What I learned at the USATF Outdoor Championships

Shalane Flanigan and Molly Huddle battling it out in the Women's 10,000m

Shalane Flanigan and Molly Huddle battling it out in the Women’s 10,000m

A few weeks ago I went to several events at the USATF Outdoor Championships. They were pretty close to home and I loved being able to see so many of the world’s top athletes competing for spots on the US team for the World Championships. Here’s a quick take on what I learned that can be applied to the everyday runner:

  1. Running makes you stronger in ways you don’t realize. Gabe Grunewald finished dead last in her qualifying heat in the women’s 1500. She also got a standing ovation. You may not know it if you’re not a hard core track and field fan, but she is a three time cancer survivor and was in the midst of chemotherapy during the championships. At the end of the race Gabe and her fellow competitors huddled tougher near the finish line in a show of support. As runners we often do hard things. We pay for the privilege to run 26.2 miles with a bunch of other people. We run comfortable hard to finish strong in a 10k. Gabe is battling cancer. Again. Running makes you a stronger human being and not merely a stronger runner.
  2. You have to run the race to find out how fast you are. It seems that just about every time Molly Huddle toed the line at an event over the past year she was claiming a US title or coming away with a victory. And not just a skin of your teeth kind of victory. Usually she was beating people going away. She did that on the track for the women’s 10,000 at the US Championships. The next day for the 5,000 things were different. Huddle broke away with a lap to go and two ladies went with her. Shelby Houlihan and Shannon Rowbury eventually caught and passed Huddle in an amazing finish. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the double. Maybe Houlihan and Rowbury just had better days. In running nothing is guaranteed. I love to play with race calculators to predict race times. What I (and all of us) need to remember is that they are only predictions not historical facts. You have to actually run the race to find out how fast you are. Most of us will never be racing Molly Huddle. Our biggest competitors are always ourselves. No matter what you don’t know how fast you can go until you run the race.
  3. Racing can be incredibly fun. Paul Chelimo is on we of my favorite follows on Twitter. He says some of the funniest stuf related to his training and racing. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and performs and a very high level. Friday night of the US Championships he took off from the gun at the start of the Men’s 5,000 meters. He had a solid 20 meter lead by the end of the first lap. I thought that he would eventually come back to the field. He didn’t. Chelimo started with a 61 for his first lap, kept pushing it with 63s and 64s and closed in 59 seconds to set a meet record, finishing in 13:08. If he hadn’t been hamming it up with the crowd for the last 50 meters he would have been even faster. Chelimo was definitely hurting the last 800 meters but still having a great time putting together an impressive wire to wire win.  Remember that the next time you toe the line to race. Racing is hard and it can also be a hell of a lotta fun if you want it to be.

Enjoy the Run.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: