These Kinds of People

I usually love going to running expos; the excitement of the running community on the eve of a race is a sight to behold and even better to be a part of. Today, however, I felt differently. The LA marathon is, as far as I know, the biggest marathon in the country, so the expo was crowded and hot, with little chance of getting to chat with anyone about their running career. I left the expo bummed and dehydrated, with my too-small t-shirt and a bunch of samples. Oh well. As I was walking to my car, I saw an elderly man with the extreme gaunt look of a hardcore distance runner peering at a map of the course. In the interests of being friendly and feeling fairly confident that he was a pretty cool guy, as virtually all “lifetime” long-distance runners are, I struck up a conversation and was so glad I did. Here, I found out, was one of THE Legacy Runners. They are a handful of people who have run the LA marathon every year since its inception 25 years ago. As we chatted, I learned that he had run a lot more than just those LA marathons, and had some good stories to prove it. He divulged that one year he was sidelined due to injury, but still decided to run with only 12 miles of combined training in the three months prior. That takes guts. When I asked what time he was hoping to get the following day, I was blown away. “I’m looking for a sub 3:00.” Nonchalant, quiet, unassuming, and humble. He wouldn’t have told me unless I asked. I feel that these are a special class of people. They have been weathered by the long miles on the road, and, over the years, they’ve developed something about them. It’s hard to put your finger on what it is, but I think it has to do with confronting physical and mental weakness and coming to a breaking point over and over again, yet pushing past it. I also think that it has a lot to do with solitude. Long-distance running is an intensely person sport, and being such as it is, I think it does attract a certain kind of crowd that performs well without the applause of others. There are really no shortcuts to running many, many miles where no one sees or cheers you on. I don’t think these kinds of people mind.

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