Nothing but leisure time, than run, run, run |

Nothing but leisure time, than run, run, run

Column by Darin Olde, Tribune staff writer

That’s it. I’m quitting my job as journalist to become a professional runner.

When Les Wright, organizer of the Lake Tahoe Marathon, said all the Discovery USA team does is eat, sleep and run, he wasn’t kidding.

I want a job where I’m encouraged to nap, where I’m encouraged to eat large meals to replace calories lost exercising in beautiful places like Laguna Hills, Saint Moritz, Switzerland, or South Lake Tahoe.

I want a job where I work only 2-3 hours a day making myself stronger, more attractive and healthier.

Or how about a job where occupational hazards come in the form of shin splints and dehydration?

Those are a few of the realities for the runners with Discovery USA, a Fila USA-sponsored team that hopes to reach the 2004 summer Olympics.

The team recently moved to South Lake Tahoe to train for marathons this fall and winter. Since arriving, they’ve done little besides eat, sleep, run, receive massage and work out at Time Out Health Spa and Fitness center.

We can’t all be professional athletes, which the Discovery USA runners are. But that didn’t keep me from trying to keep up during one of their leisurely afternoon runs on Wednesday.

That’s when Greg McMillan, the team’s manager and coach, said they cooldown for a casual jaunt on nearby trails and bikeways.

I’m a would-be runner, I thought. I could probably keep up with the team on an easy run.

Then, the night before the run, the thought of Jim Jurcevich and Cori Mooney’s recent time in the Wharf to Wharf Race in Santa Cruz really sank in.

At 28 minutes and 39 seconds, Jurcevich averaged less than 5 minutes per mile for 6 miles.

My best time for 6 miles is 7:47 per mile. At that pace I would be some 4 minutes behind after the first mile. What kind of observation or interview would I be able to make then?

Ha! Who was I kidding? This was about as bad of an idea as trying to do my own car repairs.

Running with Jurcevich would be like driving along Dale Earnhardt Jr., only less dangerous.

By the time I would finish, the rest of the team would be back at their cottages behind Hoss Hoggs waiting for the sweaty guy with trail-running shoes and a heavy cotton shirt.

To make matters worse, I went to and learned the size and shape of the team. I outweighed everybody, and most of the women by a good 60 pounds, some of whom are under 100.

But never underestimate self-effacement and the tolerance in pity.

After meeting the team, and making a few comments about just observing, I decided to run with the women’s team because they are slightly slower than the men.

Really, that’s why.

Turns out the Discovery USA team was very cordial to the idea of a brave, if not slightly ignorant observer, trotting alongside. They even appreciated the fact that “an anchor” was present to establish a “relaxing” pace, a comment that stung as much as it was true.

With the exception of one log-crossing, where I nearly embarrassed myself by falling into the creek, and a brief moment when I tasted the slice of hamburger pizza I had for lunch, the 50-minute run transpired uneventfully.

It was enough, however, to put me in my place, and cement my position as an amateur runner.

Who knows, though. I learned from the team, and from their training strategy. Any runner could. Maybe someday the rest of the corporate world will get naps on the job, too.

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