My 9 Mile Story
This post is going to be ridiculously long. Reader discretion is advised ;-) Anyway, this is kind of a long story, but I hope you find it entertaining. I may well have been the first 9 miler, before Marlies even devised the plan. This is entirely by coincidence, as we were not in any way acquainted until after she devised the program.
It all started back in the early 80s, when I was participating in something called the Presidential Fitness Challenge. The students in my school were challenged to do a certain number of push ups, pull ups, situps and various other challenges like the long jump, triple jump,100m dash and 600m run. In the little Massachusetts, USA, town of Georgetown, we had a board in the gym showing the school records for the various events. I knew I had little chance of matching most of these records, but I saw I was only a little bit slower than the record holder in the 600m. As I realized this, I slyly mentioned to a classmate, "Wouldn't it be cool if one of these record holders were a student who is at the school right now?" I was thinking about how it would be if I broke the record, but the classmate said, "actually, that guy who has the record in the 600m, Aaron Thompson, is a Junior." So, the very record I was trying to break was held by someone still at the school.
I began training, running circles around the school's football field, and after one of the sessions, I met Aaron's brother, Erik. We chatted about my plans and I gushed about what an amazing athlete his brother was. Erik laughed at this and told me Aaron wasn't even the best athlete in their family. That was their little sister, Jenny. I never did break the record for the 600m, but I was hooked on running at that point. I trained hard the following year with a notion to join the cross country team since Aaron, who was also the team captain, was graduating and the team was going to need another runner. I began building distance, since cross country races were between 4 and 5k, much longer than the 600m. I even got the idea to build up to a half marathon, to be run on the day of the Boston Marathon.
As I was training, I ran at a consistent pace most days, with a single day dedicated to intervals (sound familiar?). I also did one 'long run' which was a little longer each week. When I was almost up to 9 miles, I coincidentally read an article about training for marathons by never running more than 9 miles (also familiar?) I decided that would be my approach also, never going beyond 9 miles until I was ready to run my half marathon. As you probably know, this idea didn't catch on and was (to my knowledge) completely independent to Marlies' 9 Mile Marathon Method which she devised over 30 years later. Crazy coincidence, right? It gets better.
On marathon day, I set out at the time the marathon started and coincidentally ended my run at roughly the same time as that year's winner, Rob DiCastellas. That fall, I met Aaron's little sister. She was a tall, pretty blond girl with Olympic aspirations as a swimmer. She was telling me one day that she thought I was an amazing athlete (ironic, since I'm nothing special and she was a future Olympian...) but wondered why it was that I rode my bike past her house 3 or 4 times in the same workout, but only ran past once. I explained that her house was on my 9 mile route and running 27 or 36 miles on a bike wasn't a big deal to me (I had ridden up to 90 miles on a previous occasion), but 9 miles running was plenty. In fact, I bragged, "If you can run 9 miles, you can run pretty much forever. I could probably run a marathon, actually."
Fast forward about 30 years, and I was getting ready to go for a bike ride on a cold March morning. I realized it was going to be a lot warmer in the afternoon, so I decided to hang out and wait for the day to warm up. To kill some time, I scrolled through Facebook for a while, and saw an ad. It was for Marlies' 9 Mile Marathon program. I thought, "Wow, just like what I did when I was a kid, that's pretty cool." I wondered to myself, "I wonder if anyone remembers me saying that thing about being able to run forever if you can run 9 miles?" The only person I could remember for sure that I told was Aaron's little sister. Unfortunately, I had found out the hard way that she and I aren't on speaking terms about a year before that, so I couldn't very well ask her. I instead posted a question about this on Facebook to see if anyone else, like my teammates, might remember. No one did.
So, I took off for my ride and had a great workout despite very strong winds. I got back, took a shower, and went to lay down on the couch to relax a bit. I checked Strava to see if I had gotten any kudos for my ride, and there was only one so far. I almost fell off the couch when I saw the kudos was from a guy named Aaron Thompson! It wasn't the one I went to school with, but was just coincidentally a random person who spotted my workout. It had nothing to do with the fact that I had been thinking of the other Aaron Thompson's little sister, but it was a pretty eerie coincidence. I checked out his profile, and it turns out that this Aaron Thompson is a prolific endurance runner, furthering the coincidence. At this point, it seemed like a sign, so I checked out the 9 Mile Marathon and began training for my first marathon.
The first attempt at training went well, but COVID struck and my marathon was cancelled. The following year, I trained again but got a little cocky. I trained the 9 Mile way, but didn't take it as seriously. I finished the marathon, but I wasn't completely happy with the time. I'm quite sure I would have finished with a much better time the first time around. So I set out to train a third time, but I hurt myself and have been rehabbing pretty much ever since. I'm finally healthy again and planning to run an ultra this fall. The marathon that I ran as my first is held each year in my home town of Derry, New Hampshire, USA. This year's race is tomorrow and I'll run the half this year. Next year, assuming all goes well with my ultra, I'll train one more time for the local marathon and get some redemption on that. Well, thanks to anyone who managed to stay awake through this whole story, and happy training to you!
Rob Green
My 9 Mile Story
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