An article I wrote for Flotrack about learning from past off-season mistakes:
a silhouette in the distance,
no boundaries, no safety nets, no applause
but would you go?
As a young runner starting out in the sport, I found inspiration in the best. The likes of Alan Webb, Craig Mottram, Nick Willis, and of course, Steve Prefontaine. But I didn’t know those guys, and I never had the opportunity to watch them race in-person. They were demigods, running unfathomable times that weren’t relatable; so fast that I couldn’t wrap my 14-year old head around it. I craved a role model that was a bit more tangible, so I looked to the front of the pack that I was in.
The best of Long Island and New York were my targets. At this point in Internet history, AIM was the prime mode of communication. And I utilized it to bother every accomplished local runner whose screen name I could get my hands on. It’d start off with an introduction, maybe a congratulations on a recent performance, and then a barrage of questions about how to get faster. And this is how I met Brendan Martin or, as I first knew him, MiddieLax28.
Brendan remembers this interaction, as I clearly left an impression, ‘You provided a picture of yourself racing, so I knew what you looked like.’ He was happy to chat and provide some insight. Partially because he wanted to help, but the bigger reason being that he was in what he refers to as a maxed out nerdy phase of running. And this was another chance to obsess over it.
As a sophomore, I ran 17:38 for 5k to qualify for my first state meet and immediately attached to the locally established Brendan. One year older than me in school and considerably faster, he had been to states previously and let me know that I had a fun weekend to look forward to with the other athletes on a long bus ride and plenty of downtime to talk running. That trip solidified our friendship.
Due to the lack of licenses, our parents began driving us to meet each other for runs on the weekends. My mom was elated I would have some company while navigating the roads and trails of suburbia. And so the tradition started for the next couple years: race each other on Saturday and run together on Sunday. During our 10 mile long runs, we would countdown the distance as we went and how much longer until we could feast on IHOP, ‘8 miles to pancakes…7 miles to pancakes…’
Though we traded off victories over one another, our strengths and weaknesses became apparent. Brendan was a brilliant distance runner. He eased through the course of a 10-mile long run effortlessly, and though I struggled on that end, I would have the superior kick in close races. We were developing into our respective niches.
The College Years
Graduating with personal bests of 2:04/4:21/9:22/15:09, Brendan took off to nearby Columbia University. The summer before his freshman year, he found it difficult to train and find motivation while leaving behind old teammates. ‘When I was in high school, I couldn’t even picture a career beyond that, because high school track was all that ever mattered.’ Suddenly thrust into a new environment, he recalls a rough cross-country season, both as an individual and as a team. But a return to the comfort of home for winter break reinvigorated his enthusiasm and he returned knowing, ‘I want to be good…really good, and I want to do it with my teammates.’
While not lacking drive, but sometimes being depressingly realistic, Brendan had obtainable goals early on. Citing himself as, ‘smart enough,’ he realized the odds of winning an Olympic gold medal were slim, but he wanted one thing, ‘to know how close I could come.’ Today that balance remains. And while a coach could possibly fault him for not shooting for the stars, this mentality has produced admirable consistency.
During my senior year of high school, I was looking at schools a bit further from home, but in her regular Long Island motherly way, I was encouraged by my Mom to visit at least one Ivy League school. My brother was a non-runner in a fraternity at Dartmouth, so she cunningly suggested I take advantage of the coach’s offer and spend a weekend with Brendan in the city. Going in, I had no intentions of ever committing to Columbia. My heart was set elsewhere.
Having a friend to help make my introduction to the team, I was immediately welcomed. Though I tried my best to not fall in love with the school, it was inevitable. And so the rivalry was over, and a year later we’d become teammates.
From day one, we worked incredibly well together. He would push me on the strength stuff, and I’d push him on the speed. But perhaps more valuable than having a body to run next to is having a training partner who can provide valuable insight and perspective to the process. As the miles poured on together we would bounce ideas off one another our strides would fall into tune and create a collective consciousness. The conversations were dialectical and constructive, but most importantly, overwhelmingly positive–The greatest asset in a training partner. We had a built-in support system.
