What’s unique about this partnership is that it goes beyond just the guide and athlete relationship. It's rooted in a solid foundation of friendship, trust, and mutual respect. During the pandemic, as most of the world hibernated at home, Mel and I were thousands of miles apart in quarantine just like so many. Our phone chats kept us up to date on each other's lives, but we both felt the absence of our fun runs together.
This would only be temporary, though. As the world began to open back up, The Boston Athletic Association announced that the marathon was, in fact, on. Melissa phoned me up and asked me to be her guide for the October race. I eagerly accepted the invitation and felt that we had something to look forward to: Our first marathon since COVID-19 shut the world down. We would finally reunite after a year apart.
Ahead of the race, I chatted with Mel on the phone to talk about our friendship, training, what makes our partnership and teamwork work and what race she is looking forward to next.
Do you have a favorite running memory of us running together?
That is an easy one. The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K (about 31 miles), at Bear Mountain, NY. It is an ultra trail race, with no hardtop paved road. That is definitely the hardest race I have ever done, and you were right next to me on every step. The ground and terrain were challenging since there are more obstacles in a trail run, and the terrain was constantly changing—lots of hills, tree roots, rocks, mud, crossing streams, scramble boulders, and about 8K feet of elevation change. Neither one of us had an easy day. It took a lot of grit from both of us to finish the race. Every emotion was experienced in that race. It was the most grueling and technical trail race I have ever done. That race challenged me to the edge, but I also knew I had the right team by my side, and that I would be fine and safely cross the finish line with you.
Do you have a memory of a challenging moment that we helped each other get through?
During that same race when the race "sweeper" was getting close to us on mile eight, you helped me up a boulder that was on the way, I had difficulties climbing it. That is one memory I will never forget. And also crossing the finish line together with you, and you gave me the biggest hug at the end. We both had to stay positive and push each other... We had to be a team to finish together. Once we were getting delirious from fatigue, we had to keep conversation and laughter with every step until the finish line.
What has been the most challenging training apart, thousands of miles away from each other?
Physically not running next to each other. It is tough training alone. I miss our post-training coffee and girl talk after the long runs. It was a lot easier to keep each other motivated when running with you.
What are you most looking forward to in running the Boston Marathon together?
We have been talking about the Boston Marathon for a long time. Qualifying for this race has been a goal of mine, and I finally did it. It is awesome to do this race with one of my best friends. I am looking forward to a big hug and a celebratory beer after we cross the finish line together. One more awesome memory with you to cherish, that I will have for the rest of my life.
When you look back on our friendship and teamwork, what are three words you would use to describe it?
Fun, laughter, friendship.
If you could choose our next race for 2022, what will it be and why?
Next is an Ultra Race somewhere in the western part of the country. I'd love to race on new terrain with amazing views. I would also be open to an international marathon.
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