I am a moron.
I know … I know—tell us something new.
But, really, in the case of today’s Quaz, I truly am.
A bunch of weeks ago, after Amy Hastings placed fourth in the trials for the U.S. Women’s Marathon (thereby failing to make the team), she agreed to take part in the Quaz. She was wonderful and gracious and funny, and I felt truly horrible for her.
In fact, throughout these Games I’ve thought about poor Amy, watching the Olympics from home, knowing how painfully close she came to being a part of the magic. In fact, earlier today I sent her an e-mail, asking where she was and what it was like watching the event from a couch or bar or whatever. I sent the note off, but never heard back. Hmm … perhaps she’s just too devastated. Hmmm …
Then, a few minutes ago, I Googled her. Amy Hastings ain’t devastated.
She’s an Olympian.
Turns out, after we spoke, Amy qualified in the 10,000. She actually competed last Friday, placing a wondrous 11th with a PR of 31:10.69 (impressively, she hung with the lead group of East Africans for the first 18 minutes). I feel like a complete tool, being unaware and such. But, well, hey. Mistakes are made, tools emerge, blah, blah, blah.
In other words, Amy Hastings is today’s Quaz—and she’s absolutely wonderful. Besides being one of America’s best runners, she’s a fantastic ambassador for the sport; someone who runs with passion, but also speaks on the subject with eloquence. Amy attended Arizona State, where she was the 2005 NCAA Indoor champion in the 5,000 meters. Last year, she celebrated her first 26.2 by, ahem, placing second in the Los Angeles Marathon with a time of 2:27:03.
Anyhow, it is an absolute honor to welcome this week’s Quaz, Olympian Amy Hastings …
JEFF PEARLMAN: Amy, I’m gonna start out with the most important question I’ve ever asked anyone here. My wife and I are both runners, and a couple of months ago she returned from shopping with a “running skirt.” Literally, it’s a skirt for women to run in. I’m an old-school guy who flops on some running shorts, a sleeve-less T and his sneakers and takes off. Please tell me I’m not crazing in finding this—a running skirt—absolutely ridiculous. And please tell me you don’t have one …
AMY HASTINGS: I must agree with you on this one! Running skirts for women are ridiculous! Really they are just a pair of spandex running shorts with an extra piece of fabric wrapped around them. When i’m running, I would opt out of having an extra anything weighing me down. On the other hand, they do wonders for my butt … maybe they’re not so ridiculous!
J.P.: This past January you placed fourth in the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. Which, I’m guessing, must be the ultimate combination of suckage and fantastic. Your 2:27:17 was only 15 seconds off your PR—great. But you missed making the team by one spot—horrible. How did you cope with coming so close? Do you sit back in the immediate aftermath and think, “How? Why? What could I have done differently?” Do you just accept it with a smile?
A.H.: The marathon trials were a tough pill to swallow, but a necessary one for my future as a competitive runner. Being so close gave me more drive than ever to make the team. Everyone at some point in their life works their butt off for something important to them, and the unfortunate truth is, it doesn’t always work out. I believe it’s the people who can pick themselves up and learn from their experiences that end up succeeding. The stuff you learn during the tough times are the keys to success, which is why times of fantastic are usually preceded by the greatest times of suckage. I feel like the luckiest person in the world, because for many, when their dreams don’t come true, it’s a long time before they get another chance. I get two more shots at my dream only five and a half months after the marathon and I’m going to use every bit of knowledge I acquired during that marathon to be in the top three this time!
J.P.: Here’s what I know, Amy: You’re from Kansas, you attended Arizona State, you run like the wind. What I’d like to know is this: How did this running thing happen for you? Like, what led you down this path? When did you start running? Who inspired/pushed you? And when did you know you were especially good at it?
A.H.: My dad loves to tell the story about how when I was four we were out for a family stroll and came upon a track. I asked how many laps to make a mile and when he told me I started running around it. They laughed thinking I wouldn’t make it a lap but when I started on lap three they realized I was serious and my mom made me stop because she didn’t know if it was healthy for a four year old to run that far. He says (always with a far off look in his eye) that’s when he knew I would be a distance runner … I wish he had told me! I tried every sport on the planet when I was younger and was below average at all of them until cross country. I had amazing high school coaches and teammates and for the first time in my life I was one of the teammates helping us succeed instead of one of the teammates cheering on the MVP from the bench. Anyway, I was hooked and have loved it ever since.
J.P.: Amy, how do you deal with the pain and suffering come mile 16 … 17 … 18? And do you think, because you run 100-plus miles per week, your pain and suffering isn’t as bad as average hacks like myself?
A.H.: When it comes down to it 26.2 miles is going to hurt no matter how you slice it! Whether you are out there for two hours or 10 it’s a lot for the body to go through. Marathons are are the great equalizers in that sense because everyone hurts when they cross the line. They create a sense of comraderie because it feels like you went into battle with every other person out there and whether or not you defeated the 26.2 mile beast, you attempted it and felt its wrath. The 100-mile weeks definitely help me finish faster but both times when I crossed the finish line I was hurting.
J.P.: I ran track and cross country as a freshman at the University of Delaware. It was a wonderful experience—and last year the school killed all three men’s running programs. This is happening all over the country, with programs being slashed left and right while, oh, football keeps 100 players on its roster. Do you think there’s some sort of war on running going on in college sports? Do you think running gets the respect it deserves?
A.H.: This makes me so sad. Running is not just a sport but a healthier way of life and it should be encouraged to more people not cut out of programs. Really, how much money does cutting cross country save a school? With as many kids who run in high school and as many people that run marathons after college why does anyone think cutting out the running programs for in between that time is a good idea? No respect.