During his senior year, I was unfortunately injured and the team fell short of NCAAs by a single place. Brendan left college without ever competing at a national championship, but with personal bests of 4:18/8:15/14:09/29:43. He was without a doubt a very solid runner that any coach would be more than excited to have on their roster. But there was still untapped potential, and Brendan ‘knew [he] was good at the long runs, and enjoyed being out there for a long time, so [he] started to realize that it was time to move up.’
Immediately after the 2011 regional meet his senior year, Columbia head coach Willy Wood started preparing Brendan to race a half-marathon. Although beat up, and a bit removed from true strength work, there were 3 weeks until the Grandma’s Marathon [which also hosts a half]. Qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon would require a sub-65 minute half-marathon, but with fitness already in the tank, and no immediate prospects of joining a post-collegiate training group, he took the risk. Wood expressed a level of relief about having the prospect of coaching Brendan for his true calling, ‘I was finally able to devise a training schedule that didn’t require the speed work necessary for the track. Everyone in our program knew that Brendan would really excel on even greater a level once the race distance was lengthened.’ He was right. Although he came up short of the qualifying standard, his 65:32 finish was a quick glimpse of his greater potential. And ultimately it was enough to get the attention of the Hanson-Brooks Distance project.
The Becoming of a Marathoner
When Brendan first told me he was moving to Michigan, I was thrilled for him. One of the biggest roadblocks for many American distance runners is having the time and resources to pursue racing after their collegiate careers. While he ambiguously identified himself as a professional runner, it wasn’t about making it a career. Always the realist, Brendan noted that ‘in college I realized I was no where near the most talented, and it’d take a special person to make money doing this, but I love it and that’s enough.’ The lifestyle suited Brendan for a while, as he clipped off 115+ mile weeks, running twice on most days and working at the running store selling shoes. A large training block led him to a 2:22 in Boston in 2012, which was good enough for 13th overall and the 3rd American in an 85 degrees scorcher.
Two years later, while working as an office manager at teammate Clint Verran’s physical therapy clinic, he started looking outward. Training came to a sudden halt when a femoral stress fracture ruined all hopes for another successful Boston campaign. ‘I was 25 and started having more interests outside of just running, and so I wasn’t THAT upset. My identity wasn’t lost the way it would’ve been in college. There was no question of ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Why am I alive?’’ It was that equilibrium to life that encouraged his move back home to New York. While recovering from injury, he was knocking out pre-requisites before enrolling as a PT student.
Running was on the backburner, and once healthy enough to jog, he did it just because it was a familiar routine. But a bunch of easy runs added up to something much bigger. While distracted by the excitement of school and the comfort of his old room, fitness was slowly dropping into his legs. He looked at a calendar and committed 8 weeks to a build up before the California International Marathon. It went well. After going out conservatively, he closed hard to run 2:16 and subsequently knocked out the 2016 Olympic trials marathon standard.
That race pulled Brendan back in, but he would do it again on his terms. Friend and mentor, Corey Kubatzky began coaching him over phone and through email. They became acquainted during his time in Michigan, and like all good coach-athlete relationships, there was complete faith in each other. The CIM marathon served as a reminder and a stimulus. “I am good at this and can do it for at least one more year. I owe it to myself to run until the trials.” And that’s when Brendan’s story really begins to inspire me.
During this time, I am living in Clinton, NJ in what could be best described as a track fraternity. I am in quarters with six other professional runners who have the same mission as myself each day when we wake up. Every run is done in a pack, and each interval of a workout is split up between us to block the wind and handle the responsibility. Things couldn’t be set up more favorably for me to run fast. I have every advantage at my disposal, whether it is doctors, strength-training coaches, physiotherapists, masseuses, or anyone else who could possibly help. I don’t work outside of training. When I wake up in the morning, the only thing I have to accomplish it to find a way to get better at running. It is easy to feel a level of guilt when Brendan and I talk and I hear about how busy his life is.
