Day #57: “60 Seconds of Distance Run”
“Give me one more. Just one more!”
These words … “One More” … can spell disaster. They might be the request for that drink which finally pushes you over the edge. Off the cliff even. “One More” sometimes betrays a weakness – I can’t resist, so just give me one more. Yet this simple phrase can also mean magic on the track when spoken convincingly and judiciously. As a high school coach, I reserved the powerful phrase for one – maybe two – workouts a year. Though my runners might inflate that number just a bit…:)
I remember like it was yesterday. It wasn’t. Almost 4,000 sunrises have come and gone since that breezy, sunny Wednesday afternoon, over 10 years ago, when I and a dozen high school runners from The Severn School in Severna Park, Maryland, loped onto the local public high school track. The workout was straightforward and registered as only fairly severe on the high school runner’s concern factor. Track runners know real concern when it’s 3 x 1-mile day or a 300-400-600-800 and back down ladder. Today, it was 10 x a quarter with 100 meter jog. Just work our way around the track giving good, solid effort — working on pace and building the anaerobic edge. No problem… 10 x 400 meters. We got this, seemed to be the aura of the day.
We had warmed up on the 1 mile jog to the track, so after a few bounces, jokes and stretches it was “Line it up!” time.
I clapped crisply and the workout was on. Nick looked great out front, bobbing coolly around the turn, down the backstretch, under control. No sign of the achilles issue that had been flaring again this season. Brian was tucked in behind, all stern and serious, but under control, too. On the girls’ side, Emily reached tenaciously with her new spikes at the tartan, maybe a little over-overreaching:), but I was okay with her gait and knew she would find her form in the next couple of intervals. And so the workout went.
The guys were clicking off clean 34’s for their 200 splits, the girls 37’s and 38’s, and all was well in the universe. Nothing like being inside the bubble of the workout. No other thing exists but this focused effort now – and we who struggle together in it towards one common goal: excellence.
…And on the workout went… Maconi started to get that pained look on his face — intensity mixed with just a hint of disgust (emanating towards me), but I had seen before his emotion convert to speed and discipline so it was no worry to me. 8 quarters down, 2 to go.
“Looking great, guys!” I hollered to the entire team. “We are in the middle of a good one. Don’t think St. Mary’s are working anywhere close to as hard as we are. Let’s keep it up. Run through the finish of the last interval. Keep smart. Stay within yourself. Keep it up!” Such similar banter picked up as the intervals wound down. A sweet effort today.
It was the 10th quarter and Maconi, Burns, Brian and Nick stayed in order down the home stretch, Brian moving out just at the end to up the pace and finish the workout. Sweet! They were done, relieved. That wasn’t so bad, really. And the girls raced in, also in the discipline of formation, being careful to run within themselves…
My team – my excellent team — was finished, now scattered on the inside of the track — or across the lanes of the track itself — content but exhausted.
I had to start up my banter again… “A training partner of mine… Yeah, the guy from Zimbabwe… He used to tell me that his coach – Coach Banks – said that once a week–“
“Yeah, we know, Coach,” Maconi started up, “Once a week you should be carried off of the track.”
“That’s right, John… So, listen up, guys! I need one more quarter from you. Right now. Give me One More.”
Sighs and silence – and more of that angst from Maconi. “Let’s go!” I commanded.
They lined up, every one. “Listen up, guys and gals. I want this quarter – right now – to be your best quarter, your fastest quarter of the day. Let’s get it done!” CLAP!! And they were off.
It was as if the emotion clicked up a notch. The intensity climbed excitedly. Now, it was becoming bloodsport. My runners were tired. They had already given all they had. And I needed more. Their heads wisped together in a blur around the turn, past the 100 mark. 15…16… seconds. Good. It was clawing and scrambling, form starting to falter as they rounded the bend towards home. Then, they broke ranks – just a bit – and a race was on. My runners were 4 and 5 abreast… turning it up.
“Stay within yourselves,” I reminded them — as if they could hear. And again the girls finished with an intense flurry — and they were all sprawled out on and around the track. “Well done. 64, Brian – 66 Foster… Emily, 71….”
I waited 20 seconds and then started up again: “Now guys…” audible groans… “I need ONE MORE.”
Rebellion in the ranks. Brian just about kicked through a chain link fence. Maconi leered back at me with outright vinegar in his stare: “Coach…!” he complained. But he knew it was futile.
“Guys – Up now. Let’s go! Give me ONE MORE. Right now. Today. I want this to be your best quarter of this day. Give me your best. Right now. Get this done. And I promise. You are finished with this workout. I need you to give me this one – and it must be the fastest of the day. Do this for me now. Do this for you! Make yourself proud. Do what you don’t know you can do. Run this one for me!”
Now, the anger mixed with the futility of rebellion and produced that dream-state all coaches aim for. Total trust, total commitment. Total faith in the system. Total willingness to do everything and more to attain excellence. Despite their utter exhaustion, these 12 teens lined it up. With their toes at the line, they confessed their desire to be the best that they could be.
“Once a week, fellows. Once a week — we get carried off of the track. Lay it down on this one. Give me your very best. Get out there and run!”
And they did. And it was war. The first stride off the line was Hurculean effort for their wasted and lactate loaded legs. Their heart-rates hadn’t any more recovery to give and just continued to race through the rest. And they ran. And it was with fierceness now. Now, finally, they were AT THEIR LIMIT. Now, they would find out what they were truly made of. Anybody can give all that they have to give. My runners were now in the unknown land of pure mettle. And they exuded character and excellence. They raced so that coming down to the finish, it was Maconi giving it all he had, head lurching back and forth. Burns, with his clean economy and linear form was all forward motion sprinting for the finish. Brian was just ticked off. And all four of those top guys came in below 63 seconds. Maconi ran 60 flat. And the ladies exploded through the finish moments later, and now it was done and it was total exhaustion and it was over.
“Team – you just discovered what you are really made of. You tapped into what you are truly capable of. Your body said no 3 or 4 intervals ago. Your mind turned off after the 10 were completed. It had a task to do, completed it, and was done. But now you have found a deeper reality. You have discovered your sisu, your guts, you have uncovered You! Well done. You each finished strong. Now let’s go home.”
Now that was a memorable workout — and I know that each runner present at that workout can recount it to this day.
Here was a case — which, again, happened about twice a year in practice with my runners – in which “One More” was the magic mantra that took us beyond ourselves — to ourselves.
Have you ever been “carried off the track”?
PS – As this was a quarter mile repeat workout, I thought Rudyard Kipling’s inspirational poem – “If” – would be a great way to finish this lengthy post. Enjoy!
“If”– a poem by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a man, my son!
image credits: Google Search