The Hay is in the Barn

I’m not a farmer.

I have never moved a bale of hay in my life, except maybe to sit on one.

I wouldn’t know where to begin if someone told me to create a bale of hay, or to start moving that big stack of hay over there into the barn.

And yet, every time I finish my last seriously long run in a marathon training block, like I did Saturday, logging 24 miles 23 days ahead of Boston, there is one sentence that resonates in my head: “The hay is in the barn.”

It’s actually worse than that. I had one more loop to do around Central Park and I kept telling myself, six more miles and the hay is going to be in the barn, then five more miles and the hay is in the barn.

I think Meb Keflezighi was the first one to turn me on to this expression. He said the great miler Steve Scott told him about it. Scott meant it as a way to understand that you should trust your training, don’t overwork yourself in the days leading up to a race. If you’ve done the work, if you’ve loaded all the hay into the barn, there is nothing left to do but get some rest and feel satisfied with what you’ve accomplished. Take pleasure in the art of preparation. Don’t treat it as an endless chore

I’ve heard Stephanie Bruce, the inspiring distance runner and mother of two, say this to her coach Ben Rosario. Pretty sure she doesn’t have a farming background either. And the running guru Jack Daniels and countless other runners say it, too, none of them probably with any more farming experience than I have. It’s just something we say and do, and understand intuitively when we hear it, a habit  that makes runners a little different than everyone else, a little mantra that lets us celebrate our little rebellion known as running.

Now here’s another trick – not just saying it, but believing it, and trusting it. I’m still working on that part. It’s still pretty fun to say if that’s as far as it goes.

“The hay is in the barn.”