Chairmen of the boards

I’m still on a high from Friday night.

Here is it Sunday and I’m still full of adrenalin.

When I stepped onto my front steps this morning, in shorts ready for a breezy, spring-like jog, I thought to myself, “well, I don’t need to be out for two hours;” yet upon return to those same front steps, my watch read 2:03.

Yep, 11 years after taking it up, running still gives me a kick. And all it took was a hard run for five minutes (and four seconds) around a wooden, oval track eight times around.

But it wasn’t just Friday’s race that boosted my spirits – and kept them on high. It was being a part of something special. Even though I didn’t realize it until after the feelings of nausea and burning lungs abated.

This ever-growing (and ever-engrossing) Montana Men’s Masters Mile is quickly becoming an event not to be missed; the best five minutes (give or take) of the year; the chance to feel like a kid again; MMMM good indeed.

What began as a dozen guys from all parts of the state simply hoping to give their all turned into something no one could have predicted, let alone expected. Isn’t that what makes life, well, life? If you expect something to happen and it happens, then big whoop. But an experience that goes beyond expectations leads to a feeling of magic. Unforgettable magic. A kind you wonder if it can ever be recaptured.

My thought process for the MMMM has always been along the lines of: I’m fast enough to qualify (under a 5:18) but not enough to be competitive. I always felt that it was a privilege to be part of the field, because I know there are those out there not fast enough to qualify. Sure, I’ve finished last in this thing three times, but it’s the clock I’m running against. Not Scott Creel.

What brings me back each year is the thought, however absurd, that I can run under 5 minutes. I ran 5:18 my first time, then, bang, 5:05 the second. I was hooked. It’s just like the bug you catch when taking those first figurative steps in this sport.

The first time you ran five days in a week; the first time you ran for an hour without stopping; the first time you break 20 minutes in a 5K. You catch that bug (or it catches you) and never want to lose it.

I showed up Friday evening with more confidence that I’ve ever had that the 5-minute barrier was about to fall. Not sure why. I trained hard, I thought, but sometimes it’s not how much sweat you put in. Confidence is a factor as well. If I don’t think I can run a sub-5, then I won’t. I’m always telling my daughter that if you say you can’t, then you won’t. I need to practice what I preach.

Well, I ran as hard as I could. I was well below a 5-minute pace halfway (I was at 2:26 through four laps; my goal was 2:28). But the tank ran empty about lap 6. I finished in 5:04, which is a PB, but naturally there was some disappointment coursing through my veins. I had no idea I had been a part of something special. Something … unexpected. It took some time to realize that, though.

When the nausea kicked in, a feeling of “I’m never doing this ever again,” kicked in as well. There was no way I was going on a cool down run. I just wanted to hurl.

But when the pizza and pitchers began to arrive at Columbo’s a short while later, those ill feelings were gone. It’s like when I used to drink heavily as a teenager or 20-something: the hangover was enough to make me think “I’ll never do this again.” Two days later, I’d be searching out that “high” again.

Same with running.

The gathering at Columbo’s was pure energy. There were so many topics to discuss and marvel over. There was Chad Coley’s out-of-body run and tumble to the finish; Patrick Judge’s 17-second improvement (yes, 17) over last year; another win by Peter Dan Sullivan; Shaun Marshall-Pryde’s debut, at age 49, in 4:55. Everyone seemed to improve over last year’s time. Myself included. (I’m that much closer to 4:59; the bug is back).

At Columbo’s there were slaps on the back, firm hand-shakes, enthusiastic laughs from the still-youthful Peter Dan, unmatched commentary from El Presidente John Zombro as a feeling of satisfaction and camaraderie washed over all of us.

I used to think it was a privilege to be a part of the MMMM. Now I know it.

Back to the race for a moment: I remember, just as I was making the turn for the final 100 meters, hearing the track announcer say, “Now that’s what I call giving it 100 percent.” I forgot about that for a while until I saw Chad’s shoulder, all red and deprived of skin. I had no idea he had fallen at the finish after giving it everything he had for that race.

His effort was the talk of the crowd later that night. His humble nature only added to the atmosphere. He ought to just put another “O” in his name. He’s that Cool, although if he’s over 35 then I’m 100.

Friday night was special in that you had the future (the 50-yard dash for kids), the present (Heather Haug and Dan Jackson putting up PBs in the mile, Patrick Casey running the nation’s best 800); and what I hope people will aspire to do in later years (the MMMM, of course) all in a span of two hours.

There’s something about running on those “boards” around the track that makes me feel special, cool even. When a skeletal mass like myself can make a pounding sound with my feet …

When I got home that night, I couldn’t sleep until well after 2. It wasn’t what I’d call a good night’s sleep, either; my wife has a cough and my daughter was up at 7:30.

Yet I didn’t feel tired all day. Can we ever come close to matching the MMMM magic in 2012? I don’t know. But what I do know that is a new standard has been set for this event. There were no MMMM records broken Friday night; not by the watch, anyway.

Yes, being a part of this field is still a privilege. But the effort that goes into it has changed.

I can’t wait to find out who is going to be the hot topic at next year’s post-race gathering. It’s going to take something extraordinary.

Something unexpected.


2 Responses to “Chairmen of the boards”

  1. 1 shaun Marshall-Pryde
    February 22, 2011 at 5:21 am

    A well written articale about some old guys that refuse to recognize reality…….age…..cool to be one of them; and know they’re others out there as strange as I!!!!

  2. 2 Matt Edwards
    February 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Great piece Tim…it was a great race and was exciting to watch as a spectator. I think it was the loudest race all evening long.

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February 2011
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