This morning Mom and I only had to run 13 miles for our “long run.” It was so easy, for both me and for Mom. When I first started training Mom for her marathong, I had some pretty crummy raw materials to work with. Mom had run like 25 marathongs before (some of them fast, some of them slow, and some of them as parts of other events) so you might think that I had an elite athlete on my hands. Mom is NOT an elite athlete. It turns out that pretty much anyone can finish a marathong.
You see, even though humans are kinda slow, they’re also tougher and grittier than a fighting dog. If you drop human runners into an event that they’re not prepared for, instead of sitting down when they get tired and eating hamburgers for the rest of the morning like any sane dog runner would do (if they knew how money worked and had pockets to keep it in), humans will keep going. Even when they’re limping and grouchy and tired and thirsty and disoriented and their breathing is all ragged like they’re pulling on their leash, they can dig deep and find a way to run past every McDonald’s and Jack in the Box. All that, just to collect some silly medal and a free banana. I always spit out my bananas. I think that at the end of a race they should give you a squirrel or a bunny.
When Mom asked me to coach her, she knew that humans are tougher than they want to be, and so her training philosophy was that one really uncomfortable day on race day was way better than the dozens of uncomfortable days if you trained properly. You get a banana either way. It had been years since she had ACTUALLY trained for a marathong, and she very rarely ran more than about 10 miles in training since I started running with her (despite toughing it out through like 3 or 4 marathongs and a bunch more half marathongs in that time). Mom needed Oscar the Coach bad. My job was to make sure that she didn’t chicken out on her training.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Mom could do it. Our runs had been pret-ty pathetic up until that point. There was a LOT of walking. Mom even walked on our 4-mile runs (“Not because I have to, because I want to!” she insisted). But once I gave her a goal, Mom perked up almost immediately. In just 4 months she went from barely being able to complete a half marathong at the Running with the Bears (where she made me finish second dog by being so slow) back to running 20 miles without much drama again.
Sometimes I forget that people can change, especially Mom who always seems like my same lame Mom from one day to the next. Sometimes I think that change is big and scary, like moving to a new house and having to take a different route to get to my trail patrols. I forget that sometimes change is little and slow. With me telling her what to do, adding purpose to the same patrols we take every day, Mom learned how to run again. And she only puked like once. Or twice. I think it was twice. No, it was three times, but that was unrelated…
I’ve noticed that lots of people are thinking about their plans for next year. Some people are taking on big new goals like their first marathong or half marathong. Some people want to slow down and leave more time to wander around off leash and smell more pee books. I just want to put my coach collar on and remind everybody that you don’t have to make big changes for them to add up and be significant. Sometimes you just need to add purpose to what you’re already doing. Of course, having a friend and coach with you who knows what they’re doing also helps.
-Oscar the Coach