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A Runner’s Parable

March 15, 2011

The Fox and the Crow: one of many moral-telling tales

For me, Saturday’s long run felt like a living parable. No, I wasn’t a tortoise, a crow, or a prodigal offspring. My tale felt like one about a mentor who inspires a fledgling, who then surpasses the guide without even realizing her own capabilities. (There’s a Grasshopper in there somewhere…) In my version of the story, I’m the mentor who almost got dusted, yet I hung on to a shred of wisdom I should have imparted.

Backstory: Molly and I have carpooled to elementary school for 3+ years, grabbing five minutes of chitchat here and there as the minivan motor idled. Then I joined her book group, and we occasionally ran into each other at the gym. In the early stages of our friendship, when I’d rattle on about running, sarcastic Molly (don’t get me wrong, Mol: I love you—and your sharp wit!) would look at me like I was demented. But I must have shown her the light: She decided to hop on my crazy-train and start running. (She’s the one we mention in Run Like a Mother who wore her half-marathon finisher’s medal to Easter brunch.) Last summer, Molly got sidelined by a knee injury while training for what would have been her debut marathon. Her knee is pretty much okay-dokey now, so she signed up for the half-marathon in Portland’s Race for the Roses. I had registered, too, but I wasn’t motivated to train…until I offered to pull Molly to a sub-2:00 half-marathon finish. (Maybe I’m a donkey or ox in this parable?!) Molly had come close to two hours in her pre-Easter race—we only need to shave about five minutes off her time. Who cares we’ve never actually run together. (Oh, yeah, that little detail of our history…)

The course has a fairly steady climb, so I suggested we tackle one of Portland’s most popular long hills together—Terwilliger Blvd. Roughly 300 feet of climbing over nearly 2.5 miles. Molly was nervous about being too slow and holding me back. I brought my iPod in case she insisted I go ahead without her. This is where our weekend story starts: From the get-go, Molly set the pace—and I had to hustle to keep up. Our route started out with the slight incline of a bridge, and immediately I was huffing-and-puffing. I had to spur my legs to move faster than I’d planned. I was thankful for every stoplight, forcing us to wait for the Walk signal. All the while, upbeat Molly peppered me with questions—about running and my 2011 race calendar. Speaking in clusters rather than sentences, I felt a bit foolish talking about tackling 13.1 or 26.2 miles.

We were halfway up Terwilliger, when my hill-training started to pay off, before I felt our paces were evenly matched. But at the top, I was the one urging us to stop at the water fountain, not the unsinkable Molly. Throughout the 10.5 miles, I opened my mouth countless times to suggest we dial back the pace, but my over-inflated sports ego forced my trap shut. Just a week before, when I had run with my longtime running buddy, Ellison, I had spoken up about slowing down. Ellison eagerly agreed, saying she also felt we were going too fast. During that run, when we eased up, my mind shifted from thoughts of, “Stop!! Just stop!!” to, “Oh, yeah, let’s do this all day!” On Saturday, when I didn’t pipe up about slowing down, I never reached that happy place.

And both Molly and I paid for our enthusiasm (Molly) and pride (guilty as charged). Both of us crashed for the rest of the evening (we had run in the late afternoon)—Molly even fell asleep reading Runner’s World. I think the moral of this tale is obvious: Don’t let a fox’s flattering words make you drop the slice of cheese from your beak. Oh, wait, wrong tale: Sure and steady is the right pace for a long run.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2011 6:34 am

    As always, a great post! Where do you both find the time to have so many new and interesting posts all the time! I’m so glad I found RLAM. It really keeps me going! I get really nervous when I re-think my end of the year goal to run my first marathon but I just keep telling myself, slow and steady. The miles will just happen – no need to stress the strides you haven’t even taken yet!

  2. bowenshea permalink*
    March 15, 2011 6:48 am

    Thanks, that’s very sweet of you to say. We’re glad you found us! Definitely don’t fret about future runs. No one is saying you have to run 26.2 miles *tomorrow*–the beauty of marathon training is how gradual it is.

  3. March 15, 2011 7:03 am

    That’s one of my biggest fears of running with ‘new’ runners. A bunch of my friends want to run together in the summer, they are looking to me as the ‘leader’, but deep down…I have no idea what I’m doing either. Check my ego at the door.

  4. March 15, 2011 8:17 am

    Great post! Went through a similar situation myself just last night with my hubby. Both of us took off way to fast but neither mentioned anything about scaling back a bit. We paid for it later.

