By: Laura Mullins, director, Norman runhers
While most runners slept in on the cold, rainy Saturday morning before the NYC Marathon, my Norman RunHers crew got up early for a very special event. We had been invited to attend an intimate “Meet and Greet” with husband and wife Ryan and Sara Hall, followed by a shakeout run in Central Park. Unsure of what to expect at this event, we packed lightly, dressed in our rainy weather running gear and hopped on the subway to Midtown. I was told the event was limited to 100 people and we were thrilled just to be in the mix and have the opportunity to share a room with these running sensations. But upon arriving, we discovered only about 30 people battled the cold, wet weather and turned up for breakfast with two of America’s top distance runners.
As my group of seven runners grazed the delicious continental breakfast, we were nervous about how much to eat. We really wanted to run with the Halls, but we had no idea how fast they would go and if we could even keep up. Determined to enjoy the moment, we grabbed some coffee and bagels and introduced ourselves to a few other runners who were also waiting anxiously for the guests of honor to arrive.
We were all enjoying a friendly banter when the lovely couple quietly glided through the door and right into the middle of our breakfast. They were kind, humble and soft-spoken. They patiently fielded all of our running related questions about nutrition, training as well as specific advice for the NYC Marathon that was less than 24 hours away. The weather forecast was not looking good for race day with highs in the upper 30s and winds between 20-30 mph. Ryan offered great advice that I truly took to heart. “It’s up to you when you wake up in the morning to decide how you’re going to deal with the conditions. Make the decision to embrace the challenge and focus your energy on being thankful for the opportunity to race.” So true. No amount of cursing the weather was going to change it. It was up to me to accept it and save my energy for running, not ranting.
Later, the Halls graciously chatted with us as we ran a few miles through a rainy Central Park. The crew of men surrounded Ryan while us girls vied for Sara’s attention. I enjoyed two amazing miles chatting about faith, life and running with Sara (all between my gasps for air as I tried to keep up with her “easy” pace). Despite the fact that Sara is a professional runner and I am merely a recreational super-fan, I found that we both were learning how to focus more on the pure love and passion for running rather than only the race results. In the past, I let my insecurities get the best of me and allowed my self-esteem to be dictated on the results I did NOT produce. Does it make me less of a marathoner if I don’t break 4 hours or ever qualify for Boston? If I am feeling this kind of pressure as a weekend warrior, I can’t even begin to fathom what elite athletes like Sara and Ryan must feel when they don’t meet a certain expectation! Running with joy truly is a goal every runner strives to achieve.
After an exhausting week that filled my head with self-doubt about my ability to run the NYC Marathon on Sunday, the Halls’ encouragement lifted my spirits and helped me find my gratefulness for the amazing opportunity before me to participate in the world’s largest marathon. I thanked Sara for running with me, because her short time with me truly impacted my heart when I needed it most. I appreciated her sincerity and her genuine nature. Those with less integrity would not have even bothered to ask my name. I felt so empowered after spending time with both Ryan and Sara that I could have not run the race and been completely fine with it. There was no way my day could get any better.
But then it did. As I helped myself to a second cup of coffee, I heard the organizer ask the runners to move to one part of the room because he had a surprise for us. Cool. Maybe a free shirt or a water bottle? Well, the surprise turned out to be a whole lot better than any gear I could have imagined.
Every runner in the room shared a collective gasp “Ohmygod!” “No way!” “Are you serious?!?”, followed by a hushed silence as the 2014 Boston Marathon champion raised his hands up to speak. What words of wisdom would Meb bestow upon us mere running mortals?
“It’s going to tough out there for all of us tomorrow. Be prepared to run 10-15 seconds slower per mile than you had planned. And enjoy every mile.”
Us? Did he just say us, as if he and I and this small group of super fans are somehow similar?!? Yes. He did say us because, as he explained, “We are all running the same race and sharing the same miles.” Well, the course may be the same, but as most runners know, the race is different for each and every runner. Keep running your own race, my friends, and I will see you at the finish.