I never intended to be a runner. Running had always just been something I’d do in the off season from cycling or to fill the gaps in time when traveling. Back then, I didn’t feel like a runner. I felt like a cyclist that stumbled in a forward direction occasionally. Remember the episode on Friends where Phoebe ran? That’s how I felt; arms flailing, clomping along, heart pounding and pain everwhere. I felt like a clod, masquerading as a runner. No structure, and in fact; I don't think I even enjoyed it. It was just something to do when I got sick of riding the bike all summer and needed to get in shape for snowboarding season. I'd start up in the fall and ramp up to three runs of about 4 miles each during the fall and winter. I never really thought out my pace or form. I just ran. The pain of that first mile never seemed to subside.
My first goal setting was to register for the
Sadly though, my first half marathon never happened. I had my race bib and gear all ready to go for that morning but I woke up to a steady rain and sub 40 degree temps. AND it was dark. Now - I will run in ANY twosome combination of the three ‘crap-parameters’ (rain, cold and dark) - but all three in spades is as RIGHT OUT as counting to 5 or 6 with the holy hand grenade. So I skipped it. Gasp! In cycling, I never had even DNF’d (Did Not Finish). Not once. But here was the start to my serious running, “Uhhh… .yeah…… no… not going out there…”
But I repented and soon was signed up for the full marathon the following year (2008). I got more serious and downloaded training plans, tweaking them to suite my schedule and ability. The first time I saw that the plan called for running three days in a row I was skeptical. And the first few times I tried it - man that was not a great experience. But I kept at it, and pretty soon, I was looking forward to the feeling of starting off with a little stiffness, and feeling it evaporate as my muscles warmed.
I bought new running shoes and tracked my mileage against them, replacing them at 400-500 miles. (btw - I learned that shoes wear out WAYYYY before the soles do, and new shoes do wonders for your joints). I subscribed to Runner's World and read Gallaways book on running. I read blogs and kept diligently to my training plan. I bought a GPS training watch, which gave me the freedom to explore routes and still stick to my mileage for the day. It kept me honest on my pace and I didn’t need a track to do speed-work. And, on two occasions, it helped me find the hotel again in a strange city when I wandered off course and was frantically trying to get back for a morning meeting (Mode->Navigation->Find Waypoint (hotel))
And somewhere, in all that immersion, I started to feel like a runner. Not a jogger, not a poser - a real runner. I would get into a rhythm and feel my legs just passing under me, like a little engine on autopilot. I started to watch the Kenyans with awe and tried to visualize their fluid, gazelle like movements as I ran. And ok, I still ran more like a mountain goat that snarfed some bad mushrooms, but it was a vast improvement. I watched running on TV - and it was exciting!
In the Denver Marathon last year, I made the classic rookie mistake. I went out like a shot and paid for it halfway through. My theory of going out fast, accumulate a 'buffer' of time and then coast later in the race, fell flat in the face of physiology. I've since learned that the body just doesn't work that way.
In that race, I hit the 'wall' at mile 21. People used to tell me about the ‘wall’ and I’d scoff at them with a knowing smile. Hey, I've raced bikes and bonked really hard. I've dehydrated on long rides and in the back-country. I've hiked 17 miles up to over 14,000 feet and felt the effects of altitude (headache, dizziness and disorientation). At the top of a
BUT - NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING compares to the WALL in running.
That year leading up to the marathon and that day literally changed my life. Or more accurately, it created a fundamental change in me and how I looked at running. It was now my friend. I belonged wading in its’ waters. I wasn't a clod or a pretender. I was a runner and had every right to call myself one. I even put a "Marathoner" bumper sticker on my car.
The truth is, I had this right all along - we all do. Running is something we were born to do. Just watch children. They absolutely LOVE to run. They laugh and run until they fall over. They don't have GPS watches or run negative splits. They can't tell you what pace they run at and their morning ‘loop’ is around the kitchen table – like 50 times. They just do it because it's fun. Why it took me 4 decades to rediscover that love, I'll never understand.
And people I work with are genuinely baffled when they see me running all the time. They can't understand how that could be fun. But it is. It's liberating and simple and primal. It lights up those neural pathways that used to illuminate daily when we were children. I run and feel free. I run and feel resolved. I get to leave all the tension and stress and angst on the pavement as it passes under my feet. I get back to the office and I feel like I’ve taken Percocet. I love everyone.
In May I ran the Colfax Marathon at 3:36:59. It was great to be faster, but really the time wasn't as important to me as how I felt during that race. I felt strong and I loved every mile. Don't get me wrong - it was uncomfortable at times. But the elation I felt at being able to 'manage' that discomfort, turned it from an indicator light of 'pain' to one of 'being alive'. The last few miles I put on some ‘fast’ music and was able to just open up, flying down the street with a graceful stride. People were cheering and I felt like I belonged there; in the last few miles of a marathon. In the last ½ mile, the Eddie Vedder song, Big Heart Sun came on and I was so jazzed up by it. I crossed the finish line and was greeted by Paige, all the kids. Paige’s dad had even come up to watch. How great is it to finish a marathon, leaving not one bit of angst or stress in your body, and stumble into the arms of the people that you love and adore?
And now I'm running towards
Wish me luck!!