Sunday, May 15, 2005

Brookings Marathon 2005

The Brookings Marathon was yesterday, and as I have for four years, I ran the last leg, from mile 20, on a relay team. Like last year, the weather was poor, with a strong, cold wind coming out of the northwest.

The featured speaker on Friday night was Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge SD, the only American ever to win the 10,000 meters at the Olympics. He won at Tokyo in 1964 as an unknown in a huge upset over the world record holder Ron Clarke. The come-from-behind finish in the last few meters was very exciting. That was my first summer on the planet, so I obviously don't have any memories of it, but I've read about it quite a bit, have seen the race on video, saw the movie about his life, and have seen that great photo of the finish countless times. It was a real thrill to hear him speak. I was able to speak very briefly with him on Friday night. Just before the start on Saturday, I looked up and there he was walking towards me. I was a little startled, and just said "Good morning, Mr. Mills," and shook his hand. I wish I had told him how much I enjoyed his speech.

As I said, the race conditions were poor, and the cold wind was just about exactly wrong for my part of the route. My leg was about 10 km, the same distance Billy Mills ran in 1964. I was about three-quarters through, and the wind was wearing me down. I had given up hope of meeting my time goal. As I was about to turn a corner to face that wind again, there on the side of the road in a small crowd of people was Billy Mills, cheering on the runners.

If that couldn't motivate me to a strong finish for my 10,000 meters, I don't know what would. I felt like I was floating for the next kilometer or so, and ran the last quarter of my leg with a big smile on my face.

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