I didn’t break the world record.
I smashed it!
4:16.829. American/World Indoor 45-49 age group Masters Mile mark is obliterated by more than 3 seconds! (When ratifying for a world record, World Masters Athletics requires a count to the thousandth of a second.)
This time, I really didn’t think I could do it. Six weeks ago, I was running strong. I was on course to claim the Masters World Record. But a nagging foot injury and a constricting chest cold set me back on my heels. I was having some eye trouble too.
At Cornell, two weeks ago, I clipped a competitor’s spike and took a headlong crash in the first lap. I finished strong, but was way off the mark. [Read the full story in “The Trip.”] Yet again, no world record. I awakened the next morning bruised and battered, as if I’d been in a car crash.
I began to wonder if I could do it. It probably wasn’t meant to be. Eye trouble is a difficult hurdle.
My health returned, but my workouts were sub-par at best. Coach Hislop made some significant compensating adjustments in my training cycle. Still, in running lingo, my legs were flat. After two horrific workouts, I was deeply discouraged.
I remember my old wrestling coach, George Artemis, telling me I’d be a champ. I’m not so sure now.
Here I am in New York. I almost didn’t come. Why should I make the substantial investment in the trip if I’m not even in position to score? Two slightly encouraging interval sessions in the last seven days, though, had me thinking, “Maybe, just maybe…”
Coach Hislop talked me through the pros and cons. My wife, Alydia, a top-notch high school running coach, persuaded me that this could be my last best chance and I ought to try. I honestly didn’t know. My corporate sponsor, Get Air Sports, booked the flights, got my reservations, and sent me on my way.
So here I am in Uptown Manhattan. The Armory, site of the United States Track & Field Hall of Fame, housing one of the fastest indoor tracks in the world, is host to the Columbia University Final Qualifier meet. I wear hip #5 – that’s fifth position – a decent place to start, strategically.
I’m feeling okay. I can do this. Still having a bit of eye trouble, though.
The gun goes off with a crack and — with an extra surge of adrenalin — I am drawn reactively into the momentum of a furious start. I come through 200m at a too fast 31.5. I don’t ease back quite enough, and add slightly to my “out too fast” error with a 63.5 first quarter.
“Yes, I think I can do this. I just have to get my head right.” This isn’t just about running fast, it’s about running smart. I relax further and see a 1:36.5 next split, followed by 2:10.0 at the half-way mark.
“Okay. I’m right where I wanted to be” – but now my pace is much too slow. I feel myself being overtaken, not by another runner, but by doubt – a runner’s nemesis. I focus on what I have been teaching my wife’s talented high school distance runners.
When faced with doubt, discouragement, and despair – typical and shattering companions in the latter and incredibly painful realm of a distance race – we must practice “replacement therapy:”
We are not responsible for the thoughts that enter the stage of our minds, but we are responsible to decide the cast that we allow to perform. Instead of wasting focus chasing away the villains, Doubt, Discouragement, and Despair; we simply replace them with the more powerful actors, Faith, Confidence, and Fury!
“Now, shift gears.” It’s the right time to lean into this race. I start to pass the youngsters, one by one.
My fifth lap split is a surprising 2:42.0. I lean in harder and drive past the ¾ mark at a terrific 3:14.0.
The change of pace is actually refreshing. The announcer notices my surge and gets the crowd involved in what is happening. They begin to shout encouragement – and coach me from the bleachers. “C’mon Brad – you can do it!”
Faith and Confidence have played their part. It’s now time for Fury to take center stage. At 3:45.5, I throw myself at the bell lap. Around the turn, I refocus on mechanics. “Brain now, not brawn.” It has to be that way. There is not much brawn left in this old fella’.
This is now a mental game. Arms take over. “Shorter, faster, more relaxed.” Arms guide the accelerated pace of my legs. “This is working.”
On the final turn, I push even harder and am rewarded with immediate bone-deep searing ache – late stage lactic acid overload. “Keep it together. Don’t muscle this. Focus on perfect mechanics. Run through the finish…”
The announcer brings the crowd to its feet with the booming proclamation that a World Masters Mile Record has just fallen! In foggy-numb elation, I lift aching arms in weak reply to the cheers – but there is nothing weak about my grin.
I’ve done it! A world record.
I have! I really have done it.
There it is again. Eye trouble. “I” trouble. I did not do this. We did this. I stumble to my gear and find my phone. My first call is to my wife to thank her. I thank my family, without whose significant sacrifice this would not have been possible. I call Chick Hislop and yell, “Congratulations coach, we did it!” I message Val Iverson, founder of Get Air Trampoline Parks, my corporate sponsor and friend. I tell him about the prize we have won.
I silently thank God for the physical gifts and the team of supporters without whom I never could have come close to winning this prize most runners only dream about.
I am officially the fastest old miler in the world – thanks to a pretty amazing team. The persistent support, excellent coaching, and faith of my family and friends back home. An entire crowd of enthusiastic strangers in the stadium seats. The architects of this world class venue. My competitors who were with me, literally, every step of the way. John Hinton who, five years ago, set the world record that pushed us to such an achievement.
I didn’t break the world record. “I” could not have done this. Only “we” can win this kind of prize.
Today is a special date. The only day of the year where the date is also a command: March 4th – march forth! And thus we shall. I… “we” will march forth eagerly to the conclusion of an amazing indoor track season – the National Masters Championships in Landover, Maryland on March 22-23. We will continue to march forth and support each other and even the fellow who will eventually – sooner than later – break this world record.
I am seeing much better now – and I’ll see you in Landover.