Recent race results, part two: Bergesen

October 23, 2007

Why are these people smiling? Hint: the answer begins with a 2.

Post-race photo: everybody say SUB-THREEEE...

Our friend Sally Bergesen (at left) ran her first sub-3:00 marathon in Portland on October 7th. Her official gun time was 2:59:27.

One could say that Sally did this the smart way, running nearly even half-marathon splits of 1:28 and 1:31. One could also say that she did it the hard way, racing after two full days on her feet at the pre-marathon expo, where she was selling women’s running apparel.

I’m not sure how Sally weathered this extended “warmup” without exhausting herself. Regardless, I was impressed with her positive outlook prior to the race. “I still think I can break 3,” she told me. “All right…” I said, conveying something less than total confidence. “Just make sure you have a backup plan, OK?”

You see, that’s the sort of priceless wisdom she can count on from me, her unofficial, extremely part-time quasi-coach. What I do, basically, is make up workouts for her and Liz about once or twice a week. I don’t do an especially good job of this; I just try to give them some variety and get them to run fast without forcing them to work much harder than they want to.

I think of this as the “First, do no harm” approach. Avoid turning an enjoyable activity into a miserable one, and let the athletes’ own interests and motivation take them where they want to go.

I’ll take a bit of credit for not making Sally miserable. Beyond that, the credit should go to her and her trusty training partners.

Congratulations, Sally.


  1. Greg,The value of the unofficial, extremely part-time quasi-coach role should never be underestimated. You, and Liz, and even LP were a huge part of the equation. Also, as we've discussed, it's interesting to note that the more rigorous "program of pain" training we did in the lead up to NY 2 years ago yielded less positive results. Although there are many factors that may have contributed to a better Portland race, I like to think that it's due to a shift in our thinking…that running has become a support system for life rather than the other way around.Again, thanks for everything. You've not only done no harm, but quite a bit of good as well.

  2. Greg:You are too modest in accepting credit for coaching Sally and helping her to meet significant running goals, because without you her overall performance wouldn’t be nearly as high. Still, it may be that these fine efforts of yours ultimately fell into the category of necessary but not sufficient, since Sally could only approach but never shatter the key 3 hour mark. Besides that, you seem to have overlooked (certainly you never mentioned) the crucial and quite likely indispensable contributions to her recent Portland accomplishment which were made by her own dad. Yet in fact it was dad who noticed that, despite your great work, some few changes – a tweak or two – were obviously required.And in fact, Dad did offer two such contributions which probably spelled the difference between the 2:59:22 that Sally ran and the 3:00.22 which would have been, yet again, close but no cigar. The first involved the fact (which you mentioned) that she was on her feet for about 10 continuous hours on both Friday and Saturday preceding the Marathon. Quasi-Coach Crowther apparently suggested that she get off her feet for two of those hours on each date, but Dad realized that, counter-intuitive as it may seem, foregoing any rest would impart a certain mental toughness, a gnarly edge if you will, and so he persuaded her remain on her feet, taking only bathroom breaks, for two full days. Second, Dad arose quite early on Sunday morning in his seedy motel on the outskirts of P-town and took the Light Rail downtown so that he could meet Sally as she left her own fancy hotel for the start line. At a time when Quasi-Coach was still abed, Dad provided a KEY MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE, telling Sally about the incredible upset which the hapless Stanford football team had pulled off the night before in beating then No. 1 USC, 24-23. Well, one can only imagine the impact when this inspiring tale kicked in during the race, especially at mile 17 and then again immediately following the long downhill prior to crossing the final bridge. The rest, as they say, is history.So there you have it. Even putting genetics entirely to the side, these two contributions to Sally’s mental state almost certainly had the effect of finally getting her over the top and under the magical three hour mark at Portland. Yet they will almost certainly go unacknowledged as the usual plaudits are bestowed instead upon quasi-coaches, training partners, and supportive family at home, as per Sally’s own disappointing comment. Still, virtue is its own reward, which is a good thing for all of the unappreciated dads of the world whose creative and crucial contributions – such as these – are so seldom given their just due. Unless, Greg, you follow up with a humble and sincere sounding addendum to your last posting, validating my own contributions to Sally’s final time./s/ Sally’s Dad Sulking in California

  3. B. Bergesen: Sally and I are happy to publicly acknowledge your critical role in the achievement of the sub-3 milestone. We did not do so earlier because we assumed that Sally's personal, private thanks would be more gratifying than a blurb in an online medium that, by your own admission, is foreign to you. But now that you've revealed your deep-seated need for publicity, I'll gladly corroborate your account so that you may rightfully enjoy the adulation of dozens of anonymous readers — most of whom undoubtedly wish that they had a father like you.

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