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Washed Up Part II: John Honerkamp
by: John Honerkamp 
June 30, 2008

Editor's Note:  John Honerkamp (bio here)and Scott Anderson wrote articles (you can find Scott's here), that contrasted this year's Olympic Trials with the Trials in 1996 when they were competing as bright stars in the sport. .

Honerkamp, now an assistant coach at his alma mater, St John's, was the youngest semi-finalist at the U.S. Olympic Trials for the 800 meters in 1996. After graduationg, Honerkamp ran for the Reebok Enclave Track Club from the fall of 1998 through January of 2001. In February of that year, Honerkamp began running for the New York Athletic Club, which he still runs for today.

Honerkamp is an eight-time top-10 finisher at the United States nationals. He is also a member of the American record-holding 4x1500 meter relay team.

We're obviously a bit late in putting this up. Our apologies.

The Future was So Bright, I Thought I had to wear Shades (or just buy new clothes that fit) by John Honerkamp 

I awake at 7:00am on Saturday morning, the morning after the 2008 Olympic Trials have began at Hayward Field in Eugene, OR.  I reluctantly check out the popular running website LetsRun.com to see the results of the first day’s action. I glance at the results for the first round of the 800m, for which 1:49 basically makes the semi's and recall my first and only Olympic trials: 1996 in Atlanta. A rising junior at St. Johns (PR went from 1:50.80 to 1:47.26 in 3 months), I had just capped off a break-through season and assumed this would be the first of many Trials experiences.  I ran 1:48.08 to get 2nd in my first round race and followed that by running 1:47.80 to reach the Semi's.  I can't help but to be annoyed that I am not there since I have basically been living month to month the past few years in order to compete in Eugene.  At 20 years old,   I was the youngest semi-finalist in the event.  Fast forward twelve years to a late June morning, as Andrew Wheating of Oregon is continuing a break through season of his own to advance to the semi-finals (and later, the finals), I’m in NYC jumping into a road race in Central Park morning to help prepare myself for a NYAC Team Points Race.  Since I can’t even break 4:20 for the mile, the least I can do for the NYAC team, which has supported me over the past 7 years, is help them with their effort to build more of a local presence. 

As I head over to the park for my 5 miler in the hot and humid weather carrying an extra 15-18 pounds, I realize that it is the Gay Pride 5 Miler since it is Gay Pride Week. Rounding into the crowd, I see that my bib # (a non-elite #513) won’t warrant me a legitimate spot at the front of the pack (talk about adding insult to injury) and I squeeze my way to the front, only to position myself within of 4 feet of 6 male cheerleaders in tight garb screaming, “P-R-I-D-E YEAHHHHH RUNNERS".  I think to myself, “Wow, I am really glad I could not fit into my old racing shorts”.   

In the end, I manage a smart pace for my fitness as I go out in 5:22.  I have only been "running" for about 4 weeks after not much running over the past few months. I am gradually passing overeager runners as I move down the west side of the park.  Finally I settle in with a runner from CPTC (Central Park Track Club) and figure we can help each other out and finish the last 2 miles together. He seems stubborn and tries to fight me off before I end up passing him on the 4 mile hill (which was brutal by the way).  I was on 26:50 pace until the 4th mile. CPTC guy darts ahead of me after the hill and gets about 20 meters on me.  I think to myself, "Oh, just let him go, who cares".  I am not that uncomfortable, but just am not very fit and it hurts to go any faster. 

As I run past the Engineers Gate at 90th and 5th Ave, I hear my former roommate and teammate from college, Brian Quinn, yell out, "Come on Hondo, put your head down".  Now I think, "Hmm, do I out kick this guy or just be a wimp?"  I have two choices, sit and out kick this clown or just let him go.  I figure I will worry about it when I get to the last 200m, for now I start dwelling on my three college teammates and what they would want me to do in this situation: 

Quinn: Just yelled at me to put my head down, so I know what he wants me to do. Quinn, having just finished law school and adding 30 pounds to his frame (another 5 on his honeymoon two weeks ago), probably wants to be at least in my current fitness and is wishing he could be where I am.  So, I think, "I need to do this for Quinn". 

Fogs: Has just been sidelined again with an ailing achilles and is contemplating retirement for the 7th time (as a local runner, retired as a real runner in 2000).  I think, he can't be out here, I should do it for him.  Fogs has also just learned that he has a sports hernia and needs surgery.  I feel even more sympathy for Fogs and think, "I need to do this for Fogs!"           

Graff:  Has been running with the most success the past few years even with marriage and two young children.  What would Graff be thinking? I reflect and come up with, "Why are you running this race, you are fat and slow? I think a few woman and old guys are beating you!” I think to myself, "Yeah, he is right." However, Graff has never been known as a wimp and I think, "I need to do this for Graff!"      

All of sudden (600m later) I find myself at the 200m mark and decide to kick.  Of course once I change gears I feel awesome and start eating up some major pavement.  This CPTC guy is toast! It brings me back to my quarterfinal race at the 96 OT's when I went from 8th to almost 2nd (finished fifth, but got the last auto qualifying spot and was .11 out of 2nd) over the last 50m.  I finish, well ahead of CPTC guy, and feel a sense of accomplishment.  "Yes, I did it!" 

Once I regain full consciousness with the help of my rainbow ice pop which I had just been handed, reality hits me.  I ran 27:20 and finished 18th in the 27th Annual Front Runners Gay Pride road race.  OUCH! Far cry from the Olympic Trials. The clock does not lie, one of the many beautiful things about the sport of running/TnF.  Then I also realize how good it felt to get up on my toes when I was feeling awful and give it my all.  It may have not been the OT's, but it was my OT's at that moment.  Our sport is all relative! Again, this is the beauty of our sport.  I ran for Quinn. I ran for Fogs. I ran for Graff.  But most importantly, I ran for myself! 


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