Posts Tagged ‘alberto salazar’

Yesterday evening I took advantage of Nike’s generous offer to listen to and meet Olympians Kara Goucher and Bernard Lagat. How could I not? Kara is not only my favorite female elite, and my girl crush, but she’s also my running muse. I conjure up images of her zooming around the track at the Trials when I need a boost in my own workouts. (I hope I haven’t just freaked any of you out. Or you Kara, if you’re reading.) And Bernard, well, he’s the sweetest–I remember how down-to-earth he was on the podium at the Fifth Avenue Mile last September, what a classy second place. 

Coach Ramon (it was excellent to catch up with him) led us on a 40-minute run from the New York Running Company store (at Third Avenue and 63rd Street; this new location is gorgeous) over the Queensborough Bridge and back. It was strange to be there with a massive group, but not unpleasant. I was scheduled to run 3 for recovery (after Tuesday’s hills and Wednesday’s tempo my legs were feeling a bit battered), so I turned around before the rest of the gang. 

Once I was back at the store and headed to bag check, I caught a glimpse of Kara. She was wearing jeans, black books, and a cropped, olive green satin bomber jacket over a drapey scarf and a bright blue Nike track jacket. I kid you not: my ears started to ring. Then I saw Bernard, who was already chatting with one of us regular runners. And then–bonus!–I noticed Alberto Salazar, hovering in the background. Wow, that man is a legend (and Kara’s coach).

I stood around nervously. I am embarrassed (and disappointed) to admit that despite the gentle prodding of both my TNT buddy SA and Ramon, I could not work up the guts to go say hello to Kara or Bernard. My mind went completely blank–I couldn’t think of a single possible thing to say to them besides “I’m a fan,” which would have been tragic for everyone involved. 

So instead I sat and listened to the Q&A, as rapt as a 5-year old at story time in the library. What they eat, how they train, what events they’ve got coming up, long-term goals, all the standard questions. At one point Kara took a teeny jab at Bernard when she pointed out that her husband Adam was a much stronger runner when the two men competed against each other in college (we all laughed, even Bernard). Then they opened it up for questions, and once again I froze. I’m starting to reconsider if it’s such a good idea to keep her on my dinner date list (you know the game, “If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?”), since probably I’d get her across the table from me at Del Posto and have nothing to say. (Actually I don’t think that’s true; I’m much better one on one than speaking in front of a group.) 

Much of what she told us about her training for the NYRR Women’s Mile and the Boston Marathon she’d said just a day earlier to Runner’s World. But it was still cool to hear this chick casually throw out that she’s running 95 miles a week now and is going to boost that volume to 105 for several weeks leading into the marathon. Then, she said something that was reassuring to me, a mere mortal: her longest run in her marathon training will be no more than 23 miles. I’ve got a 22-miler scheduled for four weeks out from London. She wrapped up with another encouraging tidbit: no matter how fast you are, or how talented you are, running hurts. Whether you’re having a difficult training run or the race of your life, it hurts because you push yourself, period. Those are words I can fall back on during my pace runs, Nike Speed workouts, and Mile 25 of London. Thanks, KG!

Then we all cued up to get 8 ½ x 11″ photos (provided by Nike) signed by the athletes. I met Bernard first, and he obliged me with a quick photo. I wished him luck at the Wannamaker, told him I’d seen him at the Fifth Avenue Mile last year. He was super-cool, he gives off a great vibe. Then, there I was standing in front of Kara. I moved fast–I introduced myself, asked her for a photo, and then told her how the image of her running at the Trials occassionally motivates me during my workouts. In that moment, any cool credentials I may have earned over the years were immediately revoked. Star-struck: so not cool. But to her credit, Kara looked me in the eye, smiled and said, “That means so much to me to hear.” Who knows if she meant it; SA thinks she did. Chances are good, maybe. (How’s that for an equivocation?)

I walked to Second Avenue and 60th Street to get the Q60 bus home, replaying the evening over in my head. Nice! And I still have the Millrose Games tomorrow! Seated on the bus, I pulled my signed photos out of my bag, where I’d placed them carefully in a hard plastic folder. “To TK, Always Believe! Kara Goucher.” Surely that’s what she wrote for everyone, but I don’t care. I’ll believe anyway.

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Wedged in between a morning of cleaning and an evening of shopping were two inspirational, honorable hours spent watching the world premier of the documentary film Run for Your Life, the story of Fred Lebow and the founding of the New York City Marathon.  The film is directed by Judd Ehrlich, who came to the story through his friend Moshe Katz, who is related to Lebow.

Needless to say, the theater was packed with runners.  The co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival asked for a show of hands of all the runners in the theater, and easily two-thirds of the room put their hand up.  Mary Wittenberg, the current President and CEO of New York Road Runners, was in the audience, as were many of the cast and crew, including Nina Kusick, the woman who won the first-ever NYC Marathon (four laps of Central Park — ugh!).

As a fan and participant in the sport, I already knew parts of the history of the New York City Marathon and Road Runners Club.  But this documentary is a marvellous, rich presentation of road running in my city, and of course, an even-handed presentation of Fred Lebow, the “P.T. Barnum” of road running.

I’m not going to give you a rundown of Lebow’s biography — you can get that from Wikipedia; or better yet, you can go watch this movie.  (Ehrlich’s team is hoping the film gets picked up for distribution.)  In any event, the man and his life certainly make for a great story, whether you are a runner or not.

What I loved most about this film was how the story of Fred Lebow is the story of the New York Road Runners, and of the growth of road running in New York City.  I’ve heard pieces of this story told through other sources, but Run for Your Life really pulled it together in one place.  Wittenberg even said, in a comment after the premier, how the documentary was a huge assist to the NYRR’s efforts to archive their history.  Hearing New York running legends like Corbitt, Spitzer, Rodgers, Shorter, Waitz, and Salazar talk about Fred and the NY Marathon felt like an important thing to be doing. I realize that I am able to train and race as much as I want because of those who came before me, because of pioneers like Fred Lebow. 

 This movie is full of “Ah-ha” moments, in which I recognized the roots of today’s running culture in the vanguard efforts of Lebow and the NYRR’s. For example, the original NYRR’s were a small group of men who ran solely in the Bronx.  I was more suprised to learn that they ran in the Bronx, around Yankee Stadium, than to realize how very few runners were in the community. In fact, the tenor of the film was more homage than expose, more history than recruitment. 

I can’t help but briefly compare it to the other movie I’ve recently seen about running, The Spirit of the Marathon.  That movie was inspirational, expansive, and sweeping; it made me cheer and wiggle in my seat; it felt like it was trying to convince folks to run the Chicago Marathon.  Watching The Spirit of the Marathon was like spectating at a world-class running event.  While Run for Your Life had a few of those moments — when Salazar set the world record, when Lebow crossed the finish line with Waitz at the only NYC Marathon he’d ever run — mainly, watching the Lebow movie felt like I was earning my chops as a New York runner by learning our history.  Now, I can go forth and be an ambassador to non-runners, runners from other cities, and even local runners who may not yet know the story.

Spirit of the Marathon was very much a movie for runners.  Run for Your Life is as much a movie for New Yorkers as it is for runners.  I told Husband when I got home that he would have loved the movie, because of all the history of our great city that by necessity comes into the story of Fred Lebow and the NYRR’s. The grandness of the New York City Marathon is certainly captured here.  The shots of the river of humanity pulsing over the Verranzano and 59th Street Bridges are enough to quicken my pulse, and make me think how excited I am to be one of those runners this November, running in the footsteps of legends like Fred Lebow.

To Judd and crew: well done, and thank you.

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