“I have had company for one workout the last 1.5 years,” Brendan says it with no sound of animosity or regret in his voice. It’s simply a fact and his situation. There is however a couple friends who live nearby that will join up for the occasional easy run. But when you are running 120-130 miles a week, that company only covers so much ground.
In addition to commuting to Stony Brook University for class to finish his Doctor of Physical Therapy, Brendan works part-time at Smithtown Running Company selling shoes to people who have no idea the caliber of runner that is helping them. And somehow, between the miles, school and work, he finds time to coach a local high school cross-country team. He is truly doing it all, the running Renaissance man.
He acknowledges that it is tough to do it alone, but is quick to note that there are positives. “I have a hard time overtraining. In college, I would force myself to stay with you on a workout no matter how terrible I felt that day.” That’s not the case anymore. Now, “if I feel terrible, then I don’t need to justify getting dropped. I am alone, in the woods, without a GPS watch. I don’t need to know what pace I am going.”
The Olympic Trials
In February of 2016, Brendan got his chance to run at the race he had circled on his calendar many years ago, the US Olympic Marathon Trials. Though he was dealing with a migrating lower leg injury that made the final weeks of preparation difficult, the focus was on the years of consistency leading into the race. “Everyone on the line probably has something that’s hurting them.” That level-headedness has always been his greatest weapon.
Going in the goal was to finish among the top 30. But as the forecast heated up, so did Brendan’s ambition. His injured calf would handle the slower pace more comfortably and people would dig their own graves by not adjusting gameplans to the weather. “My strength is being a smart racer, and I am confident that I race smart because I have done it before. It plays into itself.” Brendan knew the heat would increase his chances.
It was 2.2 miles into the marathon when Brendan first looked back and saw that there were maybe 5 people behind him. He was shocked, but self-assured that such wouldn’t be the case for long. Though at 10-miles he looked up while running alongside former Hanson-Brooks teammates, Drew Polley and Ethan Shaw and saw a horde of people still ahead. That’s when a moment of doubt crossed his mind and he prayed, “I hope I made the right decision.”
With just a few miles left, Brendan heard someone from the crowd call out that he was in 60th place. At the point there were 10 people being picked up each mile, and they were seemingly standing still. “As we were rolling on guys, I just thought, IT’S WORKING!” And he was right. Brendan Martin crossed the finish line that day in 2:20:41, which was good enough for a 20th place finish in the country. His half marathon time was 70:20, an even split.
The Next Step
Normally after a great race, it’s natural to look at the calendar and pick another date to circle. You bask in the glory of your achievement for a few days before wondering what more you can do. After the Olympic Trials, Brendan had no immediate desire to go for another run for a while. “I owe it to myself, as I am limping around, to take a very serious break and catch up on the rest of my life. There are other things I need to do. I am going to play volleyball, go camping, hang out with my super hot girlfriend and figure out my next move, in time.”
Brendan has scraped up the money to fly himself to races (thanks to help from the Brooks ID program and NYAC) and he has squeezed in plenty of 8-mile runs between a 60-minute class break. It’s not easy for him to pull himself out of bed on a cold morning when already completely exhausted to go do a workout alone. And it’s not easy after getting home from work and school that day to go out again into the dark and run more.
“On those days, it’s more like I am doing it out of duty or obligation to myself. I refused to have it be a goal of mine for so long, to qualify, and then not have the motivation leading in to make sure I do a good job once I finally lined up there. I owed it to me to force myself to do it.”
It all paid off. For the guy who once had a hard time finding motivation after leaving behind his high school teammates, he did his best when he was doing it for no one but himself. It wasn’t to impress anyone or because someone was making him do it.
“To 19-year old Brendan, he would be so thrilled if he know he would one day run in the OT marathon and find out he’d placed so high. And to 43-year old Brendan, who has three kids, and doesn’t have time to go running without a baby stroller—I owed it to those guys to try really hard now.”
