If you do call yourself a runner, can you handle the truth?




From the Rage Archives

Truth is found through devotion,
and intensity is the only true measure of devotion.

Coop Runs 50 on 50th

Earlier this year, Coop was acting weird.

I probed a bit for what was up. I was relieved to learn he wasn't hangin' with any JMH's (e.g. Junk Mile Huggers) sparing me the chore of another Truth Intervention.

What Coop was so slow in fessing up to was a desire to attempt a 50 miler on his 50th birthday. The implication of this challenge was that what I had to offer him in the way of training and preparation was now way below him and it had become necessary to "broaden" his training circle. "Nothing personal, Rage, but this ain't Liverpool no more" as he spoke haltingly in barley audible tones, looking rather smug and quite comfy I might add, standing there in lane one (Copy that: Lane Uno). While I wasn't ready to assign this particular rift the same Lennon/McCartney intensity that he apparently had, I must admit it caught me somewhat off guard. After all, it couldn't have been anything like Bruce Hornsby having to play keyboards on "My Baby Takes The Mornin' Train" for Sheena Easton before he made it big…could it? Now just a damned minute here. It's not like I delivered him completely out of shape for the 2001 California International Marathon where the dude P.R.'s in a driving rainstorm. Rage can go long too, baby. Just not 50 miles. That's not so bad now, is it?

Nuf said. The reality was that my running just wasn't pushing him enough and he'd decided to move on to the next level…on to Les, Galen, Dan, Bill…some real runners.

O.K. I get it.

It was right then that we both knew the time had come to go our separate ways. Deep down, I didn't want to ever be accused of being the one that kept the stallions in Coop's barn, you understand what I'm sayin'? You know what I'm talkin' about? There was no discussion. Just an unspoken nod of mutual respect as we quietly picked up our gear and strode off opposite ends of the track. I'd be watching from the stands as he prepared for this one. As I walked off the track, I could have sworn that the expression on the face of the immortal Bowerman bronze statue had changed to a distinct frown, undoubtedly from having witnessed yet another coach and athlete going their separate directions on this hallowed track at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus.

I made it clear to Coop that I while I wasn't going to encourage him, I would support him. Fifty miles is a long ways. How in the heck does anyone even get ready for something like that? So, when I was finally up to it after coming back from back surgery, I'd show up at the track…and there he'd be…doing an endless series of 800's. Sometimes I'd join in for a few loops for old times sake, but could never go the distance with these guys. These dudes can run forever.

His plan was to run three 16+ mile loops along the bike paths between Springfield and North Eugene, with Alton Baker Park in between. He'd logged thousands of miles on these paths. What's 50 more, right? He planned on starting early as he suspected it would require about 8 hours or so. Ouch.

Come game day, I thought I'd try to hook up with him somewhere on the second loop, talk a little smack, tell him how awful he looked, etc… I hopped on the bike and rode to where I thought he'd be. I passed through the park and noticed his pickup was there. I finally found him about midway through the second loop, meaning he had already run about 27 miles. Right on schedule. I simply shook my head and said "…Coop…Coop…Coop…" and offered him an energy bar and some sports drink. At the time, he was alone, but Jim Hill had joined him earlier for some much needed company. I covertly thought he'd be needing some more, once he entered The Death Zone, and asked if he'd mind some company. Hearing no argument, I pealed and went to get on my running gear and was joined by T-Bone. Looks like I'd be taking the afternoon off as T-Bone needed to get back to work.

Any runner knows the last thing anyone needs is constantly being reminded (or dwelling on the issue in your own mind) of how far you have left to go. Keeping his mind off that subject was my sole purpose for joining him…not to mention a periodic check of skin color, breathing, staggering…etc…I managed to kill at least 6-8 miles right off the bat launching into a political tirade that only I could sustain for that length of time. Long story…but that was the point. Coop's heard a bazillion of 'em from me over the years. Darned near consumed an hour…just like that.

Having beat that subject to death, it was on to the next. At that point, I remember wishing K.C. was there. I swear that guy, bar none, is the most entertaining person in Eugene to run with. He ALWAYS makes people laugh. I love it when he shows up. But, now, the pressure was on me. We're heading into The Death Zone and I am running out of non-running things to talk about…not to mention I myself am now getting pretty tired, with about four miles to go…and not having run over 12 miles or so in about a year. Sixteen miles would be a stretch…and I didn't want to admit that I was struggling. So, I saved the subject of Rick Neuheisel, the embattled University of Washington football coach for the last 3 miles…which, needless to say…went by pretty quickly…a target rich subject, indeed. However, K.C. would have done a much better job covering that topic from all angles (as I'm not much of a football guy), but I don't think it really mattered to Coop.

He comes into the park and is greeted by his lovely wife and son…and even is strong enough to suggest another half mile if anyone wanted to take exception with his loop measurements.

It was 50 miles. Trust me, Coop. The time, you might ask: How does about eight and a half hours of running sound? To be honest with you, I couldn't DRIVE that long.

And that's The Truth. - 11/20/03


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