About a month ago I ran the Berlin Marathon just for the simple joy of running it. I’ve never been one to artificially manufacture joy, and there simply was none going into the New York City Marathon shortly after losing our dog. Doing something we love can not only be a conduit for joy, though, but also a weapon against pain and stress. So maybe the title of this should actually be “Running For Joy.” If we only do what makes us happy when we’re happy, well… chicken or egg? (speaking of which, half of this post ended up being about NYC food rather than the race 🤷♂️)
Sure, I shifted my goals a bit after a couple of weeks of poor training, sleeping, and eating, but sometimes we learn more and get greater meaning and satisfaction from a good result in poor conditions than from a great result in good conditions. My original plan for the race was to go for sub 2:30, the threshold that I’ve long considered a lifetime goal. Going into the race I adjusted that plan to sub 2:40. Coming away with a 2:35 was not only immensely satisfying but told me that when the timing is better I can definitely get that sub 2:30.
Shortly after Kipchoge achieved his remarkable sub 2 run I shared a thought on Twitter that was not planned, fully formed, and I thought innocent enough (just the kind of things I thought Twitter should be good for).
It turns out that was a mistake, and most things said in only 280 characters can pretty much be taken whatever direction anyone wants.
So I decided to finish forming that thought. Even after getting things written out I considered whether it was worth it to poke the hornet’s nest again and share them. Ultimately I decided that if someone is going to get upset and respond with ad hominem to someone sharing a thought-out, well-intentioned opinion meant to promote discussion from both sides, then that’s the kind of person I shouldn’t worry about. Those people might have largely taken over politics, but let’s keep them out of running.
The Fast Running website contacted me and asked if I’d like to expand on my thoughts, so I wrote the piece below and shared it with them. If you’d like to fully dive into it head over to their site with the link below.
If you don’t care to read the whole article, here are the main points:
Kipchoge’s achievement should no doubt be immensely celebrated, as should anyone’s personal achievements
Competitive achievements must have standards, especially the kind that are meant to test the limits of human potential
As remarkable as the achievement was, it does not prove that sub 2 in a sanctioned race is possible any more than his WR at Berlin does
Unfortunately, this will steal some thunder from the first person to break 2 in a sanctioned race. That could possibly even be Kipchoge, but the chances of that just statistically went down as this is one less race we’ll get to see from him in his prime.
Of course there seems to be a lot more people who were inspired than people who took my line of reasoning, and in any case it’s his life and he should do what makes him happy and what he’s passionate about. I don’t have even remotely close to his level of capability, but I know there are people who wish I had magically learned how to swim and stuck with triathlon. No thanks I’ll be over there in the mountains. That’s my personal passion.
I wasn’t planning on writing a race report for the Berlin Marathon, and really, I’m still not going to. Ok sort of, but the main topic of this post is my experience of a weekend where I was running with no competitive goal, no time target, just running for the pure joy of running and experiencing a new place. It’s such a seemingly simple thing, but remarkably important and incredibly easy to lose sight of no matter what level of competition we’re at.
Ironman Arizona was a fitting end to my time in competitive triathlon. It was a caricature really, of all my races to that point: an absolute disaster of a swim, a solid bike that held things together, and a great run. I had no concrete goals before the race; just to enjoy the experience of racing as a professional and go out with a good effort. Given the course, I assumed I would come away with a PR (which I did! by 26 seconds). Otherwise, though, this was more of a celebration than a competition for me – the cap to a long year and both my professional debut and finale.
Thank you to everyone who helped me pursue and achieve what I did in triathlon, whether tangibly or in spirit. It was a fun challenge and journey, but definitely not one without its difficulties. I’m looking forward to the next chapter, the next book really. But first, here’s the last chapter of this one (with maybe an epilogue to come).
My results have steadily improved since my Boston Qualifier at the 2014 Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, honestly far beyond what I originally thought I would be able to do. In 2016 I became 1 of 16 people to ever make it to the 5th loop at the Barkley Marathons, set a Guinness World Record for fastest marathon dressed as a videogame character, and finished 2nd overall at Ironman Maryland. This year I’ll be returning to Barkley and in triathlon I’ll be making a trip to Kona to race in the Ironman World Championship as part of Team Every Man Jack.
John Kelly figures he has the record. The 31-year-old native of Rockville Md. crossed the finish line of the 120th Boston Marathon on Monday with a time of two hours, 57 minutes, which by his estimation is some 12 minutes faster than Neil Light managed in last year’s Virgin Money London Marathon.