Just two guys helping each other get through a run.
November 8, 2013 12:33 PM   Subscribe

At mile 10, local elite runner Mike Cassidy considered dropping out of the New York City Marathon; bolstered by the thought of his friends and family waiting for him at mile 16, he soldiered on, and just before mile 23, he caught up to Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi. posted by roomthreeseventeen (37 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Man, it's sure hard to read the last few paragraphs with my eyes all wet.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:50 PM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seriously! This is good stuff. Thanks for posting.
posted by something something at 12:57 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Each fall, my city holds a local marathon, and it's fairly common for a handful of the Olympic quality runners to attend, since it's a certified event, and the last 1.5 is mostly downhill (easier run to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I'm told).

Also attending these marathons are busloads of older people from China. I don't know why, but I'm sure another Mefi'er can explain. Last year, there was and older lady, presumably from China, who was really struggling with the last few miles. Observing her physique and lack of form, it was pretty obvious she had not run such distances frequently, if at all. She was wearing some sort of plastic visor, which seemed out of place, and we could tell that whatever group she was running with had ditched her some time ago. Right around the 20 mile mark, she tripped and fell. Hard. From the side of the road ran out a very tall black man with the tin foil stuff wrapped around him, meaning that he had already finished the race. He made sure she got to her feet, and he tried to keep her going and kept saying "We doing this..." over and over again. I saw this, and I was going to yell words of encouragment in Mandarin, as it was likely she didn't speak English, but I've never been confident in my Chinese, so I just crossed my fingers and assumed she would distinguish it as words of motivation and support.

Once everyone figured out that he was one of the Kenyan superstars, they started cheering her on, and some started running with her; both runners who had finished and some bystanders jogging along the sidewalks/berms. She froze up at about 23, leaned on the Kenyan gentleman (sorry, I forgot his name... started with an N, I think), and had to receive oxygen. It was really something to see, as the marathoner and everyone watching was absolutely heartbroken that this woman wasn't going to finish. It's kind of weird how people can kind of internalize that sort of struggle, even though practically no one knew who she was, and probably very few had run more than a single mile in their life.

Not sure how this is relevant. The story in the link made me remember this. Good on him, I guess. Glad it turned out well.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 12:57 PM on November 8, 2013 [24 favorites]


We will finish this race holding hands.

NO, THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE YOU ARE ALREADY HOLDING MY HEART is the dumb thing I almost certainly would have blurted out in response to that.
posted by middleclasstool at 1:22 PM on November 8, 2013 [21 favorites]


I am so totally not a runner but I absolutely loved that story.
posted by headnsouth at 1:27 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


man, as my physique and lungs prove, I hate running, but the throat, she still catches with this story.
posted by drewbage1847 at 1:27 PM on November 8, 2013


They also broke the wind.

*snerk*
posted by nerdler at 2:20 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is an inspiring story. *lump in throat*
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:49 PM on November 8, 2013


I kept expecting Meb to do something like the Italian bicyclist in Breaking Away that stuck a rod in the fanboy's spokes.
posted by machaus at 2:54 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Its funny this mythical fascination with... Running. Sure it takes tons of training, stamina and self-sacrifice, but in the end you're still just running. I don't get it. Good for him though.
posted by ReeMonster at 3:35 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


...and had to receive oxygen.

Jesus, it's a good thing she didn't freaking die! Would that guy have been somewhat responsible? Bet he would've felt guilty.
posted by ReeMonster at 3:46 PM on November 8, 2013


I ran Sunday. It was rough. I had trained much more rigorously than in the past to try to break 4:00:00, which is well below my disastrous 2010 attempt in 4:20:40. I was so nervous about the time, about the distance, about my goal pace for each mile that was charted on a spreadsheet on my wrist, that for the first 8 miles my stomach was all in knots. Running with a GPS watch, I had to make my watch-pace at least 5 seconds faster than my goal-time-per-mile in order to make up for the inaccuracy of the course towards over-distance. Every mile, I thought, You got to be kidding me. I barely did 8:55 last mile, and now in Mile 10, I have to pull a 8:45? For a casual runner like me, there are no slow miles on the run to break 4:00:00. Those first 8 miles felt like I was using just a little more energy than I would have liked to make up that 5-10 seconds, and I knew from experience that comes to bit your ass on Fifth Ave.

