first marathon

Knocking off that run was a big ‘bucket’ item for me. I ran the last 20 feet and crossed the line with my son in the warm glow of delirium – it was fantastic and beautiful and heart-warming and I was beat. I finished in an “okay” 4:36. I feel like I did well enough but could have done things differently – that list is a few items, so I’ll break them into bullet points:

  • I should have picked up orthopedic insoles a lot earlier. I had my squishy foam insoles the entire time I was putting on miles; 5k, half-marathon, and all training of the full marathon. Physical therapy docs said to buy new ones asap – and that was five months before I started running. Your feet/ankles/legs hurt a lot? See a doctor. Already have orthos? See about an upgrade.
  • I should have trained harder/longer. I made the mistake of letting my body dictate how the last few weeks of my training played out. I was so tired – mentally and (mostly) physically I was worried about injuring myself. My big 20-mile run ended at 15.8 because I cramped up so bad and had to be driven home. I never reached that goal and only hit 20 miles out on the trail, which is where the real race began.
  • I should have waited a year. This goes with the training regiment. I had ample time to ramp up according to my plan, but given that I was going from a 5k in October 2015 to a full marathon in 2016; I was pushing too hard.
  • I should have paced myself better. Again, as an inexperienced runner, I went out and did the first half of the marathon a solid minute/mile faster than I was aiming for. I got all amped up and didn’t pay attention to the pace runners until it was too late. I felt amazing before ‘the turn’ – where the half marathoners went to the finish line, and I had to keep going – after the turn was a fast descent into sadness.
  • I should have checked how long my book was. I run with audiobooks, and it’s always worked to remove myself from myself. You’d have thought I would learn my lesson from the incredibly short “Born Standing Up” for the half-marathon, but no. I chose the amazing book “Bossypants” as my marathon book. Painfully, I finished the book around that 20-mile mark, and I was left without my comfort blanket of reading to keep my mind company.
  • I should not have walked so early. Everyone was right, that first time you walk is the worst – the door is opened, that option was there. Just a little bit more walking. Ugh, I’m tired, maybe I’ll walk a bit. Bleh.
  • I should have NOT left for a business trip the same day as the race. It was silly and memorable, not as awful as I thought it was going to be, but it just put an odd spin on the whole recovery process.

Would I do another marathon? I’ll likely do another, someday, if my body can take it. Training for a marathon is work, like an actual part-time job level of work. When you commit to putting two and a half to three plus hours of your Saturdays into running and cramming in another 4+ hours during the week, then add on the stretching & more stretching – it’s work. I’d have to allow myself the time to commit to it before anything else. I’d love to do a ton more half-marathons, 5 & 10Ks. I’d just need a buddy. I’m fully recovered, which took a lot longer than anticipated and worked through a lengthy cold season and now am stuck in the doldrums of deep winter. Running will continue as soon as it gets above single digits; the itch is getting worse and the sads are creeping back in.

More soon, stay sane and safe.

So I seem to have picked up a new hobby. This post is more like a tale of my fitness than a straight line explanation of why.

I was not into structured fitness and prescribed by junior or, horror-of-horrors, high school. It started in college. I’m not sure if was tennis near the dorm, racket ball, swimming, my badminton course, but moving just came easily. I wasn’t an expert in any field, but I put just enough effort in to have fun. I could keep up, no trick shots, or many baskets or unattested matches, but I liked it. Unknowingly a spark struck. Year three, I took in a job at Walmart nearly 4 miles away. I was going to ride my bike to work. This came as a shock to everyone but me, but I knew if I just set to do it, it wasn’t going to be hard. I still remember that first ride on my first day to work. My shift started at 9 am, I left early to make sure I was on time, but also could ‘cool down’ before starting work. It was an unseasonably warm late spring day, and it didn’t take long for me to question my sanity. The other important detail? My college town, Macomb, is situated amid a couple of swollen hills. I lived at the very bottom of the these, my journey to work took me from there to the highest in a pretty short distance. The hill is steep enough to question why I’d bought a cruiser bike with extra wide handlebars. The first time I hit the hill in the near-empty college town – the only sounds were distant birds, my huffing and the clang of a cheap bike chain. I could have walked to the top faster, across four lanes country roads, but I was riding my bike. It got easier; summer got hotter, and then it got hard again. I started bringing a shirt to change into and hitting the rarely used water fountain to keep up appearances. On days off I began riding the corn-glazed hills, getting chased by leash-less dogs and developed a love of moving under my own power.

After college, I biked to work, and one year non-stop through winter – which got rough in early February – but the sense of accomplishment became a badge I wore. In Maine, I rode from our house in the East End (North Side) to work near the airport (clear across the city limits). Later, out East I rode through dark woods –  where every day brought adventures; nearly crashing into deer, turkeys, and other critters. Once Finn was born and I worked from home, we rode for 30 miles in one direction, walked/played for a bit, and rode back. We were out there and moving, 4′ snow falls didn’t stop us from at least walking the neighborhood.

Maybe I just have to keep moving. The thing was though I always hated running. I liked to bike. Running was the for the birds, but starting in those rolling hill college days, speaking to mentors and peers – a dream arose. Something that I wanted to do, one may call it a “bucket list item” but I never classified it as such until late: to run a marathon.

It started with me running my mouth. I had joked for years that a 5k was for children, and I could just sign up and run one, no training was needed. My wife did just that, giving me a fair warning first, but entered my name no less. We did great, and I started to really… like? running? After our race, I confided in her that running a marathon was on my bucket list in a halfhearted chuckle about my madness and slight melancholy about it never coming to fruition. I got a text a month and a half later – I was still jogging off and on short distances – that we were now entered in a half marathon. My heart sank. This was my test; it was only half, but it’s a path to see if this could ever happen. I got more serious about training, I put in the miles, and somewhere in there, fell for it. Post half I wanted more.

Now for the real reason why I run. I’ve tried to explain it, but people think I’m either insane, or I do it for the endorphins; I’m not sure they’re entirely wrong or right on either count. The longer distances I go, the more I “like” (up to a point) running. So what happens? I’m not entirely sure. I’m me, but not me. I’m running, but I’m not. At the peak jogs, the best ones, my body melts away, and my mind takes its path. I’m plugged into an audiobook, focused and melding into the story. In there, in the movement and deep listening, in the quick pace of books (1.6x) – I’m there and not there. I’m listening and wandering all at once. Transcendence?

That is why I run; I run to get away.

There are, of course, the normal fears that come chained to running and exercise. Fear of gaining too much weight; I have relatives with serious health problems – obesity, heart issues, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, etcetera – and I’m running away from those too. I’m also running to find balance, to put time in for myself and adding savings to my life bank. I’m feeling healthy and happier every day, and I’m sure that is thanks to my activity.  I run for my kid; exercise is not only fun but an important part of taking care of yourself. Couple that with the former fears, I’d like to be around as he ages. So I run for all those things too, it’s an added benefit.

So now I’m training even more: killing off the majority of a weekend morning to moving, and then squeezing in short runs during the week. Recently, I’ve found it hard to get up to and past 14 miles; I get tired, thirsty, hungry, and so on. But I’ve got until the end of October. I’m at the bottom of the hill again – I’m sweating in the quiet hot morning – either pedal or I’m late.