Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Cautionary Tale

This book excerpt goes out to Evan, Greg, Zeke and Dallen. All of these runners will be tackling the Chicago Marathon this Sunday, and I wish them the best of luck.

I'm to the part in "A Cold Clear Day" where Buddy Edelen runs his first marathon. The author Frank Murphy talks about the strange things runners do before a race and why we do them. In Buddy's case, he decided on eating a tin of sardines on race morning after they were offered to him by a friend, instead of eating a more stable breakfast of toast and eggs or similar.

"That apparently reasonable option overlooks the mind games athletes play. They manipulate events. For example, when a good runner does something prudent in preparation for a race, he expects to run well because he has been prudent. On the other hand, from time to time, a good athlete feels the burden of expectations and does something imprudent, stupid if you will, intentionally. The athlete knows that if he does this stupid thing he will run well because doing a stupid thing, a self-destructive thing, relieves the pressure on the athlete by giving him an excuse to fail. With that excuse in place, he can relax. Relaxed he will run well. It is an athlete's version of Catch-22. No matter whether he is prudent or imprudent he will run well. So Buddy ate the can of sardines on the morning of his first marathon."

..."By six miles Buddy was catching sardines on the way up; in doing so he became nauseous and cramped; nauseous and cramped, his legs went out from underneath him. As his legs went out, he slowed; as he slowed, he grew discouraged; as he grew discouraged, he slowed. Buddy trudged along the road from Windsor Castle to Chiswick Stadium without any hope in the world. Up in front a race was being run and he had no place in it."

..."Unfortunately, Buddy used no speed in his inaugural marathon. He used only his determination to finish what he started, no matter how forlornly."

Buddy finished 9th with a 2:31, while the winner crossed the line in 2:21. Be smart in Chicago, rest and eat well these next few days, and for god's sake stay away from those sardines. As for Greg and Dallen, I hope you finish within 5 minutes of Buddy.


Evan said...

Thanks for the good luck wishes. Also, thanks for the reminder about Cold Clear Day. Must read it sometime! Looks like we might get snow showers, and they predict winds over 10mph but you do what you can with the weather on the day. Good luck for your race.

Greg said...

Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

Good luck to you this weekend as well.

And just to make sure I'm on track, the moral of the story is eat sardines, run a 2:31. Right?

Mike said...

I'm keeping fingers crossed for good weather Evan. Greg, your carb-depletion thing is making me crazy. It insired this post, but I trust you know what you're doing. If I knew your address I'd have a pizza delivered today...hold the anchovies.

Dallen said...

Thanks Mike.