Brendan Martin never thought he was going to win an Olympic gold medal. But ever since high school he just wanted to know how close he could get. And he got 20th at the 2016 Olympic Trials-close.
Mark your calendars! The Hoka One One Long Island Mile will be bringing professional track and field back to Long Island on Wednesday, August 31st, 2016. In its debut, last year’s event saw 150 community athletes blazing the track, 7 men eclipse the 4-minute mile barrier, and 3 professional women battle down the home stretch in a photo finish. The sport was on display at every level, with first time milers and kids “fun-runners” racing just minutes before the elite men’s and women’s heats, which were loaded with All-Americans, international competitors, and world record holders.
Once again, the event will take place under the lights on the fastest track on Long Island, at St Anthony’s High School in Huntington Station, NY. With over three thousand fans in attendance last year, the enthusiasm for year two is already brewing. Race directors expect to see an increase in both participation and spectators after the success of the inaugural event.
‘I think the toughest part of creating an event is getting the word out and convincing people to buy in. Last year, we were able to do that, but now we’ve got some great momentum to build on. All you have to do is watch the race video, or see a couple pictures to see how much fun last year was. How could an athlete or fan see that and not want to come back?’ said co-meet director Kyle Merber.
The event was dreamed up by Merber and co-director Brendan Barrett, during shifts at Sayville Running Company, a running store owned by Barrett where Merber worked during college. After years of theoretical discussion of how to help increase the exposure and opportunity for track and field on Long Island, some of their ideas were able to come to fruition when Kyle signed a professional contract with shoe company Hoka One One, giving them the resources to bring their plans to life.
After last year’s success, the sequel was an easy commitment for the meet’s title sponsor. “HOKA ONE ONE is proud to continue our support of The Long Island Mile. Kyle and Brendan put together an energetic meet last year and we are excited to see how the event develops and evolves in its second iteration,” said Lee Cox, Director of Global Marketing for HOKA ONE ONE.
Their vision culminated in victories last year for Hoka One One athlete David Torrence, who took home the men’s race in an incredible 3:53 mile, as well as for Brooks’ Amanda Eccleston, who closed swiftly to break the tape in 4:29. Kyle himself got to race in front of hometown friends and family, placing 3rd in the men’s race in 3:58.
“There was an electricity to the event last year. People were talking about it when they came into the shop for weeks afterwards. The pro’s were so accommodating and encouraging and I think the local community really rallied around that. Plus, it didn’t hurt that they ran such fast races.”
Once again, RunnerSpace will be on hand for race coverage and to live stream the event for those not able to attend. They will be resuming their collaboration with Just-In-Time-Racing, who will be in charge of timing and scoring.
Athletes of all ability levels and ages are encouraged to sign up, and can register online at LongIslandMile.com or in person at Sayville Running Company (49 Main St. Sayville) or Smithtown Running Company (91 E Main St. Smithtown).
For Registration/Sponsorship: Brendan@sayvillerunning.com
For Elite Athletes: LongIslandMile@gmail.com
Sayville Running Company: 631-589-5700
Buy now and get a $5 Gift Card to Sayville Running Company
2015 Sayville Running Company Elite Men’s Mile Race Video: http://hoka-one-one-long-island-mile.runnerspace.com/eprofile.php?event_id=11220&do=videos&video_id=154926
2015 Smithtown Running Company Elite Women’s Mile Race Video: http://hoka-one-one-long-island-mile.runnerspace.com/eprofile.php?event_id=11220&do=videos&video_id=154925
Full Press Release: http://hoka-one-one-long-island-mile.runnerspace.com/eprofile.php?event_id=11220&do=news&news_id=414320&utm_content=buffer7001a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
The following is a piece that was originally published in the ‘2015 Armory Yearbook’ as printed by the Armory Foundation. I was honored to be included, and was extremely happy with the way the author, Dave Hunter, was able to convey my personal journey. Enjoy!