  5. March 15, 2011 8:31 am

    I’m certain I’ve seen this same story in a golden rule book somewhere. 😉

  6. March 15, 2011 9:12 am

    love this story. One of the friends in our little running bunch is pretty speedy and I’m too proud (stubborn) to slow down so I book it to keep up with her. Often I’m thankful for every stoplight we hit and have been known to drop an f-bomb when they don’t change in my favor. But gradually I feel like I’m getting faster because of her. Right now our long runs are in the 9 – 10 mile range but it’ll be interesting to see how things will go when we start training for our full. I wonder if my ego/desire to not be left behind will push me to go faster than I think I’m comfortable going?

    Hey, and nice new banner on top–will that be on a shirt anytime soon? 🙂

  7. March 15, 2011 10:21 am

    I went on a run once like this. I had made a new friend and we decided to do six miles together. At the end of the run I looked at her and said holy crap you kicked my butt today and she looked at me and said NO you kicked my butt it was all I could do to keep up with you. Maybe we should have talked about our pace on the run and we each could have slowed down.

  8. Lisa permalink
    March 15, 2011 10:36 am

    Perfect. A friend of a friend I met a few months ago just ‘decided to start running.’
    Easy 5k: 24 minutes, 13 miles practice run for a half: 1:57.

    She keeps asking me to join her group, ha, I keep telling her she will kill me!

  9. March 15, 2011 1:55 pm

    Love the parable. Love the story…

    Running with sweet Ashley on Saturday left her having to trot to slow down and me running at a much faster long run pace than was comfortable… Yet, it was great and Julie’s convinced that’s what made her faster. So, maybe I’ll get faster? 🙂

  10. March 15, 2011 2:15 pm

    I’m running Race for the Roses this year with two of my friends. I am SO excited to finally do a race after training all winter, and for the weekend in Portland. One of my running buddies always thinks of herself as the one who lags behind, except for now that she is in good shape we realized her long legs were going to be taking her way ahead of us. So jealous of her stride, but glad she feels confident now!

  11. Momma please run home! permalink
    March 15, 2011 2:27 pm

    I can totally relate. I was running with a few of my gal pals last weekend, a mere 5 mile jaunt. It was my first run outside in awhile and I was nursing a sore achilles. One of my pals ran a little faster at the end and I had to ask to dial it back a bit or I was going to vomit. Pride be damned, I did not relish wearing my breakfast at the end of this “fun run”. I made a comment that I wished I could run faster and perhaps if I dropped a few pounds, my times might improve. To which said gal pal responded, ‘I don’t think that would help at all’. Hurtful! Possibly true, but why burst my bubble! What happened to the love and support? Anyway, I realized that I am my biggest competition and if I improve as an individual that is all that matters. I will continue to spread the love of running!

    • March 15, 2011 2:52 pm

      I read recently that for every pound you lose, your pace can improve 2-3 seconds per mile! That’s huge! I’ve got 12 pounds to lose which is very motivating. Then I’ll be able to keep up with the “speedies” in my little running group.

    • Heather permalink
      March 15, 2011 6:10 pm

      Maybe she was just saying you didn’t need to lose weight. 🙂 She meant it as a compliment.

  12. March 15, 2011 3:14 pm

    Oh word, this was me on Saturday, hanging on my a thread to stay with my running partner until I told her to go, go, go. Wore new running shoes, feet were killing me and threw in the towel at mile 8 to walk, ok, stumble back for…2 miles. Ugh. I had to do a 2.5 miles yesterday to redeem myself – that I could indeed still run – – it’s never a dull moment!

  13. Helly permalink
    March 15, 2011 4:05 pm

    I introduced a friend to the joys of running and she now regularly whoops my butt on runs. But what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, I mean faster.

  14. Angie permalink
    March 15, 2011 6:25 pm

    Love it!! This totally just happened to me! A little over a week ago I did a long run with my little sis-in-law who is training for her first half. She has NEVER run before. This training plan we’re following has felt a little too easy for me so I’ve been upping the miles from the schedule we’re all following (5 of us on my hubby’s side are running this half). So when she asked me to run 8 with her I said sure. I’d already done 8 a couple weeks before but 8 IS what the schedule said. We start out and immediately her pace is faster than mine. This is a first. Every other time I’ve run with her she’s been a lot slower. I learned my lesson with the training from my first half, though. I go my pace regardless because I’d rather run the whole way than start fast and die. I kept close enough to see her ahead of me and tried really hard not to think about her totally smoking me in April. But then towards the end she started to slow. While I still had plenty left. When we finished I could tell she was struggling. I was breathing easy. So we’ll see what happens in April. I just have to remember to run for me. 🙂

  15. Iliana permalink
    March 15, 2011 9:24 pm

    As usual, LOVED YOUR POST! SBS…I wish you were my running mentor 🙂

  16. jennifer permalink
    March 16, 2011 7:12 am

    I love this post! Thank you for sharing this 🙂

    Wow! Molly I am so proud of YOU:)
    I only wish I could have been there to see you cross the finish line!
    xoxo

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