Sunday, October 3, 2010
I decided to run a marathon. If you knew me eight months ago you would have said, "Yeah freakin' right." The decision to run a marathon came about when a co-worker, who I'll call Mrs. S., came into my office and began talking about how her two sons had just finished the St. Louis Marathon the day before.
I looked at my officemate Ken and said, "That would us give exactly one year to train for it." His response was, "Yeah." He said it more in agreement of, Yes that would give us a year, and not in a, "Yeah, let's do it," kind of tone. But for some reason, in my head, we were both in.
I began looking up guides for beginning marathoners. I've always wanted to run a marathon and thought that a year was plenty of time to train for it. Right when I decided, OK, I'm going to do a marathon exactly one year from today, Mrs. S. came back and said, "Oh yeah, I almost forgot. There's another marathon here in St. Charles (where I work) in October of this year."
"What?" I said. "That's in like six months!"
"Yeah," she said. "That would be exactly in six months."
Before I could protest Ken said, "That's the one I want to do."
I whipped my head like a dog watching a fire hydrant pass him by in a car and said, "What? We won't have time enough time to train for that."
He said, "Well I know that I'm not going to run in the winter and this is about as flat as you're going to get."
Mrs. S. said, "Well good luck," and left me feeling like I had been hit with dream wrecking-ball.
Part of me agreed with Ken. I'm a cold weather baby. What can I say? I grew up in Hawaii. It took me two St. Louis winters before I learned you were supposed to dress in layers during the winter. So knowing that I'd be hard press to run outside in the cold, this bumped up my race by six months.
I began looking at training schedules. I soon learned that 26.2 miles could be accomplished with as little as five months of training as long as you were already in shape. I was not.
I thought, I wonder if I can get active enough in one month to get up to par to start training for the five month training program?
I got out and started training immediately. After one month of training, I'm happy to say that I could run/walk 4 miles. I created a hybrid run/walk schedule using some schedules that I found on the Internet.
I went from not running at all, to basically running for three minutes, then I'd walk for two minutes. Many programs say this is the best way for beginners to train. I waited a month before I shared what I was doing with people because it seemed like such a huge undertaking, especially after I started running.
The first day I literally wanted to quit within the first twenty seconds of running. On day two my legs hurt so bad that even though I was going to walk that day, I decided to ride my bike instead. The following day, I walked. The day after that, I rested. And so began my run, bike, walk, rest schedule, then I rinsed and repeated with my long runs on Saturday's.
One thing I've learned about running is it's all mental. Nobody wants to run at the beginning but it's about pushing yourself to do it. After that, the distance becomes addictive. One mile, two miles, three miles down, before you know it, you've done your first 5K and that's without any crowd there cheering you on.
Once I got up to where I could run six miles, I joined a running group. Most running stores have several groups that run at different paces so you can pick the appropriate one. But I didn't join just any running group. I joined the St. Louis Track Club. In retrospect this was probably not the best idea, because I am a 12-13 minute a mile kind of guy. Most of the runners in the Track Club can run two miles in the same amount of time that I run one.
What I ended up happening was meeting the group in the parking lot at 7 am. This got me running on days I really didn't want to run. We all started together but within 2-3 minutes of starting, the group would be gone. I would only see them again when they lapped me or were running back from an "out-and-back run."
I ran my first Half-Marathon called the Joker's Wild Half-Marathon at the three month mark of my training. I finished 476 out of 512 people with a time of 2 hours, 51 minutes and 44 seconds. I wasn't sure exactly what my time was when I finished because in all the excitement I forgot to start my stopwatch right at the beginning of the race. I guesstimated I had been running for ten minutes when I started it, which actually turned out to be only six minutes instead of ten.
If you're going to run a race, remember these two things: Stay hydrated and pee either before you get there or after the start line. I knew both these things but as timing goes, I had to pee right when they were getting ready to start. I saw that were 100 people in line and only five or six porta-potties, so I decided to run to the first port-potty on the course. I got lucky; someone was coming out right when I got there. Sure it's an extra 20 seconds, but if you're already slow who cares about an extra 20 seconds if you can skip a five minute line?
(And in case you didn't know, in most timed races you can wait the five extra minutes in the bathroom line and not be penalized. Your time doesn't start until you cross the start line. I just didn't want to start in the very back and be there the entire time.)
At the eight mile marker, a storm whipped-up like a batch of witches brew. The wind blew through with gusts up to 60 mph and then the rain and lighting came. By the time I finally got to the finish line they had already taken down the big clock, so I had to check my official time online–2:51:44.
It was nice that this time I was able to run along with other people. It's totally different mentally when you run with a group of people on and off for several miles. Until I ran this race I had no idea all the things your mind does to pull you through when you're running. My officemate Ken told me that when he was in running cross-country, that one of the tricks they used was getting locked in and watching other people's feet and, "That will pull you along." I decided to use this method, except I modified the technique a bit when a woman in spandex ran by. I can't tell you how many sweaty, giggly, butts I watched but I would imagine it was dozens.
There was a group of four girls running a relay-race in pink-tutus. I stayed behind one of them throughout the entire race. At the end, three of them were waiting for their friend to finish and I heard one of them yell, "Hey there's the guy," which I assumed they were talking about me.
