“But when I finally crossed the end line on Boylston Street in 3:46:01 I dropped to my knees to weep profusely and without shame. I had finished 6,771st in a field of 20,000 runners. I had lived the life of a Boston marathoner and, in my own mind, come out a winner.“
Scott Russell does more than run 26.2 miles when he completes a marathon. He actually gets a step closer to the world he makes his living from. Russell is one of Canada’s premiere sports broadcasters, host of CBC’s Sports Weekend and co-host of CBC’s Gemini-award winning coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He’s covered nine Olympic Games, and is host of Major League Soccer on CBC.
How does your perception of sportscasters change when you find out they take part in demanding athletic pursuits? Leave a comment, after reading this special Guest Post that Scott Russell wrote for Good4Sports.
“Running My Own Race”
Before my latest half marathon in Toronto I went to the pasta dinner to carbo-load. But I also went to learn something.
“Run your own race,” Joan Benoit Samuelson declared, as we collectively gobbled up the penne and meat sauce. “But don’t let running rule your life.”
I took her keynote message to heart that evening. But as I listened to this living legend of running – the first women’s Olympic marathon champion – I understood that it was essential for me to actually be in the race.
For a sports broadcaster this hasn’t always been a convenient lesson to grasp. Too often in my business it’s been easier to play the role of the critical observer. For most of my fraternity, a place on the sidelines has been the comfort zone from which to analyze and pick apart the performances of the real athletes. It is our soapbox and from its lofty perch we attempt to impart a story that we know painfully little about.
Distance running has therefore become my entry to insider status in the world of athletics.
It’s not as easy as it looks.
During the course of my less than illustrious career on the pavement I’ve completed 15 half marathons and three painstaking odysseys which have seen me ploddingly cover the entire distance of 26.2 miles. In fact, I qualified for and ran the 109th Boston Marathon on the 25th anniversary of Canadian Jacqueline Gareau’s victory in 1980.
This was the shamefully historic moment where Gareau, who led throughout the race, crossed the finish line only to see a woman named Rosie Ruiz wearing the victor’s laurel wreath. Ruiz was a fraud having jumped into the competition close to its conclusion to break the hallowed tape and steal the precious accolades from Gareau.
It was something I could not possibly have understood until I fidgeted in the starting pen before the gun went off in Hopkinton, Massachusetts on that warm April day in 2005.
As the fighter jets flew over and the “Star Spangled Banner” played, there was Jacqueline Gareau – a quarter of a century later – finally wearing her crown as the Boston Marathon Champion.
“Just to be at the start line means that you are all elite athletes,” Gareau beamed. “Make sure you run your own race.”
With that we were off and the rest was a blur.
All of the training, the dietary commitment and the lack of beer over the last 18 weeks came down to just under four hours of complete and utter agony. My hamstring popped, I had to pee like a racehorse and I had worn altogether too many clothes. The many miles of walking I had done in and around Boston with my wife Catherine the weekend before that Patriot’s Day had come back to haunt me.
But when I finally crossed the end line on Boylston Street in 3:46:01 I dropped to my knees to weep profusely and without shame. I had finished 6,771st in a field of 20,000 runners. I had lived the life of a Boston marathoner and, in my own mind, come out a winner.
As a sports broadcaster, this has become a sort of personal salvation. To go the complete distance is to become a kindred spirit to all the other athletes I have encountered over the years. It means when I speak of their trials and tribulations, their successes and failures, I have some miniscule understanding of what they’ve been through.
I was reminded of this when Joan Benoit Samuelson uttered those echoing words of Jacqueline Gareau’s before my last distance effort. ‘Run your own race,” the legend said.
And so I went out and did just that.
Scott Rusell hosts CBC’s Sportsweekend, and on Saturday October 24th, you can watch coverage of Grand Prix Figure Skating from Moscow, and the World Cup of Curling from Mississauga, Ontario.
You can read Scott’s regular blogs at http://www.cbc.ca/sports/blogs/