Fake Interviewer: Hi Scott, so we’re gonna be doing this race recap in the form of a pretend interview, that’s a strange choice. Why did you choose to do it this way?
Scott: Well, I wrote a post with this format before when I was having trouble formulating what I wanted to say in a cohesive and organized way, and I liked how it turned out. In that old post, though, I pretended it was a therapy session and I was talking to a counselor.
I also think that race recaps are generally very boring to read, as are most interviews. So, why not combine the two mediums. What could go wrong?
I also also didn’t get any form of formal press after the race since it was in Germany and they don’t care that much about American runners and this is my somewhat petty way of righting that perceived wrong.
FI: Why do you think most interviews are boring?
S: Well, I think the blame generally falls on both the interviewers and the interviewees. Most interviewers ask the same questions every time, so they basically get the same responses for every interview, which is boring. On the other side of the coin, athletes often switch into an interview mode where they aren’t particularly authentic and just give super bland answers, even if they get asked interesting questions, which is also very boring. It usually ends up feeling like a mad lib where the person who wrote it didn’t try very hard and the person who filled it out doesn’t know many words.
This isn’t always true though, there are some journalists who ask fun questions and some athletes who give fun answers. Which ends up being not boring.
FI:Ok, lets move to recapping the race. How did you prepare for this race?
S: See, that’s a good example of a bad question because basically everyone did the same training, especially for the marathon. Maybe there are some differences here or there, but for the most part, everyone ran a lot of miles, did hard long runs, and long workouts, and strides once or twice a week. There isn’t really a way to differentiate yourself when you answer this question.
FI: Ok, let’s try again. What did you do to prepare for this race that most people might not have expected you to do? What did you do that was unique?
S: Cool, that’s way better! I think that one thing I did, that most people don’t do, was meditate. I tried to do a 10-minute guided meditation every day for the last 6 or 7 weeks before the marathon. I didn’t end up getting it in every day, but I did get a nice streak of 20 consecutive days leading up to the marathon. And I have meditated every day since the marathon too. It started as just a training tool, which is a particularly un-zen thing to do. I really enjoyed meditating, though, so now it’s something that I really believe in and am actively trying to incorporate into my life.
FI: Do you think that meditating helped you in the race? If so, how?
S: I really believe that it helped me to be patient and conserve energy. I tried to incorporate things that I learned in meditating into the race. I tried to focus in a way where you have this really soft focus. You aren’t effortfully engaging and projecting your mind onto the course. Instead, you just have these anchors that you can focus on; mine were my foot strike, my arm swing, and having a super relaxed face, but you’re also engaged with what’s going on. It’s kind of a way to streamline your cognition so that you’re in the moment, but not using extra energy. You don’t try to block things out, you just notice distractions when they come and then let them go. I think It kept me from worrying about story lines or engaging with anything that wasn’t the present moment. I also kept reminding myself that what was happening was impermanent and the sensations I was feeling were temporary. All we really have, all that is real, are the moments we’re in and the opportunity to make the most of them. Then the last 2 miles I kept repeating “Fuck with me you know I got it” which is a lyric that Rick Ross grunts in the Jay Z song fuckwitmeyouknowIgotit. It is a special song and a fun powerphrase.
FI: Let’s move on to the race. Were you nervous for the race since it was your first marathon? Do you get nervous for races, generally?
S: I don’t really get nervous for races. I used to, but it’s been about 18 months since I got nervous for a race. During the week leading up to the race I was a little nervous at times though. It was easy to let my mind wander when we were in St. Moritz for 11 days leading up to the race. We couldn’t really go out and explore a bunch because we were resting and tapering before the marathon, and with the time difference, during the day in Switzerland, it was night time in the US. So, it’s not like texts and emails were coming in, so it left a lot of time where we were kind of idle. Which, I think is pretty prime for getting nervous. But then, in Frankfurt, my girlfriend and I were hanging out in the hotel, and she mentioned that she was really nervous for me. That kind of made my nervousness go away, because it struck me how pointless and unimportant, the whole thing was. Like, running is my job and I love it very much and take it very seriously and I was obviously going to try as hard as I could to do as well as I could. But, whether I ran 2:08 or 2:48, the world would go on. It wasn’t really gonna change anything. I was still gonna be the same guy. My girlfriend would still love me, my dog wouldn’t know or care how the race went, and the world would keep turning. That kinda made me at peace with it all and made me just want to go out and have fun and do the best that I possibly could. I was excited to find out how fit I was and what the fitness meant.
FI: I understand that it was pretty windy, but that you guys had pacers. Did those things make a difference one way or another?
S: One funny thing that happened with the pacers, Scott, Matt, and I, met our two pacers before the race. Like, right before the race, like 10 minutes before. We confirmed with them that they were going to go 1:06 through half way, 3:08 per kilometer. This took a few tries to communicate, because they didn’t speak very good English, and the extent of our German and Swahili is approximately 17 words or phrases, between the 3 of us. We are mostly limited to “please,” “thank you,” and “do you speak English?” I know how to say the word, party, in Swahili which, is cool but wasn’t very helpful. So anyways, the failure to communicate was like 50% on us. We finally got on the same page, through a combination of finger numbers and speaking slowly and repeating things a lot on both sides. So then we were all just nodding our heads in unison, which probably looked very stupid. Then, Scott Smith and I noticed that one of the pacers wasn’t wearing a watch. He simply did not have one, which is not the greatest thing to notice when you are going to be relying on a person to run a set pace for a given distance. A watch just seems like an important and useful accessory, some might say necessity, for someone employed as a pacer like, maybe the most important accessory.
