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My Brush With Greatness

Today I ran the Run for the Stinkin’ Roses, a 10K put on my my running club. Oddly, it was my first 10K race of the year. I was planning to run a hard tempo around 7:15 pace as my final hard run before Vineman. There were only 70-some runners for the 10K, but as I walked up to the start line about 2 minutes before the start, I heard Steve Sokol say he was plannning to run it in about 45 minutes. I knew that was just about the time I wanted to run. Suddenly, I had a new goal. Beat Steve! Why, you ask? Let me tell you a little something about Steve Sokol.

In 1981, Steve performed 52,003 situps in 32 hours and 17 minutes. He has done 30,000 consecuitve jumping jacks, 13,013 leg lifts, 3,333 squat thrusts, 1,000 situps with a 45-pound plate on his chest. He also rode a bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a non-stop 43 hours without ever sitting down on the seat! He is a self-described “professional nut case,” setting world records in over 30 different categories. The Guiness Book of World Records named him the original Fittest Man in the World. Steve is in his early 50s now, but he is still incredibly fit. And how many opportunities will I ever get to beat someone with his credentials? My goal was clear.

I took the first mile at 6:55 pace, faster than I intended, but I could tell Steve was right behind me. At about the 1.5 mile mark, he slowly passed me, but I knew he wasn’t going to outrun me if he was trying to run a 45-minute race. So I tucked in behind him and drafted for nearly 4.5 miles. I knew he could run a steady pace, but I didn’t know if he had a kick. If I run a smart race, I can always put the hammer down at the end, so I just stayed with him until we reached the high school track. 3/4 of a lap around the track to the finish line. Once on the track I put it in another gear, and Steve did not respond. I finished ahead of him in 43:59, just 8 seconds off my PR.

It was fun to beat Steve for sure, but the real benefit for me was getting my head in the mental game of competition just one week before Vineman. It was a rush and a very good run for me. I look forward to seeing Steve and his 8-year old son (a running prodigy) at another local race.

If you want to become the fittest man on the planet, Guiness now calls it the 24-hour Fitness Challenge. Here’s what you need to do: swim two miles, cycle 110, row 20, run 12, hike 12, row 20, climb 20 on an elliptical machine, crank out 1,250 push-ups, 1,250 leg lifts, 1,250 jumping jacks, and 3,250 abdominal crunches. Then you must lift 300,000 pounds of weights in various upper body reps. And it must be done in under 19 hours, 17 minutes, 38 seconds–the current record held by Rob Powell. And if you don’t have three credible witnesses and a crew of video cameras documenting every groan, pop, and tear, Guiness won’t even consider your record.


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