The phone rang yesterday and I picked it up. "Hello, this is Peter."
"You’re responsible for this, you know."
"It’s your responsibility that this happened. I just wanted you to know."
I didn’t recognize her voice right away. In this age of emailing instead of calling, a person’s phone voice is not always immediately recognizable. I stalled for time. "What am I responsible for?"
Ahh. Running. "You BQ’d? Congratulations!" I was still stalling.
"Yes, and I owe it in large part to you for getting me started down this path, coach."
A running pupil. I ran through my trainees at the recent ATM Program I completed, just before my association with my running club blew up in a generational conflict over respect, fealty, honesty (ethics) and dedication to others, or lack thereof, and I resigned. "No, I didn’t do anything. You did it all." Still stalling.
"You don’t know who this is, do you?"
"Give me a hint."
"Long runs, track training, my first coach."
"You paced me in the Marine Corps Marathon..."
"Yes! And I BQ’d yesterday in only my second marathon, with a 3:40:56."
"That’s right, you were going to run a marathon in California."
"Yes, the California International Marathon in Sacramento."
"Wow, how did it feel to make it by four seconds? Were you crazy that last mile?"
"Uh, actually, Peter, I needed a 3:45, not a 3:40."
"Wow, you crushed it!" (Right: Me and my former pupil before the 2008 9/11 5K at the Pentagon.)
I thought back to coaching she in 2006, when she first showed up midway through the program in a small group I was leading. I had the fast group and she could keep up from the start. I ran with her in track that year, too. She was dedicated.
I subsequently asked her to coach in programs I directed, and she became a valued member of my coaching staff who I came to depend on. She progressed to where in 2008, she became the first, and so far only, student of mine who has bettered me in a race. This has happened more than once.
The first time it happened, I hoped it was an anomaly. Due to the staggered start (the women started after the men), she never actually passed me during the race. But then she started showing an annoying tendency to catch up with me in the last mile of long races, and crushing me the last mile.
At last year’s MCM, her first marathon, I "helped" her out by jumping in with her at MP 11 and pacing her the last 15 miles. Me, the veteran of seventeen marathons, showing the rookie how to do it.
Shortly after we passed MP 25, she kicked up the pace by several notches during her twenty-sixth mile and my fifteenth. She left me in the dust, far behind as she burned about a seven-minute last mile to finish in 3:51. I couldn’t keep up with her. (Left: Me and my former pupil after the 2008 9/11 5K at the Pentagon. This marked the last time I finished ahead of her.)
Now she has surpassed my marathon PR by almost ten minutes. It is a poor teacher whose pupils do not surpass him.
Congratulations Sasha, my good friend.