I had the privilege of running six miles with Dan Finanger this morning. Dan served as executive race director of the Twin Cities Marathon from 2000 to 2004, and himself ran 20 marathons in 20 years. A natural coach and great story-teller, Dan knows how to motivate people. He was just the right person for me to run with as I begin my training for this year’s Marine Corps Marathon (October 2011).
Dan was profiled in a Runner’s World article (July 2007) called Meet the Marathon Experts. While running with Dan this morning, he told me how he accidentally got into marathoning. When he was 17 years-old and a high school cross country runner, Dan’s brother convinced him to run the Grandma’s Marathon (last-minute) in Duluth, Minnesota. Dan used his sister-in-law’s race number (she had to back out) and told his brother he would probably run to the 10 mile mark and then pick up the “Sag Wagon” and get a ride to the finish. The most he had ever run before that point was nine miles, and that was six months before.
On the day of the race, Dan’s brother told him that he needed to pace himself and really think about not going too fast. He said, “When you feel good, slow down”. So Dan heeded his brother’s advice and everytime he felt like things were going well, he would remind himself to slow down. Dan made it to the 10 mile mark, and was still feeling good. Slowing down a little, he told himself he could do another five miles. At 15 miles, he began to really think positively…”I can do this”, he told himself.
Dan explained to me that shortly after he began engaging in this positive self-talk (somewhere around mile 17) a “bear” jumped on his back. And the bear was “staying on for the ride.” By the time he got to mile 22, Dan was stopping to walk, then to stretch, then to sit. His positive talk turned quickly negative and he began to ask himself, “What am I doing…how am I ever going to finish this thing?” That was when two men ran by him. One was holding a rope that was attached to the other, and on the back of one of their t-shirt’s were the word’s “Blind Runner”. Dan was awed and moved. So moved, infact, that he got himself moving… and started to run again. Although he felt like it was a shuffle, he was running, and more importantly, he was telling himself once again, “I can do this”. 17-year-old Dan finished his first marathon in 3:53. Little did he know that 20 years later he would finish his 20th marathon (and on one marathon set a PR under three hours)! Dan still remembers thinking to himself during that first marathon, “I can do this”…and to this day, he tells others, “you can too”!
Dan will be sharing some of his stories and his running tips with 9 Kid Fitness in the coming weeks in preparation for fall races. Are you training for a fall event? A marathon? A half-marathon? A 5K? What motivates you? Stay tuned for Coach Dan’s running tips.