DO YOU THINK THAT THEY CAN DO IT?

This was the most common question that people asked me before I left for Monza, Italy to witness Breaking2

With my whole heart, I believed that they could do it. Part of the mindset of being a runner/athlete is believing in breaking barriers. Eliud, Zersenay and Lelisa stepped on that start line believing that they could break 2:00:00. Every single one of the pacers there believed they could do it. If you don’t believe you can do something, you won't.

 

PHOTO : Marek Ogień

PHOTO : Marek Ogień

THE RACE

The race was riveting to watch. There were so many ways that it could’ve played out. The marathon is a tricky beast and anything can happen. 

Eliud was mesmerizing to watch. He was so still yet moving so fast. He was solid and in a state of meditation, unwavering and fully committed. With 3 laps to go Eliud was about 10 seconds behind pace. He started smiling. I thought to myself maybe he is smiling to himself because he knows that he has another gear that he hasn’t touched yet and is saving it for the last lap! Or maybe it wasn’t a smile but a grimace of pain. At that point, I am sure that Eliud knew whether he would cross that line in 2hrs or not, and I am also sure that he knew that no matter what the time said on the clock that  he had done something special.

PHOTO: @lebougmelo , Tom Schlegel, Marek Ogień

Eluid's remarks after the race were that the world is that much close to breaking 2:00:00.   Eliud may not have broken 2 hours but he showed the world that it was possible. Whoever goes on to be the first person to break the 2 hour barrier is going to do so knowing that it is possible because of what of Eluid, Zersenay and Lelisa did in Monza.

LESSON 1. SUCCESS IS MEASURED BY MORE THAN THE TIME ON THE CLOCK-  FALLING SHORT OF YOUR GOAL DOES NOT MAKE YOUR EFFORT ANY LESS SPECTACULAR.

The finishing time on the clock is how I measure success. If I don’t achieve the goal that I set out, I often leave the race carrying a sense of failure with me.

Watching Zersenay & Lelisa push on when their goal started to slip away was truly inspirational.  It made me realize that just because you don’t achieve your goal doesn’t mean that you didn’t run well and it certainly doesn’t make your effort any less outstanding. This was a liberating realization for me.

PHOTO: @lebougmelo ,

 

PACERS

Some people wonder what the most significant variable was in the overall success of the day. Was it the course? The weather? Their shoes?

They could’ve put every single variable to 100% perfect for the race, but without the pacers, the success that they had on the day wouldn’t have been possible. After the race, Eliud thanked the pacers for lending him their bodies. 

PHOTO:  Gautier Pellergin , Max Menning 

 

The pacers were world class professional athletes that planned their race season around the preparation and participation of this event. They went above and beyond their duties in pacing all three of the racing athletes right through to the end.

Watching the pacers BE THERE for their athletes really reiterated the importance of the relationship between myself, the other NRC pacers and our athletes. I don’t ever want anyone that comes out to one of our runs to feel like we are just there to guide them through XX # of KM's. When we show up for a run we show up for you. We are there to support you and your goals during the run, after the run and over the course of your running journey.

5k

Just hours after the breaking2 event we had the amazing opportunity to go back to the track and participate in a 5km race. This was the most surreal experience of my whole entire life. When we got to the track Paula Radcliffe & Shalane Flanagan were there waiting for us!

I don’t really get excited over anyone and I have never had a fan boy moment... but this weekend was filled with a lot of “firsts”  As calmly as I could I walked over to them. I did my best to remain composed but I couldn’t stop myself! I told them how much they inspire me. How I rewatch their races and interviews before I have a race and then I did the lamest thing ever…. I asked for a selfie! #YOLO / when am I ever going to be in their direct presence again!!!

The race started and the lead vehicle went out at the same pace that Eliud, Zersenay and Lelisa needed to maintain earlier that day. It pulled away and out of our sights pretty fast!  As far as racing goes I ran horribly! I went out hard and didn’t pay attention to splits. I just wanted to lay out a hard effort in honor of the athletes that ran on the track before me earlier that day.

PHOTO: Max Menning, Pim Rinkes

I was out in the front alone for the first lap. I reflected on what we had witnessed earlier that morning, how hard it must've been and how unreal it as that we were literally running in the footsteps of freshly laid history!!!!!  Someone passed me with about 2km to go and I couldn't cover their move. Even though I didn’t run particularly well and I had lost the lead, I came down the finishing straight with my arms in the air high-fiving everyone that I passed and celebrating the success of the day, taking in every moment. Running along that red line will be the most memorable 5km I ever run.

LESSON 2. ATTITUDE - THE MINDSET OF AN ELITE   

I gain a lot of inspiration from watching elite racing whether it be on the road or on the track. When you see elite athletes you see determined, calculated, dedicated and focused individuals. I try to take those qualities and apply them to my own training regime.

The day after the breaking2 event some of the pacers came to camp to do a shake out run with us. They came into the camp singing and dancing and energized everyone to join in with them! The shakeout run was slower than sexy pace and had about as much dancing as a Friday night. It was amazing to see the other side of the elite attitude and it reminded me that yes commitment and focus were important qualities of an elite mindset, but so was making sure that you enjoy doing what you are doing.

