On a Beautiful Day – Go for it!
It must have been a beautiful day. If you run long enough, you know there are good days and there are bad days – especially when you speak of the marathon. Gary Griffin, Tallahassee resident and Gulf Winds Track club member, who completed the 26.2-mile New York City Marathon through the five boroughs of New York City, noted: “It wasn’t beautiful by Chamber of Commerce standards but it was a great day to run.” That must have been exactly what Shalane Flanagan was thinking as she claimed probably the most impressive title of her running career. And if the title of “Champion” of the New York City Marathon is not enough on its own, certainly being the first U.S. citizen to win the women’s title in 40 years (i.e., unless you are a masters runner you were not born yet) and only the 6th American woman ever demonstrates it was a beautiful day for Flanagan. I imagine even Miki Gorman the last US woman to win (1977) appreciated the acknowledgement.
Once, when there seemed to be a little more free time, the New York City Marathon was one of the only non-Olympic marathons one could watch on television and I always watched it. The quality of the broadcast left room for improvement with better technology as the transmission often could not get out of the sky scraper canyons that guarded the race course. But once a year, we would find a way to watch, sometimes recorded, but always waiting for the bolt of lightning to strike somewhere like this past Sunday when Shalane Flanagan did the unexpected. Of course, it has been a few years since I watched the NYC Marathon and I missed watching it again this year. Maybe next year, I will make time.
The time on Sunday was not spectacular (2:26:53 or a 5:36 pace), but the New York City Marathon is more about racing than it is world records. The turns, the hills and even the finish present challenges to runners trying set records. But for racing? There are many opportunities to test your own and your competition’s mettle. And there was definitely some of the best marathon talent in the world at this race, led by three-time NYC champion and world record holder, Mary Keitany.
There really was no reason to expect Flanagan to take the top spot in this race. Keitany has had an amazing year. She won the London Marathon with a time of 2:17:01, a women’s-only marathon world record. She had blown away the New York City field last year, winning by the biggest margin (3 minutes 34 seconds) since 1980. Also, while Flanagan was the dominant force in US women’s distance running for a while, her best times seemed behind her. She loves to charge to the front and try to take the race away from her competitors. That strategy often plays into the hands of someone like Keitany.
On Sunday, however, Flanagan ran patiently through the early boroughs and over the bridges. A large group reached the half way point in a time of 1:16:18 sections. “Pedestrian” some might say. It took a couple more miles before the pace began to pick up; enough for the pretenders to lose contacts. Still, three women ran together. In addition to Flanagan and Keitany, Mamitu Daska seemed fairly comfortable running to the finish. But this is the spot, in past international race where Flanagan had trouble keeping up. A bad day, so to speak.
Not this time though. A 5:37 split (the last sane one) and then Flanagan, somewhere around mile 20, stomped on the pedal. 5:09, 5:12, 5:08, 5:11, 5:06, 4:52, 5:12, and 5:02 to capture that elusive and one of the most exclusive, international titles. She powered away from her last two competitors and kept a large enough lead to enjoy the last 200 meters waving to the crowd and pumping her fist.
Truth is we never know for sure when those good days will bless us or when the bad ones will bring a curse. So, when those good days visit, take full advantage, and if they seem to have disappeared – be patient the good days will return.