So, Mile 10 slipped a bit. Mile 11, I was barely holding on. By Mile 13, the 30 seconds I had "in the bank" going over the Verazanno, were gone. But technically I was still on pace, and I had anticipated a fade in my splits for the second half. But then came the 59th Street bridge. Planning to do the bridge in 9:25, for the entire ascent I stared at my watch in disbelief as it tried to decide exactly how slow I was going. My watch was ridiculing me: "Is it 10:45, or 11:23? Hahaha, Fatso, it doesn't matter! You're nowhere near 9:25!"

I'll make it up on the downhill of the bridge, I thought. But there just wasn't enough downhill to make up that much time, and downhills can be as dangerous stamina-wise as uphills. Going up First Ave, with the legendary crowd roaring, I was a minute down, and I looked at my next mile to get back on schedule: 8:55. Fuck.

But I tried. I tried to go 8:55. It wouldn't work. OK, let's try 9:00. 9:10? What? 9:20? You can't be serious. I'm faster than 9:20! Two more miles elapsed, both planned to be under 9:00, but my watch stubbornly displayed 9:20 or worse. I was done. With 8 miles to go, it would only get tougher as the energy in my legs was sure to deplete. God, those last three miles were going to be 10:30 or something. Who even knows? How the hell am I going to finish, and what was I thinking I'd break 4 hours? Maybe I'll PR, but 4 hours, that's gone now. I'm out of juice. Dammit.

I had no back up plan. No secondary conservative time I'd try. It was 3:59:59 or bust. Man, I was depressed. And Mile 18 is a weird place to get depressed, because you got 8 freaking miles to go. That's like 75 more minutes of self-pitying. Especially when I was planning on my sheer happiness to fuel those last few.

So I gave up, but kept on running. Mile 19 clicked, and I looked at my watch. Huh. I actually hit that split. For the first time since Mile 10, I did a mile as planned. I wondered if I could do it again? Mile 20 came and went, and once again I was on the nuts. Well this was interesting. Suddenly I was back at 3:59:59 pace, but now on schedule to go 4:02:00 with the lost 3 minutes from those middle miles. Mile 21 was as expected, but... Shit, I'm going to finish in 4:02:00 or something worse like 4:00:50. I could think of nothing worse.

So I took stock of the final 5 miles. I can run 5 miles. I do it all the time. I was feeling stronger, recovered from Queens, and so I ignored the fact that I had 21 already behind me. The race was on.

I made up 10 seconds. That was good, but not enough. Mile 23 would have to been even faster. Even up the hill, somehow I managed it. Mile 24, faster yet as I entered the park and kicked my heels, passing multitudes who were suddenly hitting their limit. I was cutting this way too close, but I couldn't believe what my legs were doing. They came alive.

By Mile 25, I realized I had finally got within my goal pace and sweet victory was in hand. I was going to do it. Somehow I had done it. It was in hand.

So I sped up. FASTER! I thought. ON DONNER ON BLIZTEN! GO GO GO! Mile 26 was one of my fastest all day, and the last 0.2 was a glorious triumph. I had made it in 3:58:13 and felt like a champion. And not because I met my goal, but because I had swung through a range of emotions, from confidence to anxiety, to apprehension, to doubt, to pity, to frustration, and finally into surprise, determination and conviction. It sounds so fucking cliche. I want to say that I didn't give up, but I kind of did. I was resigned in Miles 16-18 and lost for motivation. Yet my legs recovered while my pity was sinking in and they thought, Hey, let's make a day of this.
posted by yeti at 3:53 PM on November 8, 2013 [93 favorites]


Sure it takes tons of training, stamina and self-sacrifice, but in the end you're still just running.

I think you've answered your own question there, but (from the perspective of a cyclist, which is somewhat similar) you get a lot out of what you put into the activity.

You get both physical and mental/emotional health, a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of mastery over your body that most people never experience (again, not limited to runners), adventures on the road, a built-in community if you're into that sort of thing, and competition if you're into *that* sort of thing. And you look and feel better in clothes. Or out of them.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:58 PM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


yeti, I had an awful day on Sunday. I knew I was sick at mile 2, and then GOT sick a mile 19. I finished, but 40 minutes after where I expected to be, and I got to spend an extra 40 minutes in the medical tent. I will be back next year to avenge this course.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:00 PM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I kept expecting Meb to do something like the Italian bicyclist in Breaking Away that stuck a rod in the fanboy's spokes.


