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On marathoning

I've written some here about my experience training for my first marathon. But I realize it probably only appears as glimpses and tidbits. Also, over the past couple of weeks, I've recognized that I assume people know things about running that I've known for a long time. Then they ask me questions that I'm always taken aback by ("How long is this marathon?" for instance. So forgive me if this seems a bit pedantic or if you already know all this.

I'm training for my first marathon. This has been partially urged on by my best friend Drew (for those who were in attendance, you may remember him as the best man at my wedding), who runs 3 or 4 of these suckers a year. In some weird karmic instance, the date for my first marathon is 10-10-10. I chose it, however, not for that specific date, but because I turned 40 last year. I did a half-marathon in October, expecting to use that to train for a full in April. However, I tore my calf muscles in February, making that not happen. So Drew chose a marathon that, he claims, is an excellent one for a beginner because it's mostly flat and downhill.

For these reasons, it is also an excellent qualifier for Boston.

I guess that's where I should start explaining how these things work.

People keep asking me how far a marathon is. A true marathon is always 26.2 miles. Always. A half-marathon is 13.1. An ultra-marathon is anything past the 26.2 mile mark - whether that be 30 miles, or the Western States 100 (yes, it is what it sounds like and this year had a new course of just over 15 hours), or, yes, even Badwater.

For many marathons, you just have to give the organizers money and sign something saying you're in good enough shape to do it and you won't sue them if you die out there. However, some marathons, the Boston Marathon being probably the most famous, require you to have not only run a marathon before, but also have proof that you've run it under a certain time.

So a flat and/or downhill course is a dream for people itching to qualify for Boston. Plus people are excited and superstitious about the 10-10-10 date. Which is why, even with three months to go, it is already sold out. Nonetheless, you can read more details about this particular race and course on the website. It is at http://www.mohawkhudsonmarathon.com/.

I have a pretty rigid training regimen. I am using one of the best known marathon training programs, designed by Hal Higdon. He posts many programs on his incredibly useful and informative website (http://www.halhigdon.com), but he's written several books about marathon training that use these programs but provide a lot more detail. (I do have one of his books.) If you're interested, I use Novice I. For me, this is week 8. If you look at that, you'll notice that even my long training runs never go beyond 20 miles. Almost every training program I've ever seen for a first marathon advises this. After all, once you've done 20, what's another 6???

BTW, last year's half-marathon was the longest run I've ever done. This Saturday, my long training run is almost equal to it. In about two weeks, I will run ever farther.

Insanity is a continuum. Some people talk to themselves. Others vote Republican. I run. And, soon, I will run very far just to say I did it and to join an elite group of people who also like to say they did it.

The idea for the marathon comes from a Greek legend. According to Wikipedia, "The name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon (in which he had just fought), which took place in August or September, 490 BC. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming "Νενικήκαμεν" (Nenikékamen, 'We have won.') before collapsing and dying."

The Wikipedia article will tell you that the historical accuracy of the legend is questionable, but that doesn't really matter. Legends sometimes - in fact, often - have more importance than historical truth. It is about what we tell ourselves.

The legend is about triumph and victory over adversity. For me, it is about pushing myself beyond my wildest expectations as I hear a clock tick behind me, my own biological clock. When I turned 40, I asked myself, "If not now, when?" And pushing myself to do the marathon has made me ask that question not just for running and fitness but for living the life I want to live and for doing things I've always said I wanted to do but haven't made the time for. This morning, for instance, I signed up for guitar lessons. Since college, when I was surrounded by people who could often fumble through the basics of the occasional Dylan tune, I've wanted to learn. And now, I'm taking the time.

Take the time.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 26th, 2010 11:54 pm (UTC)
One of our respiratory therapists has 26.2 tattooed on the back of her neck. Took me a while to figure out why. -_-;
Jul. 26th, 2010 11:56 pm (UTC)
Actually, I'm thinking of getting that tattooed on me afterward. I'm thinking on my left shoulder blade. :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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