Being “On”

Posted: May 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

In my career, I’ve run many races of varying degrees of success. I’ve even been fortunate enough to feel the elation that comes from reaching the white finish line before any other man. The cost of such a feat is often great, and usually experienced by long moments of voluntary agony, squeezing every drop of forward movement from a body demanding the easy way out. Is such blind discomfort worth it? Absolutely. Even the most unbearable pain of the final straight is somewhat dampened by the joyous thrill of victory. Last night, under the lights at the Occidental High Performance meet, I encountered a victory that came without agony, without apprehension, without supreme effort. It was an open expression, a demonstration of patient power held deep in reserve…

The turquoise-blue neon lights lined a curbside Mexican restaurant. A few friends sat in the outdoor bar, laughing between themselves, only to stop and stare as the slender runner quickly went by. I was only five minutes in my warm up, but could already feel hot beads of sweat forming on my back. The race was set to go at 9:40 P.M. and due to a recent heat wave, temps would still hover in the upper 90’s. I made my way through the local neighborhoods, in and out of streetlights, away from the buzz of the stadium. Alone for a short while, I started picking up the pace on my warm-up. I sped into the last mile well under six-minute-pace feeling hot and hypersensitive to every biological signal. But the power was there. All systems were ready.

Slowing to a jog, I entered a bright stadium – calm and collected – and began the final preparations, done in a manner comparable to autopilot. Time passed in the haze of total concentration.

I stood there, gently shifting my legs, listening to the starter give his final instructions. The other runners were there too, standing a stride behind the slightly curved line – gladiators behind the Colosseum gate, waiting to meet their fate.

Then everything came in slow glimpses:

The raised arm…

The crouch…

Finally, the gun!

My featherweight Nike spikes instantly drove into the track, sending instantaneous electrical signals to my brain and back. Those signals were interpreted in a blink, and I suddenly knew that the power was THERE, to be used as I chose. Out of my peripherals, I felt the others side away and into their own respective paces, each guy putting his own piece in motion. 80m were gone and I found myself in the lead. Should I stay with the pack or go with the rabbits? The pace just felt too comfortable; I had to go with them. I attached myself to the rabbits, showing my first card to the field. My intentions were stated and this race was on, honestly.

The two rabbits, cutting through the warm air, ran as one, sneaking quick glances back at the sole runner who had suctioned himself like a piece of gum to a shoe. I came through 400m in 56, surprised to hear such a healthy split. The pack of nine men kept its distance – about ten yards – with each man trying to protect his treasure and ensure that when the final push began, that he had the high ground. We circled through the second lap, listening to the name “McNamara” blaring over the speakers. The gap remained, and while I didn’t once sneak a look behind, I felt very much as if I were racing alone, following the strong pacemakers who would soon have had enough. We were 1:55-mid (faster than my high school 800 PR).

The first rabbit peeled off, his job done well. Moving with strength, I felt the voice within my mind, excitedly bouncing around yelling, “That’s great Jordan, that’s great! Now stay close until he drops and get ready. They won’t be done yet.”

I sailed down the backstretch, watching the second rabbit kick his final 200m, leaving me with 500m of running remaining. Little did I know, the pack had been watching and waiting and now was coming very much back to life. Like a pack of sharks, they descended, driving with the arms and closing down on the slender runner in green. I was caught with 450 to go, and heard the ring of the bell surrounded by five other men, each of whom had his own ambitions for victory. I felt curious, unsurprised, and alert. Soon the kicks would come.

The tightly knit packed drove down the final backstretch. I watched from third, waiting for an early bid.

250 to go…

“Any takers?”

200 to go…

“Still?”

I rounded the bend, completely surrounded but at ease. I surveyed the runners, noticing the telltale signs of those on the edge: the exaggerated arm drive, slight backward bend and audible “Eh” on the exhale. It was then that it dawned on me, “They’re giving it everything, Jordan”. I was still in second gear, simply waiting for the command from within. In my mind, goose bumps arose. Despite my anticipation, my position was far from ideal. 120m from the line, I was badly boxed in and needed to make a few calm, calculated maneuvers to ensure myself a clear lane to see it through.

Spotting a narrow gap, I shot by a runner on the inside, up and into third. Accelerating now, I eyed the man who I had previously tagged as my largest threat, a nimble-foot Irishman whose kick I’d had the pleasure of being acquainted with over a year prior. 80m out, I watched him transform into a sprinter, hitting his top gear. Ah yes, you’ve still got it. I eyed it and reacted on instinct, head-checking my blind spot before swiftly sidestepping – flinging myself into lane two. There were no further obstacles to negotiate, just a short corridor upon which to transverse with great speed. It was now down to that final drag race: the home straight.