Way to reopen the wound. Oh papa!
posted by villanelles at dawn at 4:34 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


did they winned?
posted by Ad hominem at 4:38 PM on November 8, 2013


Meb is an awesome person and very well loved in the pro running community.

He's been in the game for a unusually long time, and it's nice to have someone like him out there representing the old guard and all of distance running's best characteristics.
posted by stagewhisper at 4:41 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Running marathons is basically something no one can argue is not worth doing. So many benefits.
(I gotta start running marathons)
posted by markss at 5:25 PM on November 8, 2013


I'm a runner. I was a runner, maybe.

I’m not naive enough to believe running is a primarily a charitable endeavor. I run mostly for me. It’s not good or bad—it’s just how it is.

Cassidy's point, that running is mostly for you, was in the end what bothered me. When you run, you're by yourself, you train to better yourself - and you're away from the ones you love and love you. You can't run with friends, really, if you're serious, and not a semi-pro.

And you have to put in hours upon hours each week.

Sometimes, I thought that I was bettering myself, and that by taking this time for me I could be better to others. But that's simply not true. After an 18 mile run on a sunday, you're there for no-one. You just want to sleep.

Cassidy's later point about running, given his abilities, makes sense to me, as he can reach out to others in this way. If you're even a very good runner, you just don't. You're not reaching out to anyone with a 3:15 marathon.

I still run, I love it. I might run another marathon. But I sure as hell am not going to take it seriously.
posted by Riton at 5:26 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


This was great. Thanks.
posted by chinston at 5:32 PM on November 8, 2013


Something about this article annoyed me.

there was no hierarchy, no pretension, no pecking order. Just two guys helping each other get through a run.

We alternated the lead several times..


Not really. Let's be more clear than this obfuscated article:

Official Results:

1 Geoffrey Mutai 02:08:24
2 Tsegaye Kebede 02:09:16
3 Lusapho April 02:09:45
.
.
.
22 Michael Cassidy 02:23:46
23 Meb Keflezighi 02:23:47
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:08 PM on November 8, 2013


Not really. Let's be more clear than this obfuscated article:

He meant the lead between the two of them.The article makes it very clear that Meb had been dropped by the lead pack of runners, and they were several minutes behind.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:25 PM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Right. That was not an obfuscation.
posted by chinston at 6:30 PM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cyborgé
posted by Ad hominem at 6:35 PM on November 8, 2013


Sorry, wrong thread.

finding out they came in 22 and 23 somehow made it more poignant for me. About the momentary camaraderie, not victory. Very cool post.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:39 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The article kind of surged ahead on its own momentum, on to victory. It just wasn't the victory.

finding out they came in 22 and 23 somehow made it more poignant for me.

That's what I thought, and why I had to find out. But then I noticed Cassidy was officially recorded one second faster than Keflezighi, and I was very disappointed.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:55 PM on November 8, 2013


>My watch was ridiculing me: "Is it 10:45, or 11:23? Hahaha, Fatso, it doesn't matter! You're nowhere near 9:25!"

You ran for four fucking hours in a row and your internal monologue is calling you a fatso? Goddamn, goddamnit all to hell.
posted by pmv at 11:06 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


You ran for four fucking hours in a row and your internal monologue is calling you a fatso? Goddamn, goddamnit all to hell.

Not even that! As Mr Lazy was very clear, he could only even be bothered to run for 3:58:13.
posted by jaduncan at 2:00 AM on November 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


Running marathons is basically something no one can argue is not worth doing.

Hell, you're wrecking your body and mind, for an activity that doesn't do anything worthwhile for anybody but yourself, taking away hours and days from your family in preparation for something you'll only ever be mediocre at unless you're a Kenyan or Ethiopian, all for some dodgy "runners high"; you might as well be a druggie and shoot up in comfort.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:46 AM on November 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's what I thought, and why I had to find out. But then I noticed Cassidy was officially recorded one second faster than Keflezighi, and I was very disappointed.

Geezus Keerist.

