I’ve been looking forward to this event for weeks–the TimesTalk with Grete Waitz, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Deena Kastor. I bought my ticket nearly a month ago, always with the intent of this being my date night with myself. (Am I the only social misfit who loves the solo date? I even got spiffed up and put on extra make-up! I wore my red high heels!) I didn’t want anyone interfering with my unabashed adoration of and riveted attention for these world-class marathoners.
They took the stage about 15 minutes late, which I blamed on Lance. Surely he was being a prince and arrived in his own sweet time. Regular readers will know I’m no fan–I get indignant about all the special treatment and media he got the few times he ran marathons; and at how lightly he took his preparation the first time out (so disrespectful and arrogant); and how the organizers of the Boston Marathon let him break a tape when he crossed the finish line. That he shoehorned his way on to the panel, tainting which was otherwise a celebration of female marathon greats, totally annoyed me! He got the most enthusiastic applause when the panelists were introduced–boy did that really piss me off. Runners are always competing for a bigger piece of the sports media pie, so to have their panel usurped by Schmance Warmstrong, on the eve of one of our sport’s greatest events (our one big chance to have full attention on running), was nearly enough for me to show up with a bag of rotten tomatoes. (If only I didn’t throw like a girl…)
I’d decided to ignore everything he had to say. Fingers on ears. Low humming. Noo Schmance, I can’t hear yoooouuu!
When Grete, Joanie, and Deena took the stage, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck and tears welled up in my eyes. These women–they have done so much for the sport, and for women in the sport! Their stories, efforts and accomplishments have kept me running and pushing through long runs, speed workouts, and injury recovery. And there they were, on the stage, ready to dispense wisdom and humor, for me! Oh, this was going to be a very, very good date night.
Tara Parker-Pope (she blogs at NYTimes.com and has been training for NYC, her first marathon) did an excellent job as moderator. She really knew the stories of each athlete and of other professional runners–her expertise came through in her questions, responses, and commentary. So, um, I took notes. Perhaps one would even call them copious. I’m just going to type them up here for you. (Yes, I am blushing at my display of massive geekiness. I can only hope you find them charming, both the blushing and the geekiness.)
Grete: [she looks so young! wearing warm-up pants & jacket] Her hardest marathon was the one she ran with Fred Lebow.
Joanie: [also wearing warm-up pants & jacket] Finished every race she’s ever started.
Deena: [wearing a pretty black dress and jumper with floral embroidery across the right shoulder] Finished 6th in Chicago this year because she had to use the toilets.
Grete: she took a potty pause twice (once crouched between 2 cars; the other time she just peed on herself while running) but managed to win the NYC marathon each time
Lance: [wearing jeans and a cool gray windbreaker. suspiciously tan] Admitted he “weaseled” his way in when he saw the TimesTalk advertised in the paper a week or so ago.
Grete: Ran a negative split her first marathon (her longest training run had been 12 miles!) by 4 minutes. She was a miler (best Mile = 4:25; best 1500 meters = 4 flat) in her home country of Norway.
Joanie: The first time she ran Boston, she asked a guy on the course when they were going to pass the Heartbreak Hills only to be told she had already run over them.
Lance: When queried if he was looking at triathlons again, he replied, “I look at them… on TV.” But then said that in 2011 he may do “a couple of Ironmans.” Just a couple? Pussy!
Grete: After her cancer treatments, she became a couch potato. Lance sent her an email (they had never met before) which motivated herto begin training again.
Lance: “It was a simple note. I had to really think about what I was going to say. I mean, it was Grete Waitz!”
Grete: In your training, it’s okay to “hurry slowly” towards improvement.
On this buzzable New York Times piece about marathon plodders:
Grete: Running with fast-walk breaks is fine.
Joanie: As the marathon is getting slower, it is also getting faster. It’s about achieving the goals you set for yourself. [She didn't sound entirely convinced that she was OK with the plodders. Just my impression.]
Deena: Marathoners get to the starting line with mutual respect because everyone there has put in the work for the event.
Lance: The majority of the sport’s participants are slow. “Majority rules!” When Tara countered that the article posited that the plodders were removing the mystique of the sport, Lance replied “Well the marathon was very mystical for me.”
Deena: Mantra from her first Chicago Marathon, “Define Yourself.”
Joanie: Mantra from 1984 Olympics, “The Last Shall Come First, and the First Shall Come Last.”
When asked about how to overcome injuries and massive physical setbacks:
Grete: Move through recovery with a supportive circle of friends, family and coaches/teammates
Lance: Some people pump you up; other people drain you. Dump the drains and collect the pumps.
Deena: No matter your level of fitness or capability, it’s important for all runners to set goals for themselves, even if they seem like impossible goals, and to work towards them. Then look at how your life has changed and improved in pursuit of your goals, even if you fall short of them. [I nearly rushed the stage to fall at her feet in gratitude when she said this.]
Lance: On how he deals with the inevitable emotional vacuum after a race, “Drink!… Heavily.” [This may have been the point where I agreed to cut him a little bit of slack.]
Lance: Sports live and die (as far as spectator popularity and TV coverage) by the stories the athletes have to tell.
Grete: In a marathon, the first 20 miles is transportation. Then start running.
Needless to say, I was entranced the entire panel, completely delighted by the women and ultimately willing to listen to Lance. He did beat the “humbled by the marathon” drum pretty loudly throughout the event. Grete was the biggest populist of them all, just very good-natured. Joanie had a bit of that New England no-nonsene sternness to her; she conserved her words. Deena seemed like a reflective, eloquent and positive California girl. Even though each of the four panelists told stories I’d read before, I will never forget what it was like to listen to my heros in person.