The crowd’s noise reached a climatic crescendo as this front-running miler in green caught traction and, within a very short period of 30 meters, assumed the lead. And, for good this time…

The final move was decisive and was executed with quick precision. 30 meters from the tape, I looked around, surprised to find myself hurtling away with sublime indifference. When you’re ‘on’ you’re ‘on’.

Arms outstretched, I eased across the line in a season’s best time of 3:37.39, certain that a number of seconds could’ve been removed in slightly more competitive circumstances. The time for such things is soon to come.

I invite you to watch this race and really pay attention. If you observe closely you can see my commitment, feel my joy, and share my pleasure.

http://www.usatf.tv/gprofile.php?mgroup_id=45365&do=videos&video_id=114834-Mens-1500m-Section-2-USATF-High-Performance-Distance-Classic-2014

For many, the name Jordan McNamara didn’t ring any bells until the spring of 2011. In what feels like a blink, I went from being an “unknown” to Olympic hopeful… but how did I get to there?

The following podcast provides in-depth answers and clear insight to my thoughts, attitudes, and past challenges. Taken by ESPN affiliate Marathon Radio Production, this interview does an excellent job of explaining my hard-earned journey to the professional ranks, a journey that will hopefully be making it’s first pit-stop in London.

Enjoy.

http://www.marathonradioproduction.com/podcast#Jordan_McNamara_Interview

Jordan McNamara

Adventures

Posted: January 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Morton Mile- Part Two

Posted: July 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

In the mile, the first three steps take on more importance than they would over it’s metric brother- the 1500m. Why? The mile begins on a curve, meaning that all who start will be bolting for the inside lane- often resulting in contact filled with elbows, spikes, and the occasional fall.

Within the first two steps, I knew that my reaction to the gun has been too slow. I watched as the runners as crashed into each other, sorting themselves out over the first bend. We flew into the first backstretch, and I settled in the rear of the field, feeling that the pace was plenty fast for my liking. Attempting to float, I found myself in lane two around the second bend, running extra yards. The field was quite crowded, and the atmosphere had put the milers in a state of aggression.

We were going for it tonight.

Relax… relax… nothing matters here… let them have their fun… be patient….

I looked ahead at the leaders screaming out of the final bend- tight on the rabbit- still burning on adrenaline.

Up the home stretch, I remained in contact, 15 meters down, trying to go into cruise-control. I looked and listened, but failed to see our first lap split. The noise was deafening but through it all I heard a shriek:

“57 lads!”

We entered the second lap… the announcer singing his approval, attempting to get the crowd into it.

These Irish enthusiasts needed no form of stimulation. They were already as entranced as we were.

Around another bend, the pack moved along. I noticed several familiar faces in front, but also many who were unfamiliar. The pre-race hype had succeeded in guaranteeing a fast race. I had finally found the rail, but found myself in a constant state of stop and go. The crowded field was continually shifting as the runners entered the first waves of fatigue. It would only get worse from here.

I was comfortable but unsure of my status. It was impossible to judge the strength of the others in a race so short. I went back to focusing on the pace, knowing that if I came through the bell in 3:00, I could run a thrilling final circuit…. IF I had the legs…

To the cheers of the crowd, the pack of a dozen men flew through the halfway point…

1:58…1:59…2:00…

That’s fine Jordan, that’s fine… just stay attached, keep burning through the seconds…get ready, get ready, get ready…

The rabbit- spent from a fantastic effort- pulled off, leaving the milers were left with two laps of racing. I continued to bide my time as the front pack begun to contract as each runner began to accept the pain and prepare for the all-important final lap.

At a thousand meters, the thinking began. Caught in traffic, I was forced to stop and go as runners- who had let the early commotion take them off too-quickly- began to fade towards the rear. Stepping to the right, I moved in lane two, around an Irish runner, and to the rear of the main pack of roughly ten men.

I monitored my fatigue, attempting to get a feel for what I had left. The preliminaries had been negotiated, some with better luck than others. Regardless of whatever fortune had occurred early on, there would soon be one lap to run, and with that, the race would truly begin.

At long last, after three laps of positioning, jostling, and pain, we passed the finish line for the penultimate time…

2:59…3:00…3:01

Think Jordan think, pay attention and start to line it up… you can win…you can win… there’s still time…

The crowd erupted as the bell sounded, flooding adrenaline into both runner and spectator…

I was giddy now. There was no pain. I could feel the power in me, urging me to fly, to absolutely scream away! Thirty meters ahead, the milers began to wind it up, each attempting to shift into the gear-box, looking for speed, speed, and more speed.