“Local Boy Makes Good – Meet Kyle Merber”
By Dave Hunter
How Kyle Merber – lifelong New Yorker and now member of a world-record-setting relay team – became interested in track may sound like a Hollywood movie, but it’s true nonetheless. “I started elementary school in 1996, right after the Atlanta Olympics,” said Merber, who grew up in West Hempstead, Long Island. “In October of that year, Derrick Adkins, who had attended the same elementary school and had won the gold medal in the 400 hurdles in Atlanta, came back and spoke at an assembly for the whole school. And I basically just listened to it in awe, spoke with him in person, and shook his hand. Right after that, I went home inspired and basically told my Mom I wanted to run track, so she signed me up.”
Adkins’s Olympic spark ignited the young Long Islander. “I had run in and out of school for a number of years. When I entered high school at Half Hollow Hills West, they had a kind of a sprint-oriented program,” Merber said. “But my coaches knew I wanted to be a distance runner. So we figured it out together, how to make it work. Of course, it meant a lot of running alone for a while. But together we just figured out the plan – what worked and what didn’t work,” he said.
“I was a solid freshman – nothing crazy – but probably a little bit better than average. I hardly broke 5:00 for the mile. It was a steady progression. By my junior year, I was becoming competitive enough to be recruited by colleges. And my senior year really took off – I won (state) cross country, won the mile indoors, won the mile outdoors, and just really, really found my stride,” Merber said. “It was just a matter of steady progression and figuring things out.”
Armed with solid academic credentials and a high school best of 4:11.6 (1600), Merber headed across town to Columbia University. “One of the things I really liked about Columbia is that I could come in and – while not the best on the team – be able to make an impact,” he said. “During my high school experience, Half Hollow Hills West got a lot better. And I really, really enjoyed that process and in seeing that development. So it was really important to me in college to be able to be a contributor to that growth again.
“In my freshman year, Columbia did not make the national meet – and we never had,” Merber said, describing the team’s goal of getting the Lions to the NCAA cross country nationals. “But by my senior year, we qualified for nationals for the first time. That sort of progression is something that I am really proud of, to have been a part of. And so for me in going to Columbia, that was a huge, huge factor.”
Columbia never finished worse than third in the Ivy League cross country championships in Merber’s four years in Morningside Heights – 2nd in 2008, champions in ’09, 3rd in ’10 and runnersup in the fall of ’11, with Merber finishing second individually and the team making Nationals.
As was the case in high school, Merber’s unwavering commitment to running continued to generate further progression: running a sub-4:00 mile as a sophomore to set a new Ivy record, and collecting three Heps titles along the way – 1st in the outdoor 1,500 in 2010 and 2012, 1st in the indoor 3,000 in ’10. The capstone of his college career was his unexpected 1,500-meter performance in a most unlikely setting: a Last Chance meet at Swarthmore College in May 2012.
“There were a bunch of professionals that were going for the Olympic standard. And so I was able to sneak my way into the race as probably the last entrant in the field,” Merber said. “The pace was quick. Nick Willis was rabbiting his teammates. And I just kinda got in line. They were going way faster than I had ever gone out before.
“But I just got in line and hit my time and realized that I was good to go, feeling way better than I had ever felt despite being really faster than I had ever been. I just got competitive and tried to win the race. The time came – and I did it.” Merber won in 3:35.59 – roughly a 3:52 mile — the second-fastest collegiate mark of all time and not far from the collegiate record of 3:35.30, set by Sydney Maree of Villanova 34 years ago.
“I was really, really lucky to be in a race like that. I don’t think a lot of collegians ever even get into 3:35 races. I think it was a matter of being in the right place, at the right time, and feeling good at the right time.”
After an ill-fated, injury-riddled 5th year at the University of Texas, Merber returned home to New York. “When I finished up at Texas, there were no shoe companies knocking down the doors to get me anymore. So I came back to the New Jersey/ New York area and joined up with Coach [Frank] Gagliano and ran for the [New Jersey/New York Track] Club.” Merber said he now thrives under Gagliano’s tutelage.
