As a runner I like to watch races from time to time to find inspiration, courage or just appreciate the athletic abilities of the runners. There are so many great runners to watch, Meb Keflezighi, Mo Farah, Rita Jeptoo and with Youtube there is access to the historical greats like Prefontaine, Meyer and Benoit. While that is not unusual in itself, some might think it is strange that I sometimes look beyond humans to find great runners.
With so much being said about American Pharaoh it is hard to ignore the greatness that he represents. It would be easy to compare what he did with a human runner winning 3 races of different distances against the best in the world in 5 weeks. When you add the fact that each track is different and he ran the Belmont from the lead while he ran the Derby and the Preakness just off the pace… very impressive. The simple fact that no horse has done this since 1978 shows how special this is. Watching him pull away down the stretch is certainly something to behold and be inspired by.
Then there is Secretariat… if ever there was an athlete in a sport that was at the top of his game when it mattered it was him. In the Derby he was far off the pace until close to the end when he overtook and passed the others in a still record time. He even ran perfect negative splits (where each section is faster than the one before), a feat that has never been done before or since in the Derby. In the Preakness he was in last place entering the first turn when suddenly he sprinted through the corner, passing the others in just 200 yards of track and then basically “jogging” to the finish, again in still record time. At the Belmont he went to the front early and then ran away from everything, setting records for each quarter mile except the first, the event, the distance and the margin of victory in such a way they may never be touched. He ran all three races in a completely different manner, but with equal results, something unheard of in any type of running. To understand this completely I would encourage you to watch the three races at this link... Greatness.
But as much as I enjoy watching all of these, as much as I admire what they can do, they are not the truest examples of greatness in racing. Watching the man who has lost 150 pounds and still weighs over 500 with 300 more to lose cross the line in a 5 K then vow to take time off his next one, that is true greatness. The young lady at last years Navy Air Force Half Marathon, on crutches, with a prosthetic leg refusing to stop, willing herself on… true greatness. The marathon runner who collapsed just before the finish line and the other runners who stopped and carried them across: The elderly lady who finished the Eastman 10 K at 89 years old: The man wearing oxygen while running with a shirt that said running vs cancer: The wheelchair racers who show that they are indeed athletes (and much faster than me)… I could go on and on. These are all examples of true greatness, true inspiration. Wait until the dust settles at any local event, watch and cheer and you can not help but to see it. There is greatness all around us, waiting to be found, to be relished, to be shared.
***** As a side thought, if anyone at all knows who the lady was at the Navy Air Force Half/5 Mile that I mentioned or how to find out, I would truly love to tell her how much it meant to me when I was hurting to see her and realize that if she could dig that deep then I could too. Without her and Jackie I might still be out in that park at D.C.*****