I was completely lost in it, racing on what I can only describe as pure instinct. Rounding the first bend, I swung into lane 2 and felt it:the backward, forceful flick of the arm, the high horizontal knee drive, the forward lean- carefully honed products, resulting in acceleration!

I heard the announcer, yelling frantically as I shot past a handful of milers, streaking into the backstretch,

Sixth… Fifth.. Fourth…. yes Jordan, that’s it….YES… MORE MORE MORE!!!!!

I was watching myself from a place far away, moving the chess pieces, setting it up like I had before.

With 300 meters remaining, I had abandoned 4-minute-pace. Without even knowing it, my will to win had launched me into uncharted waters. Striding freely into the final 200, I split a gap on the inside, taking me past the Australian national champ over 800 meters.

I felt my body acting on it’s own accord. I was the passenger, watching as my legs covered ground, carrying around that final bend, magnetically pulling me towards the leader’s shoulder.

Four meters…three… two… YES YES YES!!!!!!!! COME ON COME ON COME ONNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The final tactics had been played perfectly. The thinking was done. I simply had to run that final straight-away as fast as I could. After all the commotion, I pulled onto the right shoulder of the leader, having somehow lined it up perfectly. My heart was soaring as I mentally captured it- the crowd screaming, the Irish sky, the empty eight lanes of mondo surface in front of me… I could have smiled right then and there…

Unable to hide my joy, I crossed the finish line, having prevailed in a lifetime best- a time that six months ago would have been self-described as damn near impossible:

3:56.82

On that still Irish night,over half a dozen men dipped under the magical 4 minute barrier.

Later on, I slowly circled the infield, watching as the setting sun displayed fiery hues of orange and red… I was trying to come to grips with it all, and though it’s still a bit scattered, I’ll never forget that feeling as I roared around that final bend:

Yes, that’s it, THAT”S IT!!! Damn you Jordan!!! You knew you could, but really you did it! You’ve actually done it!!! Now RUN, SPRINT, GO GO GO GO GOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The Morton Mile- Part One

Posted: July 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

I  was sitting inside the warm-up area- beneath the grand-stand- going through my standard pre-race stretches. I had already gone through my usual warm-up jog, feeling hot sweat beneath several layers of clothing. I slowly reached forward, touching the tips of my gently worn shoes, allowing myself to zone out a little…

“All men racing in the Morton Mile, please report immediately!”

The yell of the starter brought me back, causing me to almost jump in an adrenaline-filled panic. These times were always the worst- the storm before the calm. Racing was almost easier than the dread-filled hours before-hand. Thousands of miles spent training affords ample time to think and fantasize, picturing those perfect, distant races that may or may not come to reality. I’ve spent countless hours, visualizing the pace of races, hearing the split as the bell rings, feeling my heart race as I see myself creeping on to the leaders shoulder to enter the final stretch…

I’ve raced more times than I care to remember, and each time brings a different feel. Being 24, I’ve learned to deal with pre-race nerves as best as I can- with a confident, optimistic approach. I remind myself that this is the reward for all the work I’ve put in. Once the gun goes, the fear goes away in an instant, I go into race-time auto-pilot, and the rest takes care of itself… one way or another.

I pulled off damp warm-up attire, exchanging for my green singlet. Next it was on with the feather-weight spikes. The red spikes snugly hugged my feet as I laced up, I felt the prickly feel of goose bumps on my arms.

I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready.

 I commenced with the final high-knee’s, the short, quick strides, and nimble light-hearted jogging- all for sanity as much as preparation. The other miler’s were here now, all 18 of them, each looking as if they could run forever.

Crowded race Jordan… be careful through the first bend. Don’t do anything stupid.

 The final call was made and we were led- single-file- to the outside world. We walked with our heads down, each locked within our own pursuits.

The atmosphere was electric. This mile’s history stretched back through decades, featuring Olympic champions, world-record holders, and legends of the sport. The final introductions were delivered with entertaining charisma by the announcer, who stood- dressed in a business suit- on the infield. I smiled and waved, announced as the “unassuming American”…. whatever that means. In a few short seconds, the hype, buzz, and banter wouldn’t matter. All that would be left to do is to race the symmetrical distance of one mile.

We all waiting, shaking and bobbing, waiting for the agony to be over…

The crowd hushed as the starter slowly raised his arm, bellowing the famed command…

“Gentlemen, on your marks!”

As one, the milers pounced to the line. With a final deep breath, I slowly walked two steps, leaned forward, and waited for the sound that would send us all on our way.

Careful… take your time… careful… ok…here we go, here we go, HERE WE GO JORDAN!!!!!

 The few seconds of absolute stillness stretched forever… agonizing fractions of time… stretching on and on and on… until:

CRACK!!!!!