“I think Gags’s greatest asset is his ability to make you think you can do things that you didn’t previously believe to be possible. When Gags tells me that I can run a certain time or beat a certain person, I trust him. And that’s a huge mental barrier that athletes are always working to get over. For Coach to instill that sort of confidence in you, it really aids in jumping to that next level.”
Merber – who turned 25 in November — is also a disciple of the Gagliano training approach. “The thing Gags always says is, ‘You put strength and speed in a bowl, you mix it up, and you get a champion.’ We at all times of the year touch all systems. Monday would be strength work, long intervals. Wednesday would be a tempo in the morning and hills in the evening. And then Friday would be speed, turning it over. I do a two-hour run on Saturday. And with everything in between, I hit about 90 miles a week.”
The high-water mark of Merber’s young professional career is his leadoff leg on Team USA’s world-record-setting performance in the distance medley relay at this spring’s World Relay Championships in the Bahamas. After opening with “a tactical 2:53” 1,200 leg, Merber waited nervously as Brycen Spratling  and Brandon Johnson  got the baton around to Ben Blankenship . “I realized with 200 to go that we had a really good shot at not only the win but also the record,” said Merber, who was mentally calculating splits during Blankenship’s anchor leg. “It was awesome,” he said of watching Blankenship’s determined drive to the line. The USA’s winning mark of 9:15.50 shaved .06 seconds off Kenya’s 2006 world record.
The internet is replete with photos capturing the Americans’ post-race celebration – as relay mates can be seen restraining an exuberant Merber. “I get a little excited,” Merber admitted sheepishly.
Merber knows that his homecoming to New York – along with Gags’ oversight and a sponsorship with Hoka One One – has given him the stability he needs to go to the next level. “I am officially still a Long Island resident. But I split my time between Clinton, N.J., Long Island, and New York City, where my girlfriend lives.” With 2015 serving as another year of progression – an indoor PR in the 2000, outdoor lifetime bests in the 1500 (3:34.53) and the 3000 (7:52.95); a 6th-place finish in the tactical USATF outdoor 1500, and the world record in the DMR – Merber embraces his post-collegiate life as a professional athlete. “It is even better than I imagined,” he said. “With just everything that you do, you can focus entirely on becoming the best athlete possible. It’s really, really easy to put your energy in when you wake up in the morning and the only goal is to get better.”
Merber has no hesitation proclaiming that when his elite racing days have concluded, he wants to find a way to give back to the sport that has been so good to him. “I don’t know the exact best way. I’m sure after my career I’ll jump around to a number of different opportunities in track and field until I find a place where I can help contribute the most. I’ve got a lot of ideas,” said Merber, who was the mastermind – and 3rd-place finisher – at last fall’s successful Hoka One One Long Island Mile.
For the upcoming season, there’s the ambition of trying to make the U.S. Olympic team, where his competition will include the reigning American champion, Matthew Centrowitz. The last New Yorker to make the men’s team in the 1,500? Matthew’s father, Matt Centrowitz, 40 years ago.
Q: So, what exactly is Merber’s priority in a race like that mile?
Pre-race, his instructions were to go 3.50 pace. He takes it out right there, and no one goes with him. So he looks over his shoulder and then slows down in laps 2/3 until they regain contact. And then when he speeds up again in lap 4 … same story: no one goes with him. What’s a rabbit supposed to do with that kind of field?
I guess it looks like his #1 job is to pull whoever is running 2nd, and then his 2nd priority is to hit 3.50 pace through 1200. Or did he improvise? Genuinely curious here.
Note that I’m in no way criticizing the guy, because he sure seemed to have the legs to go ~2.53 through 1209.
