Posts Tagged marathon

Go Vineyarders

So this past weekend was very special for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Athletics Program. Yes, for the first time since 2004 both the Boys and Girls Cross Country Teams ran in the Massachusetts (MIAA) All-State Cross Country Championships  at Franklin Park, just outside of Boston. Oh, you thought I was referring to the football game? No, that sporting event did not interest me. After all, I attended and graduated from one of the high schools were the rivalry dates back to 1875. The earliest known game between the two schools was played on May 12, 1875. I never attended a football game in high school, however.

My view of athletics is one that establishes a love for the activities in the individual that will remain with them throughout the individual’s lifetime, promoting a healthy lifestyle that endures. I watched a movie about the American distance runner Steve Prefontaine, where the actor portrayed the runner speaking to a group of kids. He asked them if they liked football. They yelled “yes” and he replied that football wouldn’t be much without running, right? He did the same for several other sports, getting the same response from the kids. My point is, running might seem pretty mundane, but we tend to take it for granted as a sport, for the most part. But I am biased, as I am a runner and I coach runners.

Here on Martha’s Vineyard, I know runners that have run more than 100 marathons, compete in the Boston Marathon year after year, and run road races well into their 60’s. People clamor from all over the country to run in the Chilmark Road Race every year. Every summer residents and visitors alike take to the roads, paths, and trails of the Vineyard to resume running programs lost since the previous season. Running spans the confines of generations like few other sports do. I have been running for more than 25 years, including marathons.

Yet, the weekend the Boys and Girls Cross Country Teams both qualified for the Massachusetts State Finals, a few lines appeared in the local papers; nothing more. The fact that there where kids that stepped up when their team members faltered, enabling the entire team to advance to the next level of competition, well their names and times were not listed or noted. The next Saturday, when the Steamship Authority lot in Vineyard Haven was overrun with people clamoring to board the boat toNantucketfor the football game, the Cross Country Team quietly boarded the boat bound for Wood’s Hole.

The island’s radio station broadcast the football game live. Island businesses had signs posted in their windows cheering on the football players. When the Football Team returned to Vineyard Haven, victorious, they were greeted with a hero’s welcome, or so I was told. Pictures and video of the players and the game were all over the internet. Oh, and the runners on the Cross Country Team made it back to the island, too; just in case anyone was wondering.

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Laugh or Cry

Everyone has reached that critical point at some time in their life, be it personal, academic, or professional, where you must either laugh or cry. The stress of the situation becomes overwhelming, for whatever reason, and we have to make a conscious decision; will we give in and fold or can we look past it and move on?

When I was running marathons, I always wanted to complete a race in less than three hours. That is the gold standard for a ‘recreational’ runner. I had come close, but never done it. On a final attempt, a planned ‘last effort’, I chose a flat course that ran in the fall, when I had always run my best. I did falter a bit with my training leading up to the race, but I felt I still had a good shot at the time.

As the race unfolded, my splits were not meeting their needed times and I was not feeling as good as I would have liked. At the 20 mile mark I was over2:22:00, which meant I needed to run sub seven minute miles for the next 6.2 miles. That was not going to happen, so I slowed to a walk. After the many weeks of training, time invested and sacrifices made, I would not attain my goal. Still, after a few minutes, I began to run again and finished with a time of just over3:44:00.

The lesson that I walked away with (pun intended) was that it was NOT all for nothing. I still finished. I even avoided the utter soreness that usually followed for 36-48 hours after a marathon. Furthermore, I was okay with knowing I had done all that I could on the given day and that it was just not meant to be. I laughed about being passed by runners that were considerably older, later telling people that it was my ‘retirement’ race anyway.

Taking what life gives you and simply dealing with it takes a bit of life experience. I have owned a business onMartha’s Vineyardfor more than ten years now. The first year was by far the most financially rewarding, as the country was still in the midst of an economic boom. Since that time, however, profits have steadily fallen. Each season has been shorter and noticeably quieter. I tried commuting to off-island clients, but that was more trouble than it was worth. I took another job helping coach teams at the high school, but that just helped pay the bills, not increase business.

The simple fact that the economy directly affected my business was obvious. There are few things that I could do personally to account for the decrease of my income to a third of what it had been that first year. But that is the case for many of the businesses here onMartha’s Vineyard. We have a certain number of weeks each season to make a year’s worth of profits or we will accrue debt until the following season and hope for a better season next year.

Should you happen to ask a merchant how it has been, most will say, “Business could be better.” That is the polite answer. Those are the brave or thrifty souls that have managed to survive, perhaps with a little help from friends and family. Personally, I am over it all. Last week a sub-contractor that was scheduled to work for the season left after three days. I pondered the situation for a while, cursed a bit, and then continued on as if it was just another day. The next day I made some calls, found some coverage, and decided it was just another day… and I laughed about it. That’s all you can do sometimes.

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