New Horizons

Posted: July 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

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I sat alone on a grass slope, feeling cool ground and Irish grass under my feet. The cool winds, powered by the Atlantic, brushes against my face. I was perfectly content, there, just outside of the red oval, watching the meet enter its closing stages. I had just run the 3000 meter’s at the Cork City Games- a race that represented my first international competition. I entered the race with a shaken level of confidence- the product of an overloaded mind and jet-lag comparable to a hangover felt most within the legs. Despite all of this, I stood on that curved starting line, thinking how unbelievable it was to be on the other side of the world, preparing to run a race.

I tried to take it all in; the lush, green hill sides, unfamiliar landmarks, and outrageously friendly townspeople. I tried to mental snapshots of all that I saw. I had never thought that running circles would give me such experiences. I was in a state of disbelief, unable to really come to grips with it all.

The race itself an adrenaline-charged event, over as quickly as it started.

The crack of the gun erased my doubts and eased my discomfort. In an instant I was entranced, back into The Task itself. Seven and a half times I circled the track, surging and coasting, playing the standard lactic chess with the others. I rallied late and walked away with a feeling of surprise. Sometimes, the legs can remember exact what they need to do. Thank God for that.

The dust settled and I sat on that grassy slope, staring at the 2nd place medal, a great and unexpected beginning to this unreal adventure.

After a long time, I left the track, now nearly empty. I breathed deep into the foreign air, enjoying the walk to my athlete-housing. Moving purposefully slow, I reflected on the race, the sudden trek to uncharted waters, and the past few months that have brought me something special: life in the purest form. Sifting through it all, I laughed out-loud, smiling to the heavens…

I knew it then.

I know it now.

For better or worse, this was meant to be.

-Jordan McNamara

Runway

Posted: May 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

On July 5th, I underwent a surgery that represented my most serious athletic challenge yet. I spent five long months on the shelf, left with time and energy to question myself, explore my doubts, and ultimately, strengthen my resolve. I made a promise to myself to put aside the doubt, the overwhelming uncertainty, all to chase a life worth chasing.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Finding what gives you life and committing to it for the betterment of both yourself and hopefully, those around you?

I believe so.

I don’t know how far I’ll go with this running thing. A small part of me doesn’t care.  At the age of twenty four, the most comforting thought is knowing that I’ll one day be able to look back upon these times when I was so fit, so light, so able, and hold no regret. I’ve wasted little time in my youth. I’ve literally put years of life- thousands and  thousands of miles- represented to the public eye only by short periods of concentrated competition. I’ve done this for reasons that even I cannot fully fathom, reasons that are mostly indescribable…

Mostly.

Two nights ago I won a race.

The race itself was of little significance, approached (and executed) with planned accuracy. There were no medals, no trophies, no cash purses to be awarded.  I didn’t care. I was curiously excited to feel the mixed bag of race-day sensations, ranging from tear-jerking pre-race nerves to post-race shock, a sort of numbness that occurs when something that takes everything from you gives it all back.

Under a cold, rainy night, I imposed my will into eight minutes of running. I floated through the laps, tranced within the moment. I monitored the tell-tale signs with an elevated alertness. I flew past the mile in 4:16, feeling full of running, waiting for a sudden race-crippling wave of lactic acid, the kind that seizes your entire body, leaving you helpless as you watch your competition dance away.

I had fear, but most importantly, I had prepared. I sometimes forget that races are often decided in the weeks, months, and even years that precede it.

That wave would not come… at least not on this day.

The charged excitement in my mind began to build as the lap counter showed the numbers:

……3….2….1….

In close contact with the leader, I charged into the final lap, splashing through puddles that still held my sweat from workouts done only days before. Down the back-stretch I ran, internalizing the rhythmic clapping that is Hayward Field. All around the final Bowerman Curve I waited and watched the race unfold before my very eyes. After so long, I made it to that last beautiful straight-away, feeling like a Boeing 747 making it’s slow, hair-pin turn before being given the clear throttle up.

Right then and there, I felt a clarity of thought that said one thing:

Remember this…

Instinct took control. With the finish in sight, I moved into lane two and put what I had into it.

Instantly I was free, with a grimace on my face and an uncontrollable grin in my heart…

I can still vividly remember the rubbery feeling against my palms, the crutches that once imprisoned me- stationary and immobile- to the fantasy movements of my imagination. Believe brought me back from that point when all seemed so distant, so unlikely…

I won’t always win and that’s okay. Part of me enjoys not winning, for it reminds me to savor those rare moments of feather-weight immortality. Until the next one, I’ll carry on- thankful as ever- looking for my next opportunity to be like that mechanical bird; to slowly taxi all around that final turn, waiting for the moment to  fly away again.

-Jordan McNamara