Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Aim High

You have to dig into the results to find it, but if you scroll down to six place in the women's Masters results for Sunday's Twin Cities Marathon you'll notice a "young" Irish lass, 58-year-old Christine Kennedy, now living in Los Gatos, California who ran 2:58:37.

The time was about six minutes off her ultimate goal, which was to break the age 55-59 World Best for the marathon, but if you don't aim high, you may not accomplish nearly what you are capable of doing.  At least that is Kennedy's credo.  After the Friday press conference where Kennedy shared the dais with her younger, open competitors, Kennedy was flustered by their seeming lack of such goals.

Pre-race press conferences can be mind numbing affairs with the elite athletes being reluctant to reveal race strategy or seemingly harmless things like race goals for fear of giving their opposition more motivation or information that might be helpful in beating them.  The wheelchair athletes and the Masters are usually much more open about what they want try and do.

They aren't into the "head games," the psychological ploys of motivating oneself and/or attempting to influence your opposition to be less effective.  They aren't worried about being criticized if they "fail." The older athletes and the wheelers know that it's all about execution on race day.  The task is to get the most out of yourself, not worry about what your opponent can or will do, but rather use them as motivation to go faster.  Kennedy operates by that laser-like focus, looking at the world as she would like it to be and attempting to figure out how to bend it to her will.

When she was getting started in running in Galway in Southern Ireland, running clubs were the purview of males.  A situation that Kennedy found unacceptable.  The club in her area--the Galway Harriers, had a coach, but he worked with the men.  "The girls need a coach,"  Kennedy insisted.  Eventually they got one.  Age was also not an issue for Kennedy.  She doesn't merely try and run with her age group, she wants runners who could push her.  "I run with the 30 year-old girls and I kept up with them."

She started running in her late 20s, but didn't blossom until her 30s.  Won the Berlin Marathon at age 34 in 1989 in 2:35:05, the Dublin Marathon  in 1990 and the Irish National Championships in that same race in 1991 in 2:35:56  She came within five seconds of making the Irish Olympic team, a "failure" that led her to redefine her goals.  She doesn't always achieve her goals, but she does aim high. She epitomizes the Robert Browning quote, altered here to make the gender correct: "A woman's reach should exceed her grasp, Or what's a heaven for?"

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