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I am no hare. Rather, I have always identified with Aesop’s tortoise. I may not be the quickest runner on the track, but I am steady, and I won’t give up.

I have named various parts of the course I like to run. The first mile is the warm-up, a steady incline where I battle negativity and tiny rocks that stick to my muddy shoes. The next portion is the long, intermediate hill with the Pilgrim-shaped road sign at the top. After that comes a stretch of hills I call, “The Roller Coaster.” The roller coaster leads to a long, tree-lined incline. From this portion, you can take one of many side roads.

Tuesday, I opted for the steep hill past the compost heap. This hill leads to a flat stretch with a T-intersection, where I turn around to go home. I had gotten to the top of the hill past the compost heap, when I saw a runner coming from the left along the T-intersection. This gave me a perfect perspective for evaluating his running. He was a little bouncy at times, but not too bad. His arms seemed to be moving fine (no outrageous arm flailing), and he was fast.

He turned down the road towards me. We passed and exchanged “Guten morgens.” I reached the T-intersection then turned around to go home. Now, the runner’s white-capped head was bobbing away from me. A funny vision came to my mind: I saw myself passing him.

I’m not sure if it was the advice from The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, which says to pick a person in the marathon, and “tag along” behind, or if my competitive spirit was being awakened after years of slumber; but I decided even if I couldn’t actually pass the guy, I had to keep his head within view. To lose sight of his head was to lose the race.

The pace was a little quicker than I’m used to, but it wasn’t killing me. He ran past the compost heap, and then disappeared when he turned the bend onto the tree lined road.

Drat! Lost him!

I let gravity help me down the hill, and when I turned the bend, I saw him. He was near the cut-off to the roller coaster. Then something amazing happened: he slowed down and began to walk.

I couldn’t believe it. I kept wondering what was going through his mind. Had he only been sprinting while in my view? Had he expended too much effort? Or had he simply given up?

Don’t get me wrong, it is better to sprint and walk than to sit at home eating schnitzel. But I have a marathon oriented mind now. Why was he walking?

I had the urge to yell, “Keep going! You can do it!” but I didn’t know the words in German. And honestly, I don’t know if I have the gumption to do that on a training run.

I knew I would pass him when he started up the first hill of the roller coaster. He was still walking.

I plugged along as good tortoises do. When I caught up with him, he turned his head towards me and said, “This (hill) is hard, isn’t it?” I smiled and slowed down a little.

In The Complete Book of Running for Women, Claire Kowalchik says you should take every opportunity to identify yourself as a marathon runner. Telling people you are a marathon runner helps to reinforce this idea in your mind. So, thanks to a prior vocabulary lesson from my German-speaking friends, I was able to tell him, “I’m training for a marathon. Do you know the Königsschlösser Marathon in Füssen?”

His eyes widened. “Prima!” he exclaimed. He told me that was really great, and he wished me luck.

I picked up my pace and gave a friendly, “Ciao!” as I continued along the roller coaster.

Tuesday wasn’t just about passing another runner, though that was great. It helped me to understand that while Germans may be intense about everything they do, they are also very pleasant and supportive of other people in their particular “club.”

I’ve been nervous about having a certified flat course in Germany as my first marathon. Many runners may be doing this so they can qualify for more prestigious marathons. But I now feel that even if I finish last, the other runners won’t look down on me; rather, they will congratulate me for not giving up.

There’s something to be said for being the tortoise.

Stats: Miles: Monday 0, Tuesday 5.5

Wildlife: lots of snails, two jackrabbits, and one friendly runner/walker.

Weather: the clouds cleared as the sun rose. 47 degrees. Light wind (as always, it seems).

Overall feeling: I was extremely tired Tuesday morning, due to a poor night’s sleep. But the run seemed to wake me up. Certainly the competition in my mind helped me to focus. After the run, I felt like I could conquer the world.

Extra: I’ve dedicated more time to stretching, which is helping a lot. I also lifted “heavy” weights (for me) on Monday, and did fifty old-school sit-ups. William sat on my feet, which brought back distinct memories from the pre-crunch era.


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