Let me explain something about Official Race Results (which are determined by "gun time" versus "chip time", where the latter is a more precise clocking of where your chip, which is tied into your shoe laces, crosses the mat). Because races are races against other runners, and not time trials, the Official Time is determined by when the gun goes off at the start of the race until when a runner crosses the line. This time is hand clocked by officials at the race finish line who have actual clickers that they punch every time a runner crosses the line. Someone's torso is *always* slightly ahead of the next runner's. Consider the slight instant between one click and the next. Now consider the clock is likely to have changed from something like 2:23:46:59 to 2:23:47:00. This isn't some grand conspiracy. Check the finish line photos. In fact, I'm willing to wager that Meb's chip time is slightly faster than Cassidy's given Meb started on the front row and Cassidy was likely a row or two behind, not being on the "A" team.

As an example, the last marathon I raced was at Boston, which of course runs a very tight ship. I started the race in about the 6th row behind the elite first row, and my Official Time was 2:41:42. This was used to determine placing in relationship to other runners in the results. My chip time (and the time that was listed w/ USATF and on Track and Field lists, etc.) was 2:41:38. (I had to look this up just now, because if anyone asks for my PR I give them the official time, because that's what the clock read when I crossed the line. It's 50/50 on which times are listed, which surprised me because I thought Official Time was the one that goes in the records, but generally it's chip time instead).
posted by stagewhisper at 10:34 AM on November 9, 2013


Yeah, a nice piece about this guy's personal peak experience, but all the aggrandizement of the Importance of Running and how it Helps Bring People Together was way too much for me. Are all serious distance runners this religious about their sport? At several points in the back half of the essay, the author just sounds like an evangelist.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:37 AM on November 9, 2013


Personally I was a little miffed at the comment about "only" running a sub-6 min pace 2/3rds of the way through the race. Seriously dude, people like me would kill for that kind of speed. Stop bitching about how slow you feel. I know what he was going for but this is like talking to a dude with a Camry about how your Ferrari is having a minor front end wobble every time you get it above 125 mph.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:42 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had to look this up just now, because if anyone asks for my PR I give them the official time, because that's what the clock read when I crossed the line. It's 50/50 on which times are listed, which surprised me because I thought Official Time was the one that goes in the records, but generally it's chip time instead).

Chip time is much more reliable once you get to the slower competitors. In a big event it can be 5 mins before they even cross the start line.
posted by jaduncan at 12:44 PM on November 9, 2013


Are all serious distance runners this religious about their sport?

I am not a serious distance runner, if by that you mean fast, and yeah, I am that religious about running. I think most of us who lived through Sandy here, who went through Boston even if we weren't there, and then ran NYC last weekend feel very similarly to Cassidy about last weekend's race.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:52 PM on November 9, 2013


...but because I had swung through a range of emotions, from confidence to anxiety, to apprehension, to doubt, to pity, to frustration, and finally into surprise, determination and conviction.

The oddest emotion I had was about mile 19, when I looked around at my fellow runners and started thinking, "This is stupid. We're all stupid doing this. Why are we doing this? It's stupid." I couldn't shake that until I hit a steep hill at the beginning of mile 20, when all my will had to go into just getting up that hill.

I, too, wanted to break 4:00:00. I had a slight pull at mile 23, and was sort of walking/running at mile 25.5 when I heard someone say that if we hurried we could break 4. All of a sudden, the pull didn't matter anymore. Pain didn't matter. All that mattered was breaking 4. I started running, and at about mile 26, my brother-in-law appeared on the sidewalk, running and shouting at me to keep going. I just tried to keep up with him and crossed the finish line in 3:56:49. My first thought upon crossing the finish line was, "I'll never have to do that again."
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:08 PM on November 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Are all serious distance runners this religious about their sport?

Runners are a community, and they gather around running. It does forge bonds unique to that community. Religions are just another form of community, so, yes, they do tend to be "religious" about running.
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:41 AM on November 11, 2013


LooseFilter: "Are all serious distance runners this religious about their sport?"

Yeah, a lot are. On my online dating profile, under the "6 things I could never do without", I wrote a paragraph about running. Contrast that to a few years ago when I wrote this question about hating running. It gets to you, mostly due to the social interactions and supportive community. You run a couple of 20 mile (4-5 hour) training runs with someone, then run a race together with the roller coaster of emotions that inevitably happen during a marathon, and you can really bond with people and have some enlightening experiences.
posted by I am the Walrus at 7:11 AM on November 11, 2013


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