Two-time Olympian and BYU coach Ed Eyestone. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
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TRAVERSE CITY -- Two-time Olympic marathoner Ed Eyestone said his message is not original.
But it bears repeating.
"It's tough to be an overnight sensation in this sport because of the work involved," said Eyestone, who will be the featured speaker Friday evening at the Traverse City Track Club's 11th annual Bayshore-In-Training program. "People need to be remember that. You have to persevere."
Eyestone, the cross country coach at Brigham Young University, said it's important to set goals and work towards accomplishing them.
"You have to be consistent in your training approach," Eyestone said. "You can do some great things."
Eyestone will draw on his personal experiences as a professional runner, coach and analyst for NBC Sports in his address Friday. The program starts at 7 p.m. at Northwestern Michigan College's Hagerty Center. There is no charge. Earlier in the day, Eyestone will join area high school and junior high runners on a three-mile run.
The 27th annual Bayshore Marathon is set for May 23. The event, which is quickly filling up, typically attracts a number of first-time marathon runners.
"I'm going to stress that they can do it," Eyestone said. "It's all about the importance of persevering, trying your very best and enjoying the process en route. Some people look at the marathon as the ultimate goal, the ultimate prize. It's certainly a great accomplishment, but the process of preparing for a marathon is as much a reward as actually crossing the finish line."
Eyestone was an elite runner at 5,000 and 10,000 meters when he decided to make his marathon debut in Boston in 1987. Although he didn't have the necessary qualifying mark to enter, officials waived that requirement based on his resume.
"I went in with very big expectations, wanting to win or finish in the top three," he said. "My 10K times were faster than a lot of the previous winners. I went in as a young, cocky guy thinking this would be a piece of cake. The marathon ended up being a very humbling experience that first time out. I still ran 2:19 and ended up 19th in the race, but I experienced for the first time what a lot of people experience -- an actual, physiological wall at about 20 miles.
"In fact, I was running next to Steve Jones, who was a former world record-holder in the marathon. We were just cruising along. For a 10K runner, the marathon pace was very easy, very relaxed. As we hit the halfway point, running in the lead pack, I turned to Jonesy and said, 'Does it always feel this easy?' He turned back to me, and in his thick Welsh accent, said, 'It gets a little tougher around 20.'
"He was wrong. It got tougher around 17. It was a humbling experience and a learning experience. My wife was waiting for me at the finish line. After having these visions of grandeur, when I finally finished I told her in all seriousness, 'If I ever want to do this again, talk me out of it.' "
Twenty-fours later, however, Eyestone reconsidered and set a new goal.
"I woke up the next morning very sore," he said. "But I told myself, 'I'm going to do this and make the Olympic team. I'm going to get it down.'"
He did. His next marathon in the Olympic Trials qualified him for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea -- the first of his two Olympic experiences. He also ran in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
Eyestone credited that humbling experience at Boston for helping him become an Olympian.
"I knew I needed to change some things up in my training," he said. "I didn't do enough long runs. I had approached it (Boston) more as a 10K runner. My mileage was 90 to 100 miles a week, but I wasn't going on the longer 25-mile training runs I embraced later. I was going on shorter runs at a faster pace. I was running 15 miles at race pace. That's important in a marathon regimen, but I wasn't going out on the longer runs of 21/2 hours that are necessary.
"And I also learned the importance of not giving up when things don't necessarily work out for you."
In addition, the Bayshore features a half-marathon and 10K.
"One doesn't need to run a marathon to get the benefits out of running," Eyestone said. "I think, health wise, you can get a lot out of just running on a regular basis, four times a week, and getting your racing thrill in by running 5Ks and 10Ks. However, having said that, those that enjoy running the marathon, more power to them. Again, it's a goal you can work towards. You can see your performance improve as your consistency improves. It's a fun thing."
Eyestone's best marathon was a 2:10. He ran a 27:41 in the 10,000. But, he said, running cross country was his true love.
"I was on 10 U.S. world cross country teams," he said. "I was a pretty good mudder. I enjoyed running up and down hills. If push came to shove, I would say cross country was my real love."