J.P.: What are you thinking when you run? What I mean is, you have 26.2 miles to cover in a marathon—I can’t imagine it’s all “lower my arms … slow down a bit here … watch her …” Do you ever think, “I wonder who’s gonna be on American Idol tonight?” or “I can sure go for a taco?” Does your mind wander? And, in running, is that good? Like, do you want distractions? Or do you need to stay 100 percent focused on your body?
A.H.: When I was younger I couldn’t make through an entire lap on the track without thinking about something else. Half the time I was singing in my head (sometimes out loud) and the other half was about the usual high school dramas. Since then I have spent countless hours not only training my body but training my mind so I can focus for entire races. However, when it comes down to it, if it’s a big, exciting race I am completely in the moment and focusing has never been a problem.
J.P.: I ran the Philadelphia Marathon several years ago, and decided to do so listening to music. I ended up loathing the experience—my time sucked, and I felt like I missed out on everything. Nowadays, an increasing number of races don’t allow competitors to run with music. What do you think about that? Do you find that running/training to music helps you as a distractor, or hurts you as a distractor? And do you think music is playing too biog a role in distance running?
A.H.: I am all about anything that helps get a person out the door and if a pump up play list does the trick thats great! Just don’t forget to turn it off every once in a while and be in the moment.
J.P.: There are millions of Americans who don’t get distance running. Who. Just. Don’t. Get. It. They don’t understand the joy, the pleasure, the passion. They see people taking long jogs and think, “Ugh.” Amy, how would you explain it to such folks?
A.H.: I would tell them it’s kind of like coffee. The first time you drink it you might not like it. It’s bitter and leaves a bad taste in your mouth but you kind of like the way it makes you feel. However, after a few times it starts to taste better and then all of a sudden you’re hooked and it’s the new best part of waking up.
J.P.: You are sponsored by, I believe, Brooks. But I wanna ask a blunt question—does it matter? Nike, Adidas, Brooks, Puma, Reebok … come day’s end, isn’t it all about going out there and running? Isn’t this whole sports apparel thing a tad ludicrous? Especially for a sport that, I believe, has a beauty in its simplicity?
A.H.: If it wasn’t for Brooks picking me up a few years ago I would not of been able to continue running. They took a chance on me when I was running terribly and gave me a second shot at chasing my dream. I would like to say you have never truly experienced running unless you are wearing Brooks but the thing I love about this company is that their main goal is to get everyone out running happily—no matter what are on their feet!
J.P.: Selfish question—I’m 40. I want to break three hours in the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon. In baseball, being your best at 40 is pretty impossible. Same with football, basketball, soccer, boxing. Running seems different. But am I just being naïve?
A.H.: No way! As long as you take care of your body you can still run PR’s later in running. Learning how to race smart no matter what age you are is the key. Good luck in Marine Corps! [Writer’s note: Because of a back injury, I’m out. Damn]
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH AMY HASTINGS:
• Five reasons to make Leavenworth, Kansas a vacation destination?: 1. Our tourism motto is, “Come do time in Leavenworth!”—we are home to the federal penitentary, military prison (disciplinary barracks), KS State penitentary and a few other small prisons!; 2. Hometown of Melissa Ethridge!; 3. Noodling! (Catching catfish with your bare hands!; 4.There is a ton of Civil War history that took place in Fort Leavenworth, which is boring, but that also means there are tons of Civil War ghosts that still roam around Fort Leavenworth which is 100 percent awesome; 5. Hitting golf balls into the Missouri River with a baseball bat from 1st Street is really fun.
• Have you ever thought you were about to die in a place crash? If so, please tell …: Yes! Almost every time I am in one of those tiny prop planes I get the cold sweats and start going over my bucket list—i’ve still got a long ways to go …
• Rank in order (favorite to least favorite): Garfield, Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Diet Pepsi, James Taylor, Superman III, Alber Pujols, papaya, barefoot running, 2% milk, Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini, the local news, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Eugene, Oregon: 1. 2% milk; 2. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill; 3. James Taylor (My dad used to sing me his song “Sweet Baby James” every night before bed when I was little; 5. Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini (A stand up guy I had never heard of! I am learning a lot from this Q&A); 6. papaya; 7. Lady Gaga; 8. the local news; 9. Eugene, Oregon; 10. Garfield; 11. Barefoot running; 12. Albert Pujols; 13. Superman III; 14. Celine Dion; 15. Diet Pepsi.
• You and Barry Bonds both attended Arizona State. Does this make you any more sympathetic to his plight?: NO!!! Jerk.
• Greatest and lowest moments of your running career?: Lowest—pretty much all of 2009; Greatest- Arizona State 2007 Indoor and Outdoor NCAA Champions!
• What would be your time in the Los Angeles Marathon is you had to run it without shoes?: I probably would have stopped at a bar and I would still be there today.
• If, say, LeBron James retired today to devote himself fully to distance running, could his pure athleticism make him something special?: Yes! At the very least he would be the tallest marathoner of all time, but I just have to much respect for the sport of basketball to try to get him to make the switch.
• Five worst injuries for a runner to have: 1. Sore knees; 2. Achilles blow out; 3. Broken bones (anywhere besides your arms); 4. Plantar Fasciitis; 5. Pulled hammy.
• Best advice you’ve ever received: There are good miles and bad miles, in running and in life. And no matter what, you don’t always know when they will hit.
• On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the beauty of your feet: Currently, I only have one dead toenail so i’ll give myself a nine out of ten!