Dear diary: I have a confession.
Emily Sisson is a runner. A runner who just finished 10th at the 10K world championships. A runner who ran a 2:23:08 marathon debut at London this year, finishing sixth and ahead of her training partner, Molly Huddle. A runner who was the 2015 5k national champion. A runner that we in the Running World refer to as "Fast."
And I broke her.
It started out innocently enough. The day is October 25. It's a glorious morning at the track. Just a few people are here. A sprinter running repeats on the back straight. The shot put boys sunning and playing handball. I'm in lane 9, minding my own business. And then emily sisson flies by.
She's in lane 1, being paced by her hubby. They're running mile-and-a-half repeats. He leads her out for a mile or so and then falls off, leaving her to finish. If you've never been a few feet away from a world-class runner in full flight, you don't know what it's like. So fast, smooth, graceful. A gazelle in motion. She's pushing really, really hard.
I realize it must be because of me.
I'm in lane 9, running 13:10 pace. Even though the distance around lane 9 is much longer than lane 1, I'm keeping up with her. If keeping up means I'm running about a lap every time she runs a mile. She is clearly annoyed that the old guy is dusting her doors, if dusting her doors is an actual phrase, and I'm fairly certain it is not.
She pretends never to see me, although I'm sure she's watching out the corner of her eye. Between the 1.5 mile repeats, they pause for water (sissies) and talk with her father-in-law, who doubles as coach, race photographer and bodyguard. Maybe that's tripling.
Please note that although she keeps pausing between repeats, I continue on my way, never stopping, never wavering from my 13-minute march, never going fast enough to get a ticket in a school zone. She, on the other hand, is uncorking a pace that only a few people on the planet can maintain. So I'm calling it even.
Mile and a half after mile and a half, she hammers. I'm certain it's because my 13:10 has forced her into pushing her pace to the limit. I want to tell her it's not a competition, it's only an exhibition, please no wagering, but Letterman hasn't been on the air in a long time, and it feels like the father-in-law will shoot me if I try to come within a couple lanes of her. Do starter's guns hurt?
It's a joy to watch her blur go by again and again. No crowds, no glory, just a runner suffering on a lonely community college track in Arizona on a hot, windy day. So THAT'S how these people get to be so fast. By running fast. Who knew?
And then, my 4 miles are over. She takes off on a cooldown run somewhere off the track, likely to Flagstaff and back. And that’s that. I can sense I have pushed her to her absolute limit.
She posts a video later in the day of the workout. I feel honored I was able to help her out.
And then. FOUR DAYS LATER on the same Instagram account, she posts that she is being forced to pull out of the USATF 5K Championships in New York because of a "small flare-up" getting back into training. Coincidence? I'm guessing not. Never race before the race, Kermit the Frog once said.* And clearly my relentless 13:10 pace forced her to maintain a level too high.
She wasn't at the track today for her Friday session. I hope the father-in-law doesn't find me.
Thanks for listening, diary. I feel better.
I hope I never run into Sara Hall in Flagstaff ...
(frame grab stolen from em_sisson on instagram since i figure she's already suing me anyhow.)
*awaiting wikipedia sourcing on quote