So, we’re up in Burlington for the Vermont City Marathon (again). The greatest thing is that there’s absolutely zero pressure this year – Melissa, my longsuffering wife, and I are running the two person relay.
It’s an odd concept to consider, that a half marathon is an “easy” thing. It’s not, of course, for folks who haven’t been wearing out sneakers for a good long while, but Missy and I are both around a half dozen full marathons each. For the record, she’s faster. And base runs each week have included an hour and a half or so for each of us for the last couple years.
Plus, we’re not actually “racing” the relay, though when she ends up posting a faster split than me on Sunday I’ll not hear the end of it.
Anyway, going WAY back, I’m a huge fan of Jeff Galloway. Back in 1999, coming off of a couple years assigned to a fast attack submarine as a professional Steely Eyed Killer of the Deep, Melissa bounced a copy of Galloway’s Book On Running off me one night as we enjoyed our DINK (Dual Income, No Kids) bliss. “Hey, if we do this, we could head down to Orlando to run the Disney Marathon, assuming the world doesn’t end at Two-Thousand-Zero-Zero (Party over, whoops, out of time).
I took a look, and the book made sense – keep using your legs regularly, even if you have to walk a little, and they’ll get stronger. Build slowly, and you’ll avoid injury. All sorts of good stuff.
So, we jumped into the training program, little knowing that our first marathons would end up postponed by a kid, two moves, two career changes, another kid, a war, and general malaise.
After Missy found out we (she, to be completely accurate) were pregnant with J, I stuck with the training program. Check the day, run the mileage, and amazingly it kept getting easier to crank out miles. I topped out the weekend after Veterans’ Day with a 16 miler that I finished without really feeling winded, but then Connecticut winter set in, the reality of traveling to Florida with an extremely pregnant wife became apparent, and we decided to take a pass on the Marathon.
But I kept coming back to Galloway’s book. A huge personal accomplishment – doing something actually athletic is daunting to a bookish, overweight engineer – was broken down into an algorithm that I had evidence could actually work. So, it kept nagging away at the back of my head. Big rides were the first milestones I knocked down – Spent 99-2004 chasing Lance Armstrong’s myth, and went from being amazed I’d ridden the Colchester Half Marathon course without stopping to doing 20 on a regular basis after work, and eventually knocking out a couple centuries in Texas. But even cycling worked on Galloway’s model.
I eventually ran a marathon on Galloway’s plan. And a couple more, though I’ve tweaked the strategy.
This afternoon, I actually got to see the Man himself. He was signing books at the VCM expo. We’d driven up to Burlington early, let the kids skip school, checked into the hotel, and hit the Marathon expo on Friday night instead of Saturday after the YAM Scram.
Galloway was packing up after signing books. Wafer-thin dude, jeans and a long-sleeved tee.
It’s tough meeting a legend. “Hey, you changed my life” or “So, like that book you wrote way back when, yeah, that one was pretty good, and I’ve spent the last decade and a half trying to live up to it” or just throwing myself at his feet in supplication. None of that seemed appropriate.
The general feeling was like back in 8th grade when you finally go up to a girl to ask her to for-real slow dance. Knew I wanted to say hi, but also knew that, late in the day Galloway was probably way more interested in packing up and getting supper. So, I , like many, many others, I’m sure, thanked him profusely for the huge effect he’d had on me. He shook my hand, said something gracious. And much like my first real slow dance, as soon as it was over I ran off to talk to my wingman (in this case #1 son) and figure out how the whole thing actually went.
Despite being a bleeding idiot socially, though, I love this whole running thing. Got to run with Bart Yasso when Missy did Philadelphia through the Runner’s World meetup. Get to train on a daily basis on the same roads that John Kelley and Amby Burfoot cut their teeth on. Meet interesting people from all walks of life through races, training, and the internet. And get to talk about tough stuff like it’s old hat (most of the country still says “Woah” when you say 5 miles).
I got to meet one of my heros today, and tomorrow, like a couple of days a week for the last decade-plus, will be a better day because of him.