Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Relay race

What I Learned at the Marathon Relay

“80% of success is showing up.”  So says Woody Allen.

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City.

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my particular case as a first time participant in a marathon relay, the quote is apt.  I was registered on a 60+ Age Group Team at the Harrisburg Marathon.  We placed first in our category.  We were also the only team registered in that category, but no matter.  Just apply Woody’s 80% rule.

Team Captain Brad pointed out that had we registered for the Masters Division, we would still have placed first. And why not?  Amongst the four of us, we brought more than 150 years of running experience to the relay.

How is it that this is my first relay experience? Well, it was the first time I was asked to join a relay team (thanks, Brad). And, I really love distance running.  It was only the expectation of the relay coming on the heels of the NYC Marathon a week earlier that enticed me to forego the full Harrisburg Marathon and say yes to the relay.

Silver Streaks Frank, Brad, Mary Lou and Greg pre-relay

Asking our team captain what I needed to know to run the relay, his response was “Be looking for Greg to approach the relay transfer, move the chip from his ankle to yours as fast as you can and run as fast as you can.”  O.K. , I can do that.

The relay assignment gave me a new understanding of my strengths and weaknesses. As 3rd leg runner, roughly a 7.4 distance beginning at around the 13 mile point on the marathon route, I was to cover the section with some fairly tough ascents and descents. After the hand-off (or ankle-off) from Greg’s arrival at the transfer point, I joined a bevy of runners on the marathon course.

As I approached the hills, I was suddenly surrounded by the 8.5 mile pace group, their pacer shouting out to his flock notice they were entering the hills followed by all types of encouragement.  Since 8.5 is more a 10K pace for this 9.5 pace marathoner, I made an instantaneous goal to stay with them.  I took side glances at their running style, their stride, assessing what makes an 8.5 minute mile marathon runner.  I stayed with them through the first several uphills and mild downhills and flats.  When the downhills grew more extreme, the fraidy-cat button in my brain turned on and I slowed my pace, cautious of freshly fallen leaves on the trail.  The 8.5 minute mile runners surged around me like moths flitting by my ears.  Huh?  How is it I kept pace with this group on the worst of the uphills to be left in the dust on the downhills?

Note to self:  Take the opportunity during the winter to work on your downhill posture, footing, and mental courage to emerge a stronger downhill runner in the Spring.

Running friends Marge and Dave join us at the finish line

Exiting the park, I could see the 8.5 pace sign a quarter mile ahead of me. One more turn and I was within shouting distance of my relay transfer point, but certainly not within shouting distance of the 8.5 mile pace group.  The pacer’s sign was a white spot in the distance.

I quickly removed the chip from my ankle, transferring to Brad for the final relay leg.  With a wave of thanks to the volunteers working the transfer station, I was off to join my team and the festivities at the finish.

Looking better at the finish than at the start.