When I got to the finish line my wife was waiting there with camera in hand. That was the nicest part of the whole race. As I was running I kept wondering where we'd meet after the race with so many people there. It was a huge relief to see her there waving and cheering me on.
I felt a bit overwhelmed when I crossed the finish line. My legs were so shaky that I could barely hold still for the volunteer to cut off the timing chip from my shoe.
There are things you would never know about until you actually do them. For instance, a non-runner would think you'd just have to put on your shorts and a pair of socks and shoes and go run. But when you're running for distance, you do need socks and shoes, but they should be wicking socks and a good pair of running shoes that have preferably been custom fitted to your feet. Ever hear of body glide? It's like a fancy deodorant that goes on your feet, in between your legs and even on your nipples. Don't forget the hydration belt or hand held water bottle, then there's the carbohydrate gels, sunscreen, iPod, sunglasses, a cooler with an electrolyte sports drink in it in your car for after the run. You'll also need a wicking shirt to run in and an extra shirt in your car to change into when you're done. You'd never think of all these things until you've run some distance. But the best thing that was waiting for me at the end that I didn't know about, besides my wife waiting to rescue me and drive me home, was the pancake and sausage breakfast that apparently is a tradition amongst racers.
This half-marathon was my Father's Day present from my wife and I finally got to cash in. I even got two free breakfasts out of the deal: one at the race and then my wife took me out for another one after my shower. She even let me off the hook for my normal Saturday morning chores. Guess I'll have to sign up for more races, and soon, because I have a deck to stain.
On the 11th week of my marathon training, I was talking to a friend who has ran at least 10 marathons, 5 of them were within 7 days of each other-which in my opinion is not healthy, but I digress. So I was explaining to my friend that I had just run 13 miles that day and I have lost 20 pounds doing nothing but exercising and eating pretty much the same way I've always eaten. "In fact," I said, "right after my run I went to QuikTrip and bought two donuts."
"You're silly," he said.
I kept on talking like I usually do when I'm explaining something to someone who could really care less, and then halfway through my monologue, my tongue skidded like a cat on a wet linoleum floor. "Wait a minute. What do you mean I'm silly?"
"I mean you're silly to be training so much and not eating right," he said. "Does that even make sense? I mean you're already doing the exercise, and not just any exercise, but running 13 miles? That's insane considering less than three months ago you were just lying around doing nothing. And then you go and blow it all by buying donuts afterwards? That's not even silly, that's dumb."
"Well that's what I was craving," I said, "and I felt like deserved it."
"I'm not saying you didn't deserve it. I'm just saying if you didn't have 40 extra pounds riding along with you, maybe you wouldn't have to work so hard when you're running," he said.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I was already doing the hard part-exercising 5-6 times a week. Then my officemate said, "Your friend's right. It's like you're handicapping yourself. Imagine putting a 40 pound pack on and running around with it. That's what you're doing by not eating right and carrying that 40 extra pounds."
After that I began to watch what I ate a little better.
I ran my first marathon on Sunday October 3, 2010. It was one of those things that I've always wanted to do every since I can remember. After I crossed the finish line, one of the first things I said was, "That's one of the dumbest things I've ever done."
Running 26.2 miles hurts, especially when you're 220 lbs and you've only trained for six months. I did the training runs with the Track Club. We ran 13, 16, 18-twice, 19, and 20 miles, so I had flirted with the "wall" a few times. Unfortunately for me, during the marathon my legs went numb at mile 16. I hit the wall at mile 17 and it lasted until mile 20. Those three miles were all hills. If it wasn't for a speed walker who let me jog next to him for a couple of miles, I wouldn't have made it.
When I finally got a half-a-mile away from the finish line, I saw a man with an IronMan tattoo on the back of his calf. He was helping pull a lady up a small hill. It was obvious he had run the marathon to help her along. As I got closer to them he turned and yelled, "Come on big-guy! I was wondering when you'd catch us. Finish strong! Finish Strong!" And with that I took off running.
I ran as fast as I could at what seemed like a five-minute mile pace, although it was probably closer to five miles per hour. The thought kept going through my head, I'm going to beat an IronMan. As I rounded the corner, one of the skinny-running-type volunteers yelled, "Oh now you want to run?!" I thought about flipping him off, but then he said, "Just joking. Run! Run!"
I finished with some of my family and friends at the finish line. A disappointing 7:02 flashed across the time clock. I later learned that my "chip-time" was 6:50:31, which means it took 11 minutes and 29 seconds to cross the start line after the starting gun had been fired.
After the race I swore I would never even consider running another marathon-ever! On Monday when people asked how I went, I told them, "Terrible. My time was an hour off from what I thought it would be. There were four miles of hills, which I walked. And I was passed by several speed-walkers." But here's the weird thing. By Wednesday I was relatively pain free. By Thursday when people asked if I would do it again, I said, "Only if my sister-in-law wants to do Chicago next year, then I might. Otherwise I'm only running half's for now on."
Today I'm talking to an IronMan coach-not that I'm doing an IronMan, I'm just finding out information-just in case.
If you have aspirations to run a marathon, then do it. But be advised-it's one of the hardest things you'll ever do and you'll never want to do it again...not at least for three or four days.
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