PHOTO: Max Menning, Marek Ogień, Andrea Schiliro'

Marathon training is hard work but at the end of the day, I am doing it because it is my passion and this was a wonderful reminder that I need to allow myself to enjoy and celebrate my passion. At the very least I shouldn’t be referring to my training as a regime.

LONG RUN - RUNNING WITH LEGENDS

Sunday afternoon Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson came to camp to join us for a long run!!  

I was enjoying running with a small group at a strong and steady pace when I looked over my shoulder and saw Joan alone a couple hundred meters back. I thought to myself, I can click off km’s any day at any pace but I will likely never get the opportunity to run with Joan Benoit Samuelson again!  I dropped back and I ran with her for a good portion of our long run.  I asked her what she thought of yesterday's events and told her the amazing lessons that I had learned while being here. We were going at a pretty strong pace so I figured she must be training for something? She said that she is training to run a sub 3-hour marathon in the fall and that she will be 60 in 9 days!!!! 

LESSON 3. THERE IS NO FINISH LINE

In the back of my head, I am aware that there is a clock ticking away above the timeline of my marathon years, at this point, there is still a lot of time on the clock but I always think what happens when I reach my potential or if I get to my peak and start regressing? Hearing Joan’s goal to break 3 hours at the age of 60 made me realize that it’s never over, there really is no finish line in running. You need to stay hungry and set goals that challenge you at any age and fitness level.

 

"BUT I'M NOT A RUNNER "

I went to Monza as a RUNNER excited to see history be made in the sport that I am passionate about. The camp was filled with a diverse range of runners. There were other NRC pacers, Run Clubs and then individuals that were there through Airbnb's “Why do you run contest”  While everyone had a relationship and passion for running I found these individuals the most interesting. I would talk to them and ask them what their relationship for running is?

Rachel -  Martin Richard, The youngest victim of the Boston Bombing was one of her students and she had promised him that she would run a marathon with him when he turned 18. She runs for a foundation called MR8 and trains for the Boston Marathon every year.  "BUT I’M NOT A RUNNER."

Caleb - Helps run a program called Youth Run NOLA (New Orleans, LA), which creates and empowers a community of healthy young leaders through running.  "BUT I AM NOT A RUNNER."

LESSON 4. MORE THAN RUNNING

I kept on hearing these stories from individuals explaining how they use running to enhance their passion or to make a difference for something that is meaningful to them. But they didn't identify as runners.. so why were they here? 

These individuals were using running to break barriers and make a difference in their everyday life! It was talking to these people that made me realize that this weekend was about more than running.  

I came to the camp so focused on running and breaking2 that I almost missed the bigger picture. IT’S ABOUT MORE THAN RUNNING!  It’s about finding the 2-hour barrier in your life and breaking it! That is why these individuals were here. Meeting them made me think about the barriers in my life, outside of running, that I need to break.

The ironic thing is that running is my passion and unlike the individuals mentioned above, I don’t use it to enhance other aspects of my life. In fact, I do the opposite. Being at this camp and surrounded by these amazing people made me realize that I've been using running as a coping mechanism to soothe myself and that I have fallen asleep in other areas of my life. Being at this camp and meeting these individuals WOKE ME UP. I need to stop using running as an escape, I shouldn’t want to escape in the first place. I suppose the overall realization is that, I need to find a way to spend more hours of my life doing something that I am either passionate about or find meaningful. That is my barrier.

THE REAL REASON THAT WE RUN

In closing this weekend can be summarized by Bill Bowerman - “ The real purpose of running isn't to win the race, it's to test the limits of the human heart.”

That is what this weekend was about. It was about inspiring others. Eliud, Zersenay and Lelisa set out to do something that the world was telling them can’t be done. I hope that they inspired you to pick a goal, one that is so big that you might be afraid to share it at first, one that will test your heart and your character, one that is so audacious that you might not even achieve it. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you achieve it or not, but I guarantee that if you train for it and put a genuine effort into achieving it you will be changed and it will be the most rewarding thing that you will have ever done for yourself.


GOAL: 2:20:00

At the end of the day when I look back at what I have achieved in this sport, I would like to be able to say that I ran a sub 2:20:00 Marathon.  

Breaking2 was 2 years in the making. It might take me 2 years to achieve this, it might take me 4, it might take me the rest of my competitive days and at the end, It might not even happen. I have no reason to put a limit of myself and no reason not to try. 

To achieve this goal there are several smaller ones that I have to conquer along the way. The first being to get under 2:25:00. So in a couple of weeks when I start my official fall marathon build that will be what I am aiming for.

Thank you for reading,

I look forward to hearing your goals and following your journey as you set out to achieve them.

Eric Bang

THANK YOU

There are more people than I even know that I owe thanks to and I will never be able to thank you enough. Paulina, Jess, Ali, Inge,  NRC Italy for hosting us and everyone that made this experience my reality - Thank you 

PHOTO: @lebougmelo , Gautier Pellergin

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