Anyways, yeah it was really windy. The wind was a pretty steady 10-15 mph wind with some really strong gusts. We turned back towards the downtown area, where the finish line was at like 27k. That’s when we finally got the wind at our back and I think from 27-37k, I ran like 30:50 and took back about 30 seconds. But it was kind of too little too late to really rip a super fast time like we maybe could have in ideal conditions.
FI: So, what do you think you could have run in ideal conditions.
S: Well, I don’t really know, and I don’t really think that’s a fair or good question because it’s pure speculation. I could say any number, but I don’t really have any evidence to support that claim, so it’s not the greatest to speculate like that. We didn’t get ideal conditions, and neither do 95% of people who run marathons in a given year. Sometimes it’s windy, sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it’s raining, sometimes it’s humid, sometimes it’s a hilly course. Those are all things that are out of our control, so to speculate about what ifs is kind of disingenuous. I can’t sit here and say I was in 2:10 or 2:11:30 shape, because I didn’t run 2:10 or 2:11:30. I ran 2:12:35 on a windy day and I am cool with leaving it at that. We can let middle aged hobby joggers debate the finer details on the LetsRun message boards.
FI: Ok, fair enough. So, you ran 2:12:35. What happened next, what was that feeling like?
S: Scott Smith had just finished right ahead of me, so first I hugged him. Then Matt Llano finished not long after, so we both hugged him. We kinda just stood there and all hugged each other for a while and told each other that we loved one another. That lasted for what felt like a while, but was probably actually a not very long time. Then, we all kind of limped out of the finish area and we saw our coach, Ben Rosario. So, we hugged him too, and then kept limping along for a little while until we saw more people and then we hugged them. There was a lot of hugging separated by some slow limping. At one point, I saw Sarah Cotton, who is making a documentary about the NAZ Elite Marathoners this Fall, she asked me a question that I can’t remember and probably didn’t fully comprehend at the time, because I remember just kind of rambling and feeling like I was going to cry for some reason. I wasn’t sad in any way, I was just emotionally and physically so depleted that when I started talking, I guess my brain was like, “uhhh we don’t know what to do, so you’re gonna cry now.”
When we got out to the refreshment area, I saw a booth labeled Cake. And I think that the Germans might think that cake is a different thing than what I would consider cake, because that cake was gross and stale and tasted like a bagel. So that was one of the greatest disappointments of my adult life.
We finally made it back to our hotel and that’s where I reconnected with my girlfriend and I hugged her for a long time. Then, I went up to the room and Hayley went to Chipotle and bought me a burrito which I ate, but also spilt, on our hotel bed. It was a very special moment and I will never be able to repay Hayley for that burrito.
FI: You spoke, or wrote, earlier about having fun, but also, you were running a marathon and that’s a really hard and painful thing. How do you square those two things that seem kind of opposite, fun and pain?
S: Well, it’s a nuanced fun. It’s not fun in a hedonistic way, like eating ice cream or drinking a really good beer. And it’s not fun like hanging out with your friends and laughing and making jokes. It’s a different type of fun. Racing is fun, for me at least, because racing is what the process has all been for. All the training we did had a point, and the point was the race. All the intervals and long runs and early nights and sacrifices were for race day. I try really hard to appreciate the process for the sake of the process, but all those hard things that I did in training got me to the start line. Then, in the race, it’s fun to explore what you’ve built and find out more about shape that you’re in. It’s fun to feel how easy marathon pace feels, even for like 30k. It’s fun to feel that top gear in your legs and try to get in to it, and it’s fun to get towards the end and hurt really badly but know that you can go a little deeper. That part is fun because no one is making you do it, no one makes you lean into the hurt, you get to choose how much you want to suffer and then you get to own that choice. That’s a really cool thing to me.
It’s kind of like building a house, you can enjoy carpentry and enjoy the process of building and putting all the furniture in it and whatever else goes into building a house. I don’t know, I’m not great at building Ikea shit so a house is kinda outside my skill set. But anyways, a house is for living in and when you’re all done with the building, no matter how much you enjoyed it, it’s nice to go inside the house and live. That’s maybe a terrible analogy, I don’t know, it makes sense to me despite, or maybe because, of my lack of carpentry experience.
FI: Let’s not end with that terrible metaphor, ok?
S: Yeah, you’re right, that was pretty terrible. How should we end?
FI: Well, is there anything else you want to express?
S: After the race, I had this feeling of being loved. It was like a warm cup of hot chocolate that had just hit my stomach and was warming me up from the inside out. I felt very profoundly connected with others after the race. I was very aware of the sacrifices my girlfriend had made over the past few months to support me, and I was super thankful she could come to Frankfurt with me. I felt very aware of, and thankful for, Ben Rosario who took a shot on me 2 years ago and had supported and believed in me ever since. I felt very connected to my teammates, Matt and Scott, and to all the other people I have shared miles with over the years. I was just really thankful to all those people. It was a wonderful feeling.