62. Napkin dreams

Running tip #62


An airplane window seat on a cross-country flight is the best place on earth for setting long-term goals.  Correction: you’re not actually ON the earth in an airplane, but above it … which is literally what allows you to have the necessary distance to dream.  I’ll never forget the flight home from a disappointing “also-ran” performance in 1994.  I was alone (because I was self-coached) and staring out the window … sort of feeling sorry for myself, trying to figure out what went wrong … when I started doodling on the American Airlines napkin [tip #62-B is always travel with an ink pen] while pondering:

How was I going to run faster?  

What changes did I need to make in my training (and in my attitude) to get there?  

What was it going to take?  

I knew the first-ever women’s 5,000m was to be held at the World track & field championships in 1995, so I started playing with numbers to “cipher” out exactly what would be required to make that world team.  Here’s a photocopy of my napkin:


You can see I settled on 74 as the magic number.   To have any shot at running 15:25 for 5k (the time I believed would make the world team) I needed to find a way to maintain 74 seconds per 400/3:05 per 1,000m for 12 and 1/2 laps.  I decided then and there that I would never run an interval on the track slower than 74-second pace in any workout. Never.  On that little 3″ X 4″ piece of tissue paper lay all my hopes and dreams with a precise action-plan to get there.

I did go on to run 15:24.68 that spring … but I missed making the world team by .3 seconds (which proves I’m better at dreaming than ciphering).

and the Hebrews 12:1 … in the upper right-hand corner?

Whether you’re religious or not, you have to appreciate the purport of  “a cloud of witnesses” out an airplane window!

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”


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2 Responses to 62. Napkin dreams

  1. Joan,

    Love it! Sometimes writing it down makes it real. I plastered 15:21 and 32:20 all over my room in grad school to help me get up and train before class. Those were the times I thought I would need to squeak under the Olympic standards at the time.

    Your former proud athlete,

  2. joannesbitmabe

    Thanks for commenting, Blake!

    Hey everyone, check out Blake’s awesome blog:

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