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February 27, 2017

Ford Palmer reflects on 3:54 mile at BU: Spike Untied? Don’t care.

“Fifty five, fifty six!”

The crowd erupts as King Cheserek (Yes, even I call him that) is on pace to break the NCAA record of 3:52.88. I’m cheering too, just in my head. I couldn’t waste my breath at the time though. I sat behind this mad king and went along for the ride just trying to run the fastest mile of my life.

I look down at my right foot and see my shoelaces  have loosened. I immediately thought, “Wow, that’s hilarious! I’m behind the best collegiate runner of all time. I’m on pace to run a 3:52 mile and with 1K to go and my right spike is untied! How funny is that?!”

This was just one of the few things that almost prevented me from finishing the BU Last Chance Mile.

I almost didn’t make the trip. My calf flared up after my run on Tuesday but I didn’t think anything of it at the time. Thursday came around and we completed a three-mile tempo averaging 4:50 as a “pre meet” and then 2x400m and 2x200m. I ended up dropping out of the second 400 because I was exhausted. I wasn’t tired from the workout necessarily but I can tell when my body has been overworked from a long period of training.

I’ve been racing since the second week of January when I vacationed to Bermuda for a road mile. (Love my job.) My calf was also giving me serious problems and forced me to cut short my cool-down. I’m not the type of guy to stop running because of minor pain so this was really bugging me. I took the next day off and only ran four miles that following Saturday.

My calf still gave me serious pain and was gradually moving toward my achilles. I told Kyle Merber and Johnny Gregorek about my calf on the run but they didn’t seem to care and they didn’t tell me not to go to Boston. An hour later, I found myself the way to Boston with 24 hours from a mile with a questionable calf and “tired legs.”

That’s enough of most of the excuses. On Sunday, I warmed up and watched the elite women’s mile. With four laps to go, Stephanie Schappert had a 15-meter lead on the field. I attempted a stride and felt the same exhaustion from Thursday. I thought long and hard about what could come next. On one hand, this could be the fastest race of my career. On the other hand, I could also see myself dropping out of the race due to fatigue or just the negative attitude. I needed a second opinion so I cut Donn Cabral off from his strides and said, “Donn, I don’t think I should race. I’m tired.” He told me to go see Gags.

Knowing Gags, I knew he was going to appeal to his athlete and tell me it would be OK to not race if I was feeling tired. (We talked about not racing after my workout on Thursday.) I told Gags the same thing that I told Donn and you know what Gags said to me? Go 1200 meters! I look at him and say OK as I prepared to race.

1,200 meters. No big deal. That could be a workout in and of itself, if the rabbit stayed on pace. I was on the line. The gun was raised. I told myself, “I can’t go 1,200 meters and drop out. That would be extremely embarrassing.”

*The gun goes off*

Before I knew it, I’m on Cheserek’s heels and the pace was hot but I was ready.

As a group, the New Jersey-New York Track Club has been training for this since the fall. The pain and fatigue was just a figment of my imagination. It was go time.

The rabbit, Guilaume Adam, did an awesome job of pacing us to what we’ll call #PRCity. I am still not sure of the splits except the first 400 meters, but damn that was fun. I’m so glad I just did it and that went for it by jumping on Ches.

Real quick: back to my untied spike. I finished the race with my spikes on. As far as I’m concerned, who knows if I would have still broken 3:55 if it had not been for my untied spike. Heck, I might start USAs with untied laces on both spikes just to throw everyone off.

Here’s the moral of the story, folks. Feeling tired may be physical and it could also be mental, but it does not matter. If you can put yourself into a situation to succeed, you should only be focused on one thing and that’s accomplishing the goal that you set out for yourself.

Below is a tweet of mine from December. This was one of the reasons why I didn’t let being “tired” hold me off the track. Dedication, hard work, and sacrifice will pay off if you give it a chance.

USAs next week is in Albuquerque, New Mexico at 5,000 feet of elevation. Do you think that’ll stop us from succeeding? If I can get over a calf issue, a negative attitude, fatigue, a friend who won’t stop tweeting and an untied spike then a little less oxygen shouldn’t be an issue.

Wait, it’s scientifically proven that it will be? Nah, I don’t believe you.

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