The Most Important Mile of My Life: SBS Edition

Lynn by my side--and believing in me--around Mile 20 of my spring 2009 marathon, the race I was aiming for when she had me run the timed mile to determine my training paces.
Lynn by my side--and believing in me--around Mile 20 of my spring 2009 marathon, the race I was aiming for when she had me run the timed mile to determine my training paces.

I'd done a timed mile before--but never one with the eyes of an Olympian glued to me. This time, Lynn Jennings, the 10,000 meter bronze medalist in the 1992 Games and three-time world cross-country champion, is encouraging me to run all out four times around a track. Two years previous to this overcast, chilly morning, I'd run 7:34 for the mile, and I had been elated. In the intervening years I'd honed my speed, and Lynn has unwavering confidence I can run well under 7:00. The number sounds dauntingly hard, but having a world champion believe in you does wonders for your ability.

Under the weak winter light, Lynn stands on the far curve of the Grant High School track, hunching over slightly in her Gore-Tex jacket and baseball cap with an iPhone in her hand. She is the only witness as I circle the track, once, twice, three times (that is the toughest one!), then the final lap. She eggs me on in the same firm-yet-encouraging tone I'd heard her use when we had watched Kara Goucher nab her qualifying time for the 2008 Olympics Trials. Me: an Olympian is cheering on me, encouraging me to push to my limits. I want to do well for me--and for her. I long to have Lynn proud of me, as she prepares to train me to reach toward my marathon PR that spring.

Lynn cheering for the blur that is Kara Goucher in June 2008.
June 2008: Lynn cheering for the blur that is Kara Goucher.

With limbs tingling and lungs heaving, I clock a 6:37 mile that morning on the track--and, four months later, go on to cut roughly eight minutes of my marathon best in a time of 3:52.

That mile showed me how deep I could dig, how far I could push past the hurt and perceived limitations. In the four+ years since, I've never run that fast again, but that mile cemented my faith in my ability and determination. That mile, the most important one in my life, gave me the fortitude to qualify for Boston and to persevere through some blisteringly hot marathons. That mile made me the confident, ever-optimistic runner I am now--no matter what pace my miles are today.

Lynn (right), me, and my then-7-year-old daughter, Phoebe after my marathon PR.
Lynn (right), me, and my then-7-year-old daughter, Phoebe after my marathon PR.

What was (or will be) the most important mile of your life? We want to know.

We’re going to make this an ongoing feature on the website (and potentially include some important miles in our yet-to-be-named third book, out in spring of 2015). Best way to submit is to email us your story with a picture: runmother {at} gmail {dot} com with “Most Important Mile” in the subject line. Please try to keep your mile stories under 300 words. Thank you!


12 responses to “The Most Important Mile of My Life: SBS Edition

  1. Many thanks each alternate great post. In which more may well any individual get that type of information in such a great way with words? I get a powerpoint presentation pursuing week, and i am on the look for similarly info.

  2. Possibly mile 2 of any race longer than 4 miles…the first mile is get-the-kinks-out mile and sometimes the 2nd is because I am on my way to a great race.***BUT ULTIMATELY, the very last mile is my best…It proves to wash away any doubts, any mistakes, any flubs of training and reinforces that I am a runner regardless of my jiggly body, my sore and swollen feet, my stinky sweat and time, my genuine tears, my aching muscles, thus giving me the distinct and proud feeling of accomplishment.

  3. The most important mile of my life was the last one of my first full marathon. I was in agony. I had gotten injured around mile 12 but was determined to finish. I had trained way too hard and too long not to. I walked a lot of the second half of that race. With one mile left to go, I was spent. I wanted to fall down on the ground and never get up again. But I couldn’t. I managed to jog most of it, and I crossed the finish line holding hands with three of the girls I had trained so hard with. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life. I’m crying now just remembering it. No one says you have to be fast; you just have to do the damn thing. It’s an accomplishment like no other.

  4. My most important mile was the last of my first ever 60 minute run. I was pushing my son on a scotching summer morning in Phoenix and smiled the whole time as the final minutes ticked away on my watch! It was amazing!

  5. How I remember watching you scoot around the Grant track as you trained for Eugene that year. It’s an honor to continue to watch you hone your running skills, Sarah! You’re an inspiration to us all.

  6. First, goosebumps the whole time I was reading that! Love it. And way to go Sarah!!
    Second, and I may have told you this before but it bears repeating, can I please tell you how insanely jealous I am that you have LYNN JENNINGS coaching and cheering you on!! That is so dang cool!! I used to have pictures of her and quotes from her on my walls in high school!!!! One of my absolute heroes growing up! Yes, always was and still am a total running geek and true fan of the sport. PLEASE give Lynn a shout-out from me, she was such a great influence on me growing up and I just loved her grit and passion.
    Anyway, thanks for your story. I’ll have to get mine written up here soon – if I can ever get it narrowed down to just one mile….

  7. you are such a good writer! (in case you didn’t know that already) I want to go run……..really fast…..right now!

  8. This is a wonderful story, Sarah! Thanks for sharing it. These “most important mile” tales will be great fun to read.

  9. I couldn’t tell you have fast it was and it was not even in a race. The most important mile was that mile I put under my feet at various locations around a marathon course watching a friend. I talked with injured runners who cheered on friends. I received encouragement to take my running from just something I was doing to racing. The people on the sides of that marathon showed me how great the running community is and pushed me to start considering myself a real runner. Two months later I ran my first race and have been hooked since.

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