Monday, October 24, 2011

A weekend with Joanie - Part 1

I have been looking forward to this weekend for quite some time.  This was the weekend that Joan Benoit Samuelson was coming to town!  A few months ago, well back in the early summer, my coach gave us some great news - that the running club had finally gotten word that Joan had said yes and would come to my town to run in the National Masters' XC race in October.

Well October came around pretty quickly and Joan came in on Thursday night and spent Friday talking to high school cross country teams from the area and then that night she spoke to my running club!  When I first saw her in person, she was so much smaller than I thought she would be, but she was super cute, humble, gracious, nice, and well spoken. 

It was such an honor to hear her speak - I was just amazed at her story of having knee surgery before the Olympic trials.  To hear her talk about it in person gave me goosebumps.  I can't imagine going through what she did.  Then she talked about the Olympics and she said her favorite moment during that race was running down the empty LA highway.

As she spoke she talked about how her running life has changed and how now her 5k pace is only about 10 seconds/mile faster than her marathon pace. She is still faster than me by a long shot.

The one thing that she said that really stuck out to me was,
" don't have to run a marathon to be a runner.  There is too much hype and too much pressure on the marathon.  Running should be about enjoying it."
From the mouth of the 1984 Women's Marathon olympic gold medalist.  For someone who has not run a marathon, it really was inspiring to hear her say that.  I have often felt like less than a runner because I don't have the desire to run a marathon or to run Boston. 

Time really flew by and before we knew it, it was time to go home and get some rest.  The next day was the race and a tough XC race at that.

Saturday was an early morning and  Brian and I were up before dawn to head out to the XC race.  I had volunteered to be the volunteer coordinator so I had to get down to the race site early.   I had also been persuaded by my coach to run in the open division of the XC race - talk about a very busy day.  Being over booked as usual, I bribed Brian to take my place volunteering so when we arrived he headed out on to the course to marshal and make sure all runners stayed on course. 

The open division race was first 9:30am, followed by the masters women's race at 10:30am and masters men's race at 11:30am.  Things were pretty quiet before the open race started - there weren't too many people who wanted to come out on a cold morning to run on the grass, hills and mud.

My XC race went decently well, but this post is more about Joanie so I'll post my report later on.

Joan was in the masters women's race (obviously!) and I made sure I was at the start line while Brian was out freezing on the course.  He really is the best - he gave up over half of his weekend to spend time with runners and help out at the race.

The women's masters race was amazing to watch.  Many great runners all together in one place along with Joanie.  She took off and was in the lead pack before all the runners disappeared into the trails and woods.  Not long after, she was back around and headed to the finish.  I was shocked at how fast her turnover was - she was FLYING!

She finished in 20:17, still way faster than me and she is twice my age! Seriously she is just an awesome lady!  After Joanie finished her race, I grabbed some food and headed back out on to the course to help out Brian.  I felt so bad that he was stuck out there all alone.  He was a good sport and we spent the rest of the time cheering on the men's race and spending time together.

Beautiful trail!
Yes we are having fun although its cold!

Brian - being a great course marshal
It was a great day, but the fun was not over yet!  Stay tuned for Part II!


Kim said...

How fun that you got to hear her speak! And how inspiring that she is still so fast. Was she leaning over for most of her run - is that her running style? Or just how she was in that moment?

Not running a marathon doesn't make you any less of a runner. If you don't have the desire to do it, you shouldn't!

Marlene said...

She sounds just amazing! What a fantastic opportunity to hear her speak AND watch her race!! Glad you were able to take advantage, and yay for Brian helping to make it happen. Good husband. :)

That is an awesome quote - you certainly don't need to run marathons to be a runner. But I would not object if you decided to come run Chicago next year...... ;)

Rebecca said...

Ahhhhhh!! Definitely best weekend ever. I am so tempted to spill your secret for Part 2, haha. BUT I won't. :-)

Joe kept reminding me how much of the weekend he spent doing things that I wanted to do.... so he is/was feeling Brian's pain. Even though he ran the XC race we spent a ton of time there, plus the talk Friday and dinner; it was definitely a lot!!

misszippy said...

She is the best, plain and simple! Love her. Always amazed when i see the elites how tiny they are too. And she spoke to my pet peeve--the extreme obsession with marathons these days. Everyone feels like they must do them when there's a lot to be gained from other distances too.

Rena said...

That's so neat. I must have been in your town for that this weekend. I heard about it, but I didn't get to go watch. I ran the Johnny's Run like Hell 5K that day instead.

Amber said...

I love that quote! It's totally true, you do not have to run marathons to be a runner at all. I think there is a lot of pressure but the 5K, 10K, half-marathon distance and everything in between is just as much of a challenge in it's own way and also makes someone just as much of a runner as a marathoner!

Anonymous said...

That is so cool that you got to meet her -- how inspiring! I love that quote that you shared. I definitely agree that you don't have to run a marathon to be considered a runner.