Me and Bart (Yasso, that is) and a Special Surprise for YOU!

Me and Bart

Thursday night I was sitting in Immediate Care as the nurse took my pulse, blood pressure, and temperature. I tried to choke back my coughing and ended up gasping for air in a desperate and embarrassing attempt to conceal the fact that I was actually sick. “You have a temperature,” she said. “I’m training for a marathon,” I said. “You need to rest,” she said. I gulped and asked her for how long. Four to six days was her reply. I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. I’ll be fine, I thought. “Rest, only brisk walking for 20 minutes or less until you feel better,” she said in a stern, but concerned voice. “But,” I nearly wailed, “I’m supposed to run with Bart Yasso on Saturday!” “Who?” She half-heartedly inquired as she wrote out a note for work. “You know,” I said, “Bart. Yasso. The Mayor of Running, practically the coolest runner alive.” “Oh,” she mumbled, “You’ll just have to tell Mr. Yasso to take a rain check.”

Most of you, runners that you are, probably know who Bart Yasso is and would be as perturbed as I was that someone else didn’t. But, if you don’t, here’s a brief introduction. Yasso joined Runner’s World in 1987 to develop the groundbreaking Runner’s World Race Sponsorship Program, creating a vehicle for Runner’s World to work with over 7,000 races representing 4 million runners per year. He was also inducted into the Running USA Hall of Champions in 2007 in recognition of his contribution, impact, and dedication to our sport. He has been dubbed the “Mayor of Running,” and is one of the best-know figures in road racing.

Yasso also invented the Yasso 800s, a marathon-training schedule used by thousands of beginner, intermediate, and advanced runners around the world. He is one of the few people to have completed races on all seven continents, cumulating in over 1,000 competitive races, from the Antarctica marathon to the Mt. Kilimanjaro marathon. In 1987, Yasso won the U.S. National Biathlon Long Course Championship and won the Smoky Mountain Marathon in 1998. He has also completed the Ironman five times and the Badwater 146 through Death Valley. He has also cycled, unsupported and by himself, across the country twice.

He is also the author of My Life on the Run, an autobiography of sorts allowing us a glimpse into the wit and wisdom of a road racing icon. I must admit, before reading his book, I new little about Yasso, but he became my hero overnight. He has inspired me as a runner, writer, and as a person. His sentiments echoed my own, as he overcame life challenges, including battling a debilitating illness, “But then I started running. And when I started running, I started dreaming. It couldn’t be helped. The mind works as hard as the body does during exercise. It knows its role during those lonely interludes – to inspire, analyze, and fantasize.” I suddenly felt as if I had reconnected with a kindred spirit I didn’t know I had been missing when Bart wrote, “Running may be the connective tissue, but the true essence of the sport is passage to a bigger world. So open the door and run through. Just don’t be surprised if you arrived in a place you only dreamed existed.”

