Mary Decker Slaney’s Birthday and Bringing ‘it’ to the Track

So today I think I need to start with a little tribute to one of the most amazing female runners…it’s Mary Decker Slaney’s birthday today and I was reminded of this by a FB friend who posted this AMAZINGLY inspiring 3000 meter race from the 1983 World Championships.

mary decker and ruth wysocki

Toonicized 1984 US Olympic Trials 1500m


Now, I’m a bit too young to have been lucky enough to really watch her races when she was the she-fire on the track, but growing up my mom made it clear that Mary was one of ‘those’ people. The people that to us distance runners, are true idols. Who, to the common mainstream public, may be their Kim K’s, Justin B’s, Harrison Fords…you get the picture. I’m also lame because I’m grappling for the ‘right’ kind of celeb to parallel to our distance running idols but am coming up short.

I’d like to think of Mary as more than a few notches above a Kardashian, so maybe a Jennifer Anniston or Reese Witherspoon, you know, more like an American Sweetheart type of thing.

I did this cartoon version of a picture that was taken by my photographer friend, Bill Leung, when he was there to witness the duel between Mary and Ruth Wysoki at the 1984 1500 meter US Olympic Trials. (A duel where Ruth actually made quite the upset for the win!) So in the real picture the photographer on the side wasn’t in it, that’s my little Bill tribute…hehe.

Anyways, Mary was one of those child phenoms that never burned out before hitting the pro circuit. She raced with guts, of course people are always quick to say ‘this and that’ about people, there are no shortage of negative commenters around, but there are no shortage of fans either. Regardless, I don’t think anyone, after watching races like these can argue with the fact that she is an inspiring and amazing athlete.

I did have the very fine pleasure of meeting and dining with Mary and her husband, and it’s so funny how runners have that duel persona. You can be gritty and fierce as heck on the track, but then cross the finish line and in ‘real life’ be the nicest person around. I’d say it’s more of a stark contrast with girls especially…though, don’t get me wrong because girls can be plenty catty if you catch the wrong set of ‘mean girls.’ Haha.

it's GO time

It's GO time...

My point was, even if it’s your best friend in a race, fire the gun and in competitive situations it’s every man for himself. Some people can argue with me there, “You shouldn’t try to beat your friends,” “Be nice,” and things like that. And if you are going into a race planning on just doing it for fun, then that’s fine, and in that instance it’s not necessarily a ‘race’ between you two.

But when you’re putting it all on the line, and in cases where you really are fighting for the win, the place, I don’t think it’s mean or rude to separate life on the track from that off the track. In fact I think you’re only doing a disservice to the sport and your competitors if you don’t give it you all. (There are always exceptions, if you’re there to pace a training partner to their PR or something like that, I’m not a total heartless jerk…lol.)

I’ve been perfectly happy warming up with my friend (it eases my nerves to have them there actually…I know some people are the opposite and don’t like to talk), knowing full well they too want the very same place as I do in the race, and really I’d have been really pi**ed if they played the ‘nice’ card and ‘gave’ me a win. It works both ways, if you beat someone you want to beat them at their best, not some charity case. So when the gun is fired, it’s ‘go’ time.

However, once the line is crossed, that is when the true signs of sportsmanship should be shown. That’s when the ‘nice’ runner emerges and you congratulate people if you did wind up the winner, and you put on a brave face if you weren’t. You hold it together if you had a horrible race and if you’re going to cry or throw a fit try to put a lid on the worst of it until you get somewhere by yourself. Because we all have those days, those disappointments, and in fact that’s where it can be a real blessing to have a friend/training partner that was in the race who you can cool-down with and talk to about it…because they’ll get it.

And here wraps up another long tangent filled post…I started out by wanting to wish a Happy Birthday to one of my running idols. I’d take that meeting with Mary and her husband (Actually that guy is hilarious!! He’s a stellar field event athlete in his own right and can actually rip a phone book in half too…so funny to see them next to each other with Mary being so slight!) over any ‘normal people’ celeb any day.

1) Who is one of your running idols?

2) Who is one of your any kind of idol?

I admire and respect a few people but not necessarily famous ones.

3) Race day, I know people race for many different reasons and so depending on the reason I think the ‘rules’ or protocols are different. When you toe the line do you take your friendships with you, or is it understood that it’s every man/woman for themselves but once you cross the line you’ll happily cool-down with a competitor?

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5 thoughts on “Mary Decker Slaney’s Birthday and Bringing ‘it’ to the Track

  1. I haven’t really discovered a ‘famous’ running idol, although ultramarathon runners like Scott Jurek and Anne Trason absolutely blow my mind! I guess I get the most inspiration from my blogging friends (like you!) who are just out there in the real world, dealing with running in real life and being amazing athletes at home 🙂
    As for other idols, I think I am so lucky to be surrounded by amazing ‘everyday’ people whom I look up to a lot so the only other people are of course, foodies! Jamie, Nigella, Martha, they are my calorie laden idols 🙂
    Given my brief racing history I don’t really know about the last part. I am running on Sunday with my sister but we’ll probably stick together the whole way. Neither of us is particularly competitive so it’ll just be a chance to run through our pretty city and catch up on the week – oh and we get some bling at the end 🙂

    • Good luck tomorrow (or you may be running as i type this thanks to the time diff…haha!) and have a wonderful run with your sis!! ummm, and i want to see pix of you rocking that bling after the finish. 😉

      ahhh, yes, foodie idols, they def deserve a little category and shrine all their own!!! 🙂

  2. I’ll have to agree with Amy! I do idolize all those awesome marathoners and ultramarathoners out there but i get most of my inspiration from all of the blogs I read. I love finding people like me who share the same passions and are still “real” people.

    Most of my idols are my family members! None of them are really athletes but I look up to all of them because they are all such amazing people!

    On race day I usually run alone. None of my friends run races so I am usually one to sign up alone. If a friend did run one, I think I would run with them for support, especially if it was their first race. If I was trying to set a PR though…that would be a different story 😀

    • i’m not totally soulless, if i signed up with a friend and promised to help them thru their first race i wouldn’t ditch them after the gun!! hehe. i also agree that some of the most amazing people are the people that are around us everyday!

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