Monday, February 7, 2011

The Bruce Denton Track Club

Founding members of the
Bruce Denton Track Club
At a 5K not too long ago, I started to put the finishing touches on an already hurried warmup with one last set of strides across the elementary school’s soccer field. A trickle of runners began to gather around the start line when the call went up, “5K runners to the line!” I looked up and saw that that trickle had come together in a mass ready to be uncorked. I hurried over and squeezed into the front row.

I took a second to survey the lithe runners around me at the front, the odd mixture of shorts and singlets with winter hats and gloves. When I noticed the guy’s singlet next to me. In a small crest above his heart, it read: Bruce Denton Track Club.

While I’m usually not one for idle, nervous chitchat at the starting line, I just couldn’t help myself. “Bad ass jersey,” I said to him. “Where’d you get it?”

“Thanks,” he said. “A guy from college made ‘em up for us.”

Then the gun.

For those not familiar with Bruce Denton, he’s John Parker’s character in Once a Runner and Again to Carthage, who coaches Quentin Cassidy to the Olympics. As the book goes, Denton's reputation takes on mythical proportions.  Guys try to take up and train with him, hoping to glean "the Secret" only to find themselves mired in over training hell and that in fact "the awful truth is there is no Secret."

The more I thought about this, the more I wanted my own “Bruce Denton Track Club” apparel. So, somewhere in the middle of an easy 10 with my running partner Rohan, we started designing our own shirts and talking about “the Secret.” We agreed that it had to have an old school flare to it in the lettering, and the acknowledgement somewhere that the Secret isn’t really a Secret at all. It’s not reindeer milk or chia seeds. There’s no sports drink or magic tonic. It’s just hard f’ing work.

Inherent in a “running club” is the ability to go run with one another. But I found out this past weekend, it can be much more.

Rohan and I planned a 16 miler with our friend Ebo who’s preparing for his first marathon on Feb. 20. In my infinite wisdom, however, I decided to cover 42.5 miles over five days with no rest. Recovery runs are like rest days, right? Ordinarily during marathon training, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But when you go from 10 miles a week to 42.5 in one swoop, bad things can happen.

And they did.

Instead of soldiering through, I declared the weekend a rest weekend, for myself anyway. Rohan got in a cool five miler that morning while Ebo ran 17.5 miles in the rain from his place to meet up for lunch.

When I broke the news to Ebo that I couldn't run, his reaction was, "This is going to be like a meeting of the Justice League: Black Lightning [Ebo's nickname for Rohan] and the Flash [his nickname for me]."  And now the newest member of the Bruce Denton Track Club.

We spent the next 2.5 hours doing, in my mind, what was the next best thing to slogging one out in the rain along the Potomac: we talked about running. And we also ate our faces off.

From treadmill trials (tribulations and flatulence) and ITB anxiety to 2011 racing and our favorite/hated cross training excursions, we covered it all. It just felt great to talk about running and not feel self-conscious about it.

I had flashbacks to my hockey days of sitting around a table in the cafeteria, ragging on one another and telling stories. I guess I miss the camaraderie.

I still remember watching “The Soup” one night with Mrs. Onthebusrunning. In between clips, Joel Mchale said something to the effect of, “It’s about as boring as listening to your friend talk about his marathon training.”

Insert sad face here.

I discovered this summer that running with others can make you a better runner. And it can give you an outlet, a support network, a Justice League. Sometimes it’s just nice to know we’re not alone out there.

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