The Race Isn’t Always About the Medal

By Stephanie Davies, TSFM 2015 Ambassador

Marathon weekend loomed upon me and my feelings of sadness loomed just as large. How would I bide my time and keep my mind off of what I would have been doing had I been there? How would I spend race day? The Napa Valley Marathon was to be my 11th marathon. I had to defer this year due to an injury. With the suggestion of some very special people in my life, I still attended the functions of the weekend without doing the race. I went up to the NVM Expo just so that I could be in my element. I wanted to see the runners. I wanted to watch their expression when they got their amazing duffel bag that this race is known for.   I wanted to soak it all in without the pre-race jitters and moments of doubt that accompanies me like an uninvited guest.

stephanieblogI arrived in Napa and immediately the somber veil lifted. I soaked in the energy that made each common room at the marathon headquarters come alive. I watched as people milled about looking at the vendors. I listened to the small talk and chatter about how to run the NVM course. I found a seat in the banquet hall and immediately was treated to a song. The singer was a handsome man sitting there with his guitar. He apologized ahead of time should he hit the wrong chord. My ears listened to the soft, calming voice and the humorous lyrics. The little race took place in a town called Boston back in 1982. The singer wondered who would come out the winner, but he already knew. You see, Dick Beardsley was singing about his second place but record breaking finish, against Alberto Salazar. I stumbled upon this special treat. You can see it here.

After the song, I remained in my seat and was immediately entranced in the 90 minute presentation of three men as they recounted their running careers. They told stories about their first marathon. I am a firm believer that no matter how many marathons one does, one never forgets their first. These men proved my point when they recounted their tale. They shared how they realized when they needed to slow down. They shared funny stories about tossing their used water bottles into the crowd as souvenirs and jokingly worried about an international incident because of a bad toss. There are so many greats from this era who are still with us who are also instrumental in the running boom that was created in the late 1970s. However, to sit with all three of these men in the same room, is indescribable. Though one man was not physically present due to a snowstorm in his location, his voice filled the air when he spoke and it was as if his 5’10” lean frame filled the chair that was on the stage.

At the end of the presentation, I realized that I had nothing for these men to autograph. I then remembered my specially designed duffel bag. I scurried up to the front of the room and I managed to get my first signature and a photo. I then talked to my second subject of interest. He signed my bag but while he was doing so, asked my name. He wanted to know about my injury. He told me how to get better. I talked to him about my next big marathon, the San Francisco Marathon, and encouraged him to run it. He gave me his card and told me to send him the details.

As I got in my car to head back home, it hit me. I not only got the autograph of the 1976 Olympic third place finisher, Don Kardong, but I just listened to first place finisher, Frank Shorter speak via teleconference about his Olympic experience in Montreal.   The moment that stands out to me most was when little me just encouraged another 1976 Olympian to run another marathon. This same man is the 4 time winner of the New York Marathon and a 4 time winner of the Boston Marathon. He was rated #1 in the world three times by Track & Field News. This man, who so willingly gave me his time and made me feel like a friend, is Bill Rodgers. I just met the 1976 dream team in the Men’s Olympic Marathon.

I put my car in gear and left Napa feeling victorious. It was as if I had run the marathon. My feelings of sadness for missing out on a race I had so many plans for, disappeared when I heard Dick Beardsley sing, Frank Shorter’s voice, and when I shook the hand of Bill Rodgers and Don Kardong. I realized that I didn’t need a medal. What I had, was priceless.

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