'I think you'll be a great marathoner some day.' Tom uttered non-chalantly. I had never run more than 12 miles. The idea of running 26.2 let alone being great at this distance was beyond my comprehension.
But, Tom knew what he was talking about. He was an Olympic development coach. However, he was much more than a coach to me, he was a veritable running deity.
My time with Tom was all too brief. I barely spent a year working with him. Without his coaching, I lost my way. Running became less of a passion and more of a casual hobby.
Nearly a decade removed from Tom's declaration I found myself wondering what he meant. What did 'great' look like? What did he mean when he said this?
I still had yet to run a single marathon, but I found myself wondering if I could do one. Maybe I was too old to be a 'great' marathoner, but I didn't really know what Tom meant when he said this anyway.
So, my definition of great simply involved completing a marathon. This would be no small feat and seemed like a step in the direction of greatness.
While my first marathon was not exactly great, I crossed the finish line confident that the next marathon might not be great, but it would be better.
Six months of training unlike anything I had done in my life got me to the starting line confident I could take another step closer to greatness.
GI issues and a sprained ankle incurred at mile 20 slowed me, but didn't stop me from qualifying for Boston. Tom might have considered this to be a great marathon, but I didn't really know, so the quest for greatness continued.
This quest drove me to break 3 hours and eventually 2:45. I pushed onward not knowing exactly what Tom meant, but convinced greatness was just a step or two away.
In the absence of knowing what Tom's definition of greatness really was, my own definition began to take shape and crystallize.
Toeing the line despite doubt and fear is greatness. Laying it all on the line and spending everything is greatness. Fighting through discomfort, fatigue, and pain is greatness. Doing the absolute best with what you have is greatness. I don't know if greatness is a quest that ever really ends. I suspect Tom would generally agree with this definition.
I know I am closer to being great than not. Some day, I might get there. So, the quest continues. I run because I will be a great marathoner some day..