Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Running History, Chapter 8

After someone has completed running a marathon, there are several options. The first, which seems to be the most popular option, is to quit running altogether.  They had a goal to run a marathon, and once they do it, they're done.  Unfortunately, they often continue to brag about the accomplishment even years later.  And if you do train and run one, they'll tell you how awesome they did (usually that they beat you).  After running the Columbus Marathon (in which I didn't break any land speed records), I was at a meeting, and someone asked how the marathon was.  I gave a (very brief) recap, after which my "boss" asked what my time was.  When I told him, he proudly chuckled.  "I'm faster."  He told me that he had (at some point in his life) calculated a 26.2 mile course and just went out and ran it, faster than I'd plodded the Columbus route, of course.  Whether he had done it or not wasn't the question.  The question was how many steps he could run at that current time before his poor overworked heart would give out.

The second response to completing one's first marathon is "when am I going to qualify for Boston?" That's the marathon runner who, immediately after finishing the run, begins preparing for the next one (at least mentally, if not physically).  I've heard it said that you can't run the next marathon until you've forgotten your last one, but this kind of marathon runner doesn't have to forget - BRING IT ON! is their attitude. They look at their time, make adjustments to training and to their race, and plan for how to do the next one even faster.  This is an awesome class of person.  If you ask to see their running shrine, they'll often have all their bibs and medals somewhere, but they might also have some hidden because they're ashamed of their time (as if anyone else, looking at the shrine, would know their time).

My response was somewhere between the first and second.  I took a few days off for recovery, but I was very soon looking for another race.  Not long after, my old running buddy from Kentucky told me he was signing up for the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon - did I want to do it, too?  So, at ten-to-midnight on the last night of earlybird registration, I paid my entrance fee.  I would be running in Kentucky. 

I wasn't out to break records (though I was hoping to break my time from Columbus); I just wanted to enjoy the race with my friend.  You can go back and read my post and be the judge as to whether or not I accomplished that goal...  I took a long time to "forget" that run (I still can't even think of energy jellybeans without wanting to puke, and the last time I tried to ingest a gel I gagged really hard), but after I did, I still don't have current marathon plans.  This isn't to say I stopped running; in fact, I still run as many times every week as I did during marathon training; I just limit my long runs to 12 miles tops.

But I've been running differently.  I decided to focus on my 5K runs for a season, and I dropped my time considerably (I'd been running around 21 minutes pretty consistently and I dropped to a PR of 19:35 last year).  This meant running speed work, much of which I did in the cemetery near our house.  In my marathon prep, I hadn't done any speed training; I only ran distance.

I started placing in my age group runs again - I'm not a "running shrine" kind of guy (I have most of my stuff in a drawer, though - I've heard that the Special Olympics will accept medals and give them out to their athletes, so when I accumulate enough, that's probably where they'll go).  That said, it's really exciting to be "on the podium" for placing in my age group and I still find myself nervous with anticipation when it's time to announce my age group.  And my kids love to play with the medals!

My big reason for not running another marathon has been the time issue.  It takes a really big time commitment to be able to train properly.  Every week would include a long run (anything over 8 miles is generally a long run - anything 8 or under is just a regular training run) up to a 20 miler.  That's a lot of running, and right now my priorities are in different areas.  So I've been focusing on shorter distances (5K through 1/2 marathon).

Having switched to shorter distances, my general running pace has quickened considerably.  I had been between 9 and 9 1/2 minutes per mile, but I dropped to between 8 and 8 1/2. In fact, when I ran my first half marathon, I was planning for 8:30 miles (and came really close to hitting it), but I had a lot of energy left over. Enough that my final mile was 7:22.  Still, when we reached the 12 mile mark, where the marathon runners and half marathon runners split off, I felt like I was cheating.

Still, it's been a fun challenge.  I know I'll never be a world-class runner, and there'll be a time when my race times start to rise again, but, for now, it's fun and exciting to be dropping time, something I hadn't done in some 20 years.


Greg said...

Nice discussion Brian. I never understood the statement (more of a joke, really) that you can't run another marathon until you forget your last one - it is only by remembering the previous marathons that we can adjust our plans, goals, and strategies for the next one. OK, I am obviously the second type of marathoner you described.

You touch at the bigger theme though (which is something I'm going to write about soon, maybe the next post in fact as I hand drafted it last night) which is finding the purpose in our running. Qualifying for Boston is not a purpose, it's a goal. It is only on having a purpose that one can make the types of adjustments you have (cutting back on mileage, focusing on different distances) without being frustrated at the need to do so. Having a purpose can also help one cope with injuries and crises. You clearly have a purpose in your running - maybe you'll share it when I put up my post!

The Thief said...

Thanks, Greg - I think the "forgetting" joke is more about forgetting about the pain...

It's (in a very miniature way) like women "forgetting" how awful childbirth is - I firmly believe if that pain was in the forefront of their memory, no woman would ever have a second child! But the wonder and joy of having another child overrides that pain... kind of like all of our reasons for running overwhelm the pain we (might have) felt in the run itself.