Lahaina, Maui – Walking along Wahikuli Wayside Park, water to my right, the island of Lanai rising like a whale’s hump off the coast. Not too different, really, than running down off Memorial Drive along the Charles River looking over to the Boston skyline where the gold dome of the Statehouse sits framed by the towers of downtown. Same sort of feel to the traffic, too, streaming on my left along Honoapi’ilani Road.
“Come on, lads, put your back into,” comes to mind, Starbuck’s exhortation to his crew in the whaling boats out chasing Moby Dick.
After only 25 minutes I come to the end of the sidewalk before the turnaround. A rain squall hits, blowing down off the West Maui Mountain ridge. We have to stop. Toya is doing repeat 400s. With the wind against, I’m going to do one mile plus out and a mile plus back.
Along the walk back, I begin considering some of the results from the fall marathon season. Among the realizations is that there has to be intentionality in the marathon. Every other race, too, but especially so in the marathon.
For instance, stomach problems in Berlin September 24th stopped 2013 champion Wilson Kipsang in his tracks at 30K as Eliud Kipchoge drove on to victory in 2:03:32, the fastest official time of 2017.
Kipsang returned home to Kenya where he retooled for New York City in early November. There he came in a close second behind Geoffrey Kamworor. But that little extra that he had when he managed to put away Lelisa Desisa in NYC in 2014 was missing in ’17, still in Berlin recovering, I’d say. His intention this fall was Berlin, not New York, and in the end it mattered.
World record holder Dennis Kimetto was an early dropout in Chicago October 8th. Sadly, Brigid Kosgei, the lead woman, caught him at 25K in Honolulu two months later. His intention was Chicago. Honolulu was his fallback, and it mattered.
I just wrote an article that questioned the old suppositions in the sport, MONEYBALL FOR THE MARATHON, including the concepts concerning identifying under-valued talent, pacing, and the number of marathons one might be able to compete in over a short period.
Yes, Sara Hall defied convention when she came back off a PR 2:27:21 in finishing fifth in Frankfurt on October 29th to win Cal International just five weeks later in 2:28:10 to capture the USATF Marathon Championship. But what was slightly different in her case as opposed to Kipsang and Kimetto was that her intended race went well, and then there wasn’t a hard competitive edge in Sacramento like in New York and Honolulu.
So there is a slight, but distinctive difference between managing two marathons in two months, and full out racing two against top fields when the first goes sideways. Because when an athlete tries that, generally it’s just not there in the makeup race, the firepower.
That need for intentionality, that tight focus, reminds me a little of the approach in the high jump where, as the bar and the stakes go up, the run-up becomes very delicate psychologically. It’s what all the rocking back and forth and pre-approach fidgeting is about, waiting for that moment when it feels right to go.
But if you begin your approach, then bail and turn back, you rarely see the second attempt click. In fact, the jump is often aborted at takeoff. The rhythm was broken. Trying to come back right away off a DNF in the marathon is something like that.
After 50:32 I’m back at the car. Toya is stretching. I’m going out for another whatever, as I’ve only done 2.3 miles and 4700 steps. There goes Toya. 😃 Zoom!
Another quick squall blowing down from the moumtains of West Maui. After just 1:13:15 we are done. There is Christmas shopping to do and packing. Now, as Paul Simon sang, its’s homeward bound.