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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Stone Face Challenge

This past Friday I set out to do a run workout consisting of a 1 mile warm up, 4 miles at 7mm, followed by a 1 mile cool down. I found myself feeling very sluggish and I wasn’t even sure I would be able to run 1 mile, much less 4 at a 7 minute mile pace.

While I was warming up, a regular in Prospect Park, whom I nicknamed Stoneface speed walked/ran past me. I call him stone face since he always has the same fixed expression. I have never seen his face move. It is as if he suffers complete paralysis of his facial muscles. This runner is hard to miss. He is always wearing long pants and a cotton t-shirt. In the rain, he will run with an umbrella.

Anyway, Stoneface passed me about a half mile into my warm up. I was going very slow and contemplating how difficult is was to be running, much less how hard it would be to pick up my pace to 7mm. The one mile mark had me at the top of the hill, so at first it was pretty easy to start to pick up my pace. As I got to the bottom of the hill, I caught up to Stoneface.

Stoneface was the last person I would ever have expected to put up a challenge to keep me from passing. I never really saw him move with anything other than a very fast speed walk. This day however, he saw me coming an refused to let me pass.

I found the situation quite amusing. It was just the inspiration I needed to hold my pace. For a while I was concerned that I wasn’t even approaching a 7mm, but I was running as fast as I was capable at the time. Stoneface match my pace stride for stride and refused to let me pass.

I know for a fact that if he didn’t mount this challenge, there was no way I was going to be able to hold the pace. We ran this way for about 2 miles, just until the bottom of the next hill. By this time I finally wore him out and my legs found their pace. Like the space shuttles solid rocket boosters, I was now launched into a respectable speed.

I completed 1 loop of the park in 24:38 which is just slightly over 7mm. I’d had enough and started to walk to let my HR settle and then started an easy run home. Stoneface caught up with me by this time. I could only wonder what he was thinking. I would have said something to him, but I don’t think this man has communicated with another human being in years.


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