Monday, April 13, 2015

Cherry Blossom 10 miler 2015

One of the great joys of running (even as an amateur) is the opportunity to rub shoulders with elite athletes, often. Here's a longish version of my latest such experience, reinforcing that joy.

I had signed up to run in the Cherry Blossom 10 miler aka the CUCB in Washington DC, simply because I had read that it was a popular tune up race to the Boston Marathon and has a great history as a running event.

My friend P and I, reached DC after a rather painful bus ride, thanks to numerous jams on the highway from the New York Area to DC and went straight to the expo. We knew Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson (both Boston Marathon legends) were among other elite athletes making appearances at the expo. While Bill had left by the time we got there, Joan had just about begun her autograph signing session. We excitedly rushed to meet her after hearing one of the announcers tell us that her booth wasn't particularly crowded at that time.

It just so happened that I had finished reading Amby Burfoot's The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life, on the bus and Amby pays tribute to Joan as one of the athletes that have inspired him. We mentioned that to Joan and asked her to sign our bibs and I got her to sign the page that features her in the book as well. She asked us what time we were planning to run the next day. So we told her. I then asked her what she was planning. She then asked us whether we were from around there. While P said he's from New York, I said I was from India and that I was there as part of my journey to Boston.

She replied that she was running Boston too and she said we will see each other. She then told us that she was planning to take it easy the next day since she didn't want to leave all of herself out on the road. She asked where in India I was from. When I said Bangalore, she also mentioned that her mum served in the Red Cross in the war in Bangalore.

She then happily signed our bibs and my book.

There were several lessons from that encounter but none greater than the humility and simplicity that Joan just radiates. It wasn't a surprise that I ran my best ever time for ~10 miles* the next morn, having been pumped up from the encounter with Joan. To add to my joy, I discovered I was behind Joan by just 11 seconds :)

* The race course was truncated by 0.5 miles due to unrelated accident on the route about an hour before the race started. 

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