A Tale of Two Finishers

The ING NYC marathon concluded today. Not only did it mark end of the inaugural year of the World Marathon Majors, but also two very special men made it to the finish line. These two men were not winners, or even close to that, but could do a lot more for the marathon than anybody else who ran today. Interestingly, they finished pretty close to each other.

The first was a seven-time winner of one of most gruelling races on the planet - Mr. Lance Armstrong. About 30-40% of all marathoners are first-timers and there was no doubt that out of them all Lance was the world's fittest first-timer. Lance has a lactate threshold (indicator of endurance) of 85 which is identical to that of the world-record holder Paul Tergat and for the past few months, a lot of people placed bets on how fast Lance Armstrong would eventually run. Even with that legendary competitive spirit, not to mention the 8% body fat, Lance was not going to catch up with the gazelle-like, effortless running of the elite Kenyans and estimates ranged from 2:45 to 3:10. Lance wanted to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his cancer diagnosis and also wanted to use the occasion to raise money for his foundation.
As he found out,
"For the level of condition that I have now, that was without a doubt the hardest physical thing I have ever done,... I think I bit off more than I could chew, I thought the marathon would be easier."
- Lance Armstrong (856th, 2:59:36)

A few days after I finished, I myself wondered if I could have done better than my four hours and a few seconds. I felt that I had slowed down in the last three miles. It is comforting to know that even the great Lance had to virtually walk the last couple of steps and had issues completing the last 3 miles. While he did make it just under the three-hour mark, I found that he echoed my own sentiments just after the race,
"Before the race that was my goal, I wanted to break 3 hours. But if you told me with 3 miles to go, `You're going to do 3:05,' I wouldn't have cared," he said. "Honestly, at the end I was so tired, I couldn't care. Now I'm glad I did."
Regardless of the shape you are in or what time you finish in, the first time is going to be hard, but you will always be glad you did it. Lance announced that he will not run a marathon again, but did mention that he has reserved the right to change his mind. We'll see.
See Sports Illustrated story.

While Lance will hog the publicity, a most remarkable feat was accomplished by Dean Karnazes. The NYC Marathon which he finished in 3:00:30 was the last of Dean Karnazes's Endurance 50 marathons. An attempt that cannot but be sheer insanity, Dean ran 50 marathons in 50 states on 50 consecutive days. Conventionally, it takes about 2 weeks to recover from a marathon. Dean had less than 24 hours to recover from each marathon and not to mention all that traveling across the country. Dean has redefined the limits of human endurance and achievement. What length we can go to do something that has never been done before. The more insane the idea, the more appealing it looks. And what did he have to say at the end of it all? He wrote on his blog
In fact, I’m having such a great time, why stop? Tomorrow, I think I’ll go for a run. A long one. Maybe I’ll keep going the next day, too….

So, where are your running shoes?

1 comment:

Ashutosh said...

Karnazes is Forrest Gump!
That's really insane though, and I am so glad we are not reading his obituary.
Lance's efforts surely further reinforce how tough it must have been for you.