Monday, November 14, 2011

Running with an Olympian

I’ve always believed in recording my brushes with fame. Yesterday at the Camp Croft Half-Marathon, I was thrilled to get to run with Olympic athlete Joan Nesbit Mabe, who ran the 10,000 meters for the US team in 1996. 
I knew that Joan, who coaches a team of women called See Jane Run, had signed up and was bringing several of her mentees with her. We lined up to start the race on a cold morning, and after the gun sounded, I found myself beside a small and obviously fit woman.
“Are you Joan Mabe?” I asked.
“I am,” she beamed. 

Joan Nesbit Mabe accepting her age group award.

I knew then I would run as far as I could with her. “I’m thrilled to meet you,” I said. “Thanks for coming down to run with us.” 
We rolled along at a comfortable pace, even though I knew it was faster than I wanted to go. We chatted all the way up a slight rise to the start of the trail, and then rolled down the steeper hill that ends at the first mile mark. We talked about running, our children, our respective ages (she’s turning 50 in January, and to celebrate she plans to set the American record for her age in the mile). 
I told her about the course, that the toughest part is the beginning, that I thought there would be some mud. We hit the first mile in about 6:05, way faster than I figured I’d run, I told her. But we had a good groove going, my friend Mackay running with us in a pretty big group of eight or so. We all stayed together until about 4 miles, when Joan dropped us and I dialed back my pace, and Mackay stayed with me. 
Mackay and I continued along, Mackay talking fairly incessantly as he is wont to do. He had been part of the Smoky Mountain Relay team, but the birth of his third child and a slew of other obligations resulted in our not running much together since. We had a terrific chat as we climbed to the Radio Tower, and dropped from there down to the lakes that define the mid-point of the race. 

Mackay and I talked and smiled the whole time.

We continued along that way until about mile 10 when I let Mackay go. I knew I had run my race in reverse, the first part hard in my glee of running with Joan Mabe. I found myself alone for the last few miles. I was surprised when I rolled up behind Joan.
“What’s up?” I asked as she stepped off the trail to let me pass. 
“I fell a couple of times, and I don’t want to get hurt,” she said. “You go on,” she told me, “you have a good time going.” 
I’m going to beat Joan Mabe, I thought. I ran on, climbing the hills slowly, running as hard  as I could. I caught one other runner in the last half-mile, and climbed the hill to the finish in 1:53:00, good for 22nd place out of 109 finishers. As usual, I thought, top 20%.  Joan finished about 5 minutes later. 
In those last few miles, I remembered the song I had put in my head to start, “I Want to Be Seduced,” by Leon Redbone. I ran through the song a few times to make sure I had the lyrics down, and laughed that as I slowed, so did the pace of the song.
That’s what I’ll say to introduce the song when Snidely plays at the awards ceremony, I thought. Then I realized that since I had run most of the first part of the race with Joan, I would also assure everyone that the song was not dedicated to her. That whole ramble just added to the fun of my day.
I had no pain at all, and ran comfortably. Big ups as always to the race director, all the great volunteers, and those who came out just to spectate.

With the warm-up, I hit 35 miles in four days for the week. I realized too that I wouldn’t run on Sunday as I’d thought, but that I’d had an excellent week, the first full week since mid-October, the second since early September.  

1 comment:

  1. Nice to see that there was no pain even with moving as fast as you were. Untill next time....