In athletics, as in other sports, there are some things that make you sit up and say “where the fuck did that come from?” In recent years, Usain Bolt jogging to a world record in Beijing comes to mind, as does the memory of Ibrahim Jeilan chasing down Mo Farah in the final lap of the World Championships 10,000 last year. Or for those who have more interest in longer distances, Moses Mosop ran 2:03 last year on his debut at the Boston Marathon and didn’t even win.
Moments like these are what makes our sport so exciting. Of course, there are the predictable moments, but unexpected results and performances happen often enough to keep most fans interested.
Some might argue that anyone who had followed Bolt’s progress as a junior athlete, or that anyone with knowledge of Jeilan’s career in Japan shouldn’t have been too shocked. Maybe they are right, but the wider public still sat up and took notice.
This happens to average Joe athletes like me and my friends too. A couple of guys in my training group refer to something called a ‘Lazarus run,’ a training run or race that seemingly comes from nowhere, the kind of run you don’t deserve, haven’t trained for, and frankly, pull out of your arse.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my regular long run companions (let’s call him Dan) decided his hip injury was too painful and didn’t join us for the usual Sunday 20-something miler. Just to clarify, Dan is no slacker. If a man who regularly needs 3 digits to log his weekly mileage avoids a long run, it’s usually because there is something wrong. We met up the next day for the usual Monday recovery run and Dan surprised us all by recounting the story of how he went out the evening before and knocked out a 10 miler in under an hour. He couldn’t explain why his hip had recovered sufficiently to run a hard tempo run but it had.
I had a similar experience a few days ago; my Jeilan moment involved running a 10 mile PB in training despite feeling pretty terrible when leaving the house. Again, where the fuck did that come from? But just as the good runs (and races for that matter) can come along unexpectedly, so can the bad ones. All runners have a stinker now and then and I had a prime turd of a run this morning. After two days of easy running I was pumped for my session of 3 x 1 mile with 90 seconds recovery. Leaving the house to go to the park where I train, I felt stiff and sore but kept going, last week’s tempo run acting as motivation. The heaviness still hadn’t cleared after my warm up so I settled for my back-up session of 4 miles at marathon pace. How hard can it be, I thought to myself. Very, came the answer from my quads 100 metres after I started my watch. It hurt. I convinced myself that I could work my way into it and speed up but after a while it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. After busting my balls to run a 5:50 mile I stopped my watch and gave up. I ran home. In fact, to call my homeward shuffle a run would be an insult to proper runners the world over.
Next week I’m running the London Marathon. I’m hoping for a ‘where the fuck did that come from?’ moment. But only if it’s the good type.