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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Johnny Tazbir and The Boston Marathon

Who Is Johnny Tazbir?

I don't know. Never met him. What I do know is in 2006, he finished the Chicago Marathon in 3:20:58, making him the last guy in my age group to qualify for the Boston Marathon. He had as much as 1.9 seconds to spare.

Bib # 22099. When the throngs of runners plowed through the finish line, he was among the throng. No where close to the front, in 2,923rd place, but he qualified.

You are reading thinking, "That boy ain't right. He can't even break a 20 minute 5K. Now what's he gone on thinking about a marathon that fast? He ain't even gone an' run 10 miles, let alone 26. And there's a point two after that 26, you know."


Still, what Johnny Tazbir did would be cool. It took finishing in the top 3,000 to do it. It also took roughly a 7:40/mile pace over 26.2 miles. Yes, that includes the point two.

That means running a 23:46 5K around 8.45 times. I have run that speed or faster twice. Just twice.

He has an excellent name for my purposes. That's really it. I looked him up, and he's a serious runner, and member of the Calumet Region Striders.

Backing up this great effort, I learned through some Googling he did even better at Boston with a 3:18:07 this April. Tougher course, even. Way to go!

I'll try to keep up with Johnny if for no other reason he is doing what I'd like to be doing: sneaking under the bar to qualify for Boston.

Running a marathon, not to mention running one fast, is a long way off. I have yet to meet even my minimum goals. As an older runner, the rules have changed. Boston is just as long, and the qualifying time is more or less the same, but I have found that things aren't going as quickly as I'd like. I started slower, was in worse shape, and have not progressed to anywhere close to where I expected. Finding a 3:20:59.9 marathon in the tank will be much harder than the 20:00 5K. The necessary speed is probably in there, but there's a tremendous amount of training and focus required: Lots of miles which are injury-free.

What's a goal? Is it something I have done? No, no, no. That means nothing. It means setting a point to reach that is both attainable and aggressive. Goals are not meant to be randomly chosen, nor are expected to be hit serendipitously.

The definition is important. A wish is not a goal. Saying, "I wish I could run a 2:05 marathon," is true in itself, but there is no way it is going to happen. No planning, no amount of will power, no great coaching can get me there. I wish I could, sure, but it is as attainable by me as running a sub-4 mile.

How attainable is a 3:20 marathon for me? I really don't know. It is still in that vague, "That would be cool" category. It is right up there with the equally vague, "I'd love to run under 18:00 again for a 5K." It is more than a wish, though. Both could conceivably happen. Those times are both fast, but are not unattainable. Setting them as a goal, at this point, would be foolish, though. I have too much water to cross before getting to the point of planning either goal. I still have that 20:00 5K to run.

Right now, in front of me, is a guy named Johnny Tazbir from Indiana, a 20:00 5K, and a beautiful day for a long run. As Robert Frost once wrote, "I have miles to go before I sleep."

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