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My Amazingly Inspiring Running Friends

by Daniel Johnston

During my time running, I have had the great luck to met and run with several very incredibly talented runners. There are three in particular I want to talk about. I’ll save the best for last.

The Half Marathon Magic

The first is a kid who used to run track in middle school. Although I had heard that, I did not become aware of his true running prowess until we did a running obstacle course during the winter. It was an exact tie, but in the running part he beat me by ten seconds.

I sure didn’t like that.

Some of my friends began murmuring that he may be faster than me. But I brushed it off, saying he had better shoes for the snow and I’d had a bad day.

Later, we did a 5k together. It was his first, and he got about 24 and a half minutes without training. Better than my 26 with no training, but not spectacular.

Our running rivalry continued in another race. I had ran a few miles that morning, but wanted to take a crack at him anyways.

He won. (He wouldn’t have if I had been rested, though!) 🙂

All this was nice, but nothing amazing. After all, there are plenty of runners who are faster than me. But when we did our first half-marathon together was when he really shined.

This kid did not train at all for the half marathon. On the other hand, I was running about 20-25 miles a week in preparation. I was doing everything possible to make sure I had a great race. He did absolutely nothing.

He guessed he would probably finish it in about two hours. That’s why I was shocked when he came up to me only a few minutes after I had crossed the finish line.

I looked at him to make sure it was real. I couldn’t believe it! “I didn’t expect you to finish so quickly,” I told him. “Neither did I,” he admitted.

What was his time? 1:45. Exactly 8 minutes per mile. With no training. Unbelievable.

He attributed it to his mental training he had gotten in middle school. He said he had learned how to detach his mind from his body, and that’s how he was able to go so fast.

I wish I had that ability 🙂

An Amazing Sprinter

My next friend is a blazing fast runner. He’s not great at long distance, but man I have never seen anyone sprint like he can.

I first became acquainted with his speed when we were playing football, which we would do several times a week. Although I’m a relatively fast guy, the only way to prevent him from running past me was to push him.

But the real trouble started when he learned how effective he was at simply being handed the ball and running. There was only one person of all the people we ever played with who could catch him. That’s me.

If I did not tag him right out of the gate, he would blow by everyone. There is literally not one time that anyone other than me tagged this kid. Not once.

On the times when I wouldn’t get him, I would watch in awe as he sped down the sideline. If he got behind me, there was simply no chance. The guy ran like a freight train. I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Even at 5k distance, this guy could still run. He ran 23 minute 5ks without training. The best I can do is 26.

Even at half marathons, he was awesome. With very minimal training, he ran a 1:50 half marathon. Certainly it’s not his distance, but he still did great.

Some of our mutual friends tell me I’m a faster sprinter than him now. We’ve gone separate ways, so it’s impossible to test that theory. But if I was able to beat him in a sprinting match, I would consider it a miracle, because I have never seen anyone run like him.

The Miracle Runner

Ok, you might meet some people who are as talented as the above two, but you won’t be anyone like this kid.

I promise.

He was simply a freak of nature. To this day I marvel at his accomplishments. I just can’t believe the kind of runner he was!

He was not a fast sprinter. In fact, he was one of the slowest of my group of friends. But when you got to longer distance, boy did that not matter!

In the time that I knew him, he was never even in good shape. He had no chance of keeping up with me or some of my friends on the football field or the basketball court.

So when we had a mile race, I fully intended to defeat him.

Although I was ahead of him the whole race, at the very end something took over him. I saw the expression on his face, and I knew what it meant. He was going to will himself to win.

He was way behind me with only a quarter of a lap to go. It didn’t matter. I looked into myself. I was exhausted. I had absolutely nothing left to give. I knew he had even less.

Yet he came barreling past me, in an action that shouldn’t have been possible but one that somehow he did. He finished in 6:03, me coming in at 6:17. I still wonder how fast he could’ve gone. If the pace had been a minute faster, would he have gone a minute faster, too? I don’t know. It’s impossible to put a limit on a kid like that.

Even more amazing, though, is that he would finish 5ks in 18 minutes with no training. 8 minutes better than is possible for me, 5 minutes better than is possible for my friend above. Even with all my training, I can still only do 20 minutes; I’d still lose to him untrained!

His prowess also extended to half marathons. On several occasions, he ran a half marathon with no training and got a time of under 1:40. My trained half marathon time is faster than his, but not by much.

It amazes me still how fast these guys can run. They are all better runners than me. Untrained, they would all slam me. But that’s ok. It inspires me to do better, to marvel at these freaks of nature.

I’ll never forget the look the miracle runner had as he prepared himself to do the impossible, as he pushed himself to a level of running and pain that I cannot even imagine. That look of determination, of digging deep and doing what anyone else would consider to be impossible is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.

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