A: Honestly, it is an extremely difficult position for a rabbit to be in, but I think I handled it as best as I possibly could. I spoke to Centrowitz earlier in the week and he told me to get out and run 56.0 but he’d rather me be faster than slower. So I went out with that intention, and assumed he’d be on me. For everyone else in the race, they make that same assumption. They’ve heard he requested 2:52 and so they expect him to take second duty and for it to be strung out and rolling. Centro was apparently feeling a bit sick and so when I realized he didn’t get out as hard as he planned and Garrett finds himself in the lead I have to slow down. But if I put the breaks on too hard that’ll be a disaster so I just immediately fall into 29.x and wait for them to attach. I tried on a couple occasions to press a bit, but a gap would open so I just kept that pace rolling until it was time to step off. I squeezed it down a bit the last 100 in hopes of winding them up (a move Willis preaches and taught me at Swarthmore). I felt great, and believe I did the right thing. The mistake a lot of people would probably make is to just run 2:52 like they were told, never look back and the field would jog a 3:00 and kick. After the race, the meet director and a lot of people whose opinion I really respect knew it was a tough situation to be put in, but that I did everything right and were happy with the job.
My plan to rabbit this race came a couple months ago as I was hurt in the beginning of the fall, but have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly my fitness has come along and was a bit disappointed I didn’t get in a fast race like at the other top US guys. But I wanted a low key indoor season without much excitement and that’s what I am getting. The perks of rabbiting is that afterwards everyone is really appreciative and it’s good karma. Obviously at this point, I am really good friends with the majority of the field despite being in constant competition with them. One day they’ll probably get me back, ideally by coming to the Long Island Mile.
Still had a full week of mileage and right after the race (about 7-8 minutes later) I did a quick workout of 2x1k (2:51-2:52) and then 400/300/200 (58-42-26) and got in a long cool down. Next weekend I am going to do a low key 3k in Staten Island and call it a season. Glad to have gone through the race-day routine today and walk away with confidence.
It’s January and I am in Tallahassee. It is 71 degrees out and the sun is starting to go down. Despite that, I think I might make myself another pot of coffee. After this morning’s 2-hour long run, we got brunch—which is where the majority of my money seems to go towards these days. When we got back to the house, I quickly hopped in the shower, and was excited for the eventual transfer to my bed for an afternoon snooze to take the edge off. But that’s when my phone starts buzzing. Results are coming in!
With the start of the indoor track season these past couple weeks, things have started to heat up real fast. It seems like you can’t use the Internet these days without it telling you just how fit some of the top runners across the country are. Now as a track and field fan, it’s fun to follow. Though meanwhile, I am trying to be excited about my own training! Granted, most of it has been long-slow paced intervals, but that’s what I had planned to do. But I will have to find a way to beat these guys!
As I sit back and watch other’s times drop behind the protection of my computer screen, that leaves me in a precarious situation. What do I do about this? But perhaps more importantly, how do I rationalize this to make me feel better about myself?
Now the easiest thing to say, which also happens to be the most aggressive [and meanest] thing is to wish that everyone else will burnout and that they’re peaking too early. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. That’s not to say it won’t happen to someone, especially with the excitement of an Olympic year, but I wouldn’t rely solely on this being the case for everyone. Athletes make breakthroughs, and NJ*NY isn’t the only team with a great coach who knows what they’re doing. There will be endless ups and downs between now and when it counts. But mentally prepping yourself in advance for those dramatic highs and lows will prepare you to better handle them when they do inevitably occur.
Maybe it’s a ‘problem’ in our sport, but the fact is that one day matters far more than any other. And whatever path is taken to ensure that you show up on that one day will be the right one. It’s just hard to know if you figured it all out until the race is finished.
We have 6-months until the Olympic Trials, and that’s a lot of time to go through the many phases of training. And that’s more or less the point I choose to focus on. Six months is a lot of time. I can’t control anyone else’s plan, but mine is on schedule. My high school coach used to always tell me to stop worrying about what other guys were running. If I would just keep my head down, and keep doing what I am supposed to do to get better, then the field will eventually narrow. And that’s still the plan—head down, get better.