When Pete Sampras exploded at the US Open in 1990 with his 120+ mile per hour serve the tennis world was stunned. In 2004 Andy Roddick served a 153 mph serve at a match in London.
On May 5th, 1954 there were those who believed it impossible to run one mile in four minutes. Roger Bannister proved them wrong on May 6th with a time of 3:59.4. Just six weeks later John Landy ran a mile in 3:58.0. Today the record for the mile is 3:43.13 and is held by Hicham El Guerrouj.
Years ago I was a heavy smoker and was 40 pounds heavier than I am today. My first runs (if you can call them that) consisted of two to three city blocks worth of huffing and puffing followed by 20 minutes of walking.
Sport provides constant challenge and we’ve invented various ways to measure progress - whether it’s rotations while airborne, speed on a serve or how fast we can run a given distance.
Running, in my opinion, provides the most pure form of challenge. Half pipes have gotten bigger and skate boards stronger. Tennis racquets have gotten lighter and more rigid. While the manufacturing, material and arch support of running shoes have improved the basic challenge of running has remained the same. Runners compete against themselves, time and distance.
On Sunday, I ran the New York City Marathon Tune Up, an 18 mile “preparation” race in Central Park. The race was by most all measures a success. I arrived early. The weather was delightful. I ran even splits and ran them faster than my intended marathon pace. At mile 17 Morrissey passed by me and I had enough juice to stay in contact with him and then slip by in a finishing kick. Thanks for the inspiration Morrissey!
When I ran this race in 2004 I finished in 2:51:59 – a pace of 9:33/mile.
The following year I ran it in 2:37:29 – a pace of 8:44/mile.
On Sunday I finished in 2:16:35 a pace of 7:33/mile.
On paper these are huge improvements. I should be thrilled. I should be delighted. I should feel confident about the forthcoming marathon…But my elation is tempered by the competitor in me. I’ve already got my eye on a sub-7 minute pace.
Who knows what the future may hold for me but sport in general will continue to amaze as athletes continue to press the boundaries of what is possible.
"It is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off."