed advice, water, nutrition gels, bandages, stretching suggestions and massage assistance for cramped hamstrings when it was…kneaded.
(Ugh. I know. Bad one.)
For the third year in a row, everybody finished. Awesome. I loved being on the sidelines; still, our friends that run the New York City Marathon want me on the course this November, and I want to be running alongside my team as well.
So Coach Kevin will put me to the test. I’m his guinea pig – the one he plans to mold, needle, poke, prod and push into the fastest marathon I’ve run. Ever.
(For more about my New York City Marathon 2010 campaign and to make a donation in support of quality of life research for those with brain tumors, brain trauma, and other debilitating cognitive conditions, please click here for my donation page.)