After reading My Life on the Run, I wanted to be Bart Yasso when I grow up. Who wouldn’t?
So, when Fleet Feet Columbus announced that Yasso was coming to visit US – I, along with nearly 500 of my closest running friends, FREAKED. How could you not? He was coming to speak to our MIT crew and…wait for it…RUN. WITH. US. And here I was, SICK. You’ve got to me kidding me. I was not happy. Who gets sick when Bart Yasso comes to town? Apparently, yours truly.
Believe me, Friday I stayed in bed all day re-reading My Life on the Run and praying to the powers that be that I would get well soon. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run on Saturday, but there was no way I was going to miss Bart’s talk.
When Saturday – finally – came, I was up before the sun to head down to Ohio State University campus and help direct runners to the lecture hall. Standing outside in the 30 degrees temps for an hour with an upper respiratory infection was probably not the smartest thing I could have done, but I didn’t care. I first glimpsed Yasso when I came in the auditorium, he was chatting with some fellow runners like he had known them all his life.
Bart Yasso (in the middle, red) with the MIT crew.
And that, my friends, is exactly the way you feel when you are in a room with Bart Yasso. Like you have known him your whole life – and like you are the most interesting person he has talked to all day. He gave his admired message and slide show presentation, complete with pictures from his worldly travels, of not limiting yourself in running and in life. “I think a log of people become complacent, or maybe just too comfortable, with their choices and don’t feel the need to shake things up or seek new experiences,” he says. Hence, his tagline and personal motto is, “Never limit where running can take you.” His message was inspiring, invigorating and humorous – I was humbled by his sheer determination to run and overcome the biggest and baddest of obstacles – Death Valley in the middle of summer, a charging Rhino is India, the onset of Lyme disease in the oxygen-deprived atmosphere of Mt. Kilimanjaro, drug and alcohol addiction, bicycling across the U.S. alone, and training ex-cons to run their first relay. Talk about not limiting yourself – I ran some hills in Hannibal, Missouri and thought I had conquered the world!
After his talk, Bart ran with us! It was definitely memorable, to say the least, everyone had a smile on their faces. I wish I could have run too!
Me, Bart Yasso, and my Mom.
Then, I got to meet Bart and talk with him for awhile. It was phenomenal! He is even more remarkable in person than I imagined!
I found myself indulging in every word he spoke, recounting his fondest memories of the Comrades Marathon – the race that truly meant the world to him – in South Africa. He told us in a week he is heading to Israel to run the International Jerusalem Marathon, which will take place for the first time ever in Jerusalem, on March 25, 2011. The selected running course narrates the story of Jerusalem’s 3000 years of  history with breathtaking views and scenes of the city’s rich culture. I wish you the best race, Bart. I can’t wait to hear about it! And Bart said to me after I told him he was my inspiration, “Thanks, I will see you in Pittsburgh. Keep up the great work.” He told me to keep running and to keep writing. I plan to do both, only now, I have the positive influence of a running legend cheering me on.
And, for the news I have been ecstatic to tell you, blogland friends, I asked Bart to sign a copy of his book My Life on the Run just for you, and he was gracious enough to do so! It is signed with his name and “Never limit where running can take you.” Check this out:
If you would like to win this awesome autographed book, all you have to do is let me know! Leave me a comment letting me know you would like to win and I will randomly select a winner from the list of comments on Monday, March 21, 2011 so you have time to tell all of your friends and running buddies! Good luck!
Until the next mile marker, 

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    Wonderful story and well written! Bart Yasso is an amazing person and I am so thankful that I got to meet him with you. And yes, I would like to win the book!

    ~ Darlene

  2. Pick me! Pick me!

    I am so glad that you had a great experience with him. Sorry you couldn’t run with him! Feel better soon!!

  3. Sign me up! I’m even posting this on my blog tomorrow!!

  4. Ooooh pick me, pick me!!! I’m so sad I missed Yasso talk on Saturday. I can’t wait to read the book!

  5. What a wonderful day for you!! Sign me up for wanting this book too!

  6. I want to win this book!!!

  7. OH…MY….GOSH!! You got to meet Coach Bart!!! My friend and I used his training plan and always talked about Coach Bart like we knew him. I’m so jealous and would LOVE that book.

  8. I’m sorry you didn’t get to run but that’s so cool that you got to meet him! I would definitely enjoy reading his book!

  9. That’s awesome that you got to meet him! I’ve read a lot of running books but not this one so I’d love to win it.

  10. I want it I want it! 🙂

  11. How cool! I read his book and really loved it. I liked that it was just about his experiences as opposed to a “how to run fast” kind of book.

  12. I would love to win this. I recently met Bart at the Little Rock Marathon! Posting a link to this on my blog!

  13. I would love to win his autographed book! So neat that you got to meet him and hear him speak. Sad you didn’t get to run with him, but still an awesome experience I’m sure!!!

  14. I would love to win this book!

  15. I would love to win this book!

  16. I’m sorry you didn’t get to run but that’s so cool that you got to meet him! I would definitely enjoy reading his book!

  17. I want to win this book!!!

  18. I would love to win this. I recently met Bart at the Little Rock Marathon! Posting a link to this on my blog!

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