Just keep running.

2 Dec

I’m not a good runner, per se. And I don’t mean that in the humble, “Oh, I’m a really good runner, but I don’t want to brag,” kind of way. I mean that I’m decently fast, but on the whole, I hate running and I get winded really easily.

So, it came as quite a shock, especially to S, when I decided to run in the Seattle Marathon.

When asked why I decided to do this, I didn’t have a good answer. The truth is that I’ve never wanted to run a marathon. I hate running. I have a great deal of respect for marathon runners, but I never wanted to be one. I wasn’t running for a cause. I’m just not a runner.

As I thought about it a bit more, I realized that running a marathon was really a line item on my bucket list. I wanted to do it because I can. Because at some point in my life, I won’t be able to run anymore, which makes me sad, so I might as well do it now. It was something that I never thought I could accomplish, and that made me angry, so I wanted to prove myself wrong.

When I went on my first training run, I didn’t even know how long I was supposed to run for. How fast should I run? Should I time myself? Should I be this tired?

Like most people who have no idea what they’re doing, I downloaded an app on my phone. The program seemed easy enough – run three times per week with the mileage getting higher and higher each week.

After I started logging a few longer runs, people started asking me when the marathon was. “Oh, I’m not running in one. I’m just going to run 26.2 on my own.” I was told by a few folks that this was a stupid idea. The Seattle marathon, as dumb luck would have it, would occur in a couple of months, so I should just run that I thought. The problem was that I would have to speed up my training by a month. Yep . . . my great idea was just to jump a month ahead in my training schedule. This meant that my long run was 10 miles on one Saturday and then 16 miles the next Saturday.

As my runs got longer, I actually felt like I was getting weaker and more tired. I stopped working out at crossfit. In fact, the only time I went to my beloved crossfit gym was to borrow their weighted vest for short runs. In my twisted logic, I decided that doing short runs while wearing a 25 pound vest was a good idea to speed up my training. It turned out that it was a good way to get strange looks from people at 6am.

November 25, marathon day, a day that seemed so far away snuck up on me. To be honest, I was really, really nervous. This was odd considering my only goal was to finish the marathon. I had zero aspirations to actually do well. I just wanted to finish . . with a minimal about of walking breaks. . . and without any major injuries.

As the race started, I was filled with a ton of energy. I was going to complete something I never thought I could achieve. There were so many people excited to run. And so many friends and family woke up early to cheer them on. Much to my surprise, I found myself running way ahead of my pace. While training, I found out that I’m a very slow long distance runner . . . like 10 minutes per mile. But for the first 14 miles, I found myself running at around 8 minutes per mile.

I was going to finish in under 4 hours… Ha, no I wasn’t. 

Unfortunately, I started to crack at mile 14. My left knee felt like it was going to explode, my right calf was on fire, and my mind started to wander. Why is 26.2 miles so far?  The pacing groups that I was ahead of quickly passed me and I found myself falling further and further to the back.

At mile 20, I wanted to quit. Screw this, I’m not a runner. I wanna take my ball and go home. As I was running, I’d periodically get encouraging texts from S, who knew I would occasionally look at my phone to change music. Her texts kept me going. I knew that she’d be waiting at the finish line and I wanted to run through it and give her a big, sweaty hug. I did not want to quit. I thought that if I quit, then I’d just have to enter another marathon to finish this pointless goal, so I might as well trudge through and finish.

When I hit mile 24, I knew I’d be ok. I had visions from training where I conjured up mental images of how far 2 miles was between two points. Seattle, in its silly way, is made up of a ton of hills. So, as luck would have it, the last leg of the course is up a hill. As I forced myself up that last hill, I saw one of our friends, let’s call her K holding a sign. I must be delusional, I thought. Why would K be here? Then I saw her husband, C, jump off the sidewalk and start jogging along side of me. Around the bend and into the final stretch I saw another good friend, A, and a few feet later I saw A’s wife, B, and, of course, S. Does this paragraph seem like an algebra problem, yet? Seeing good friends and S was the perfect motivation to sprint through the finish line. Funny tangent about sprinting through the finish . . . turns out that the race organizers video taped the finish. What felt like sprinting, looked more like painful trotting across the finish line.

After I finished, I nearly hugged the military member who congratulated me and adorned me with my token medal. S came running over to congratulate me along with our friends. The feeling was sort of odd. On the one hand, I thought about how I could have ever doubted myself. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other. On the other hand, I was completely satisfied in myself. I took a challenge I had no genuine interest in, made a plan to achieve it, and did, in fact, complete it.

I likely won’t run another marathon again. It just wasn’t my cup o’ tea. I do, however, have a new respect for runners. But more importantly, I have an additional reason to be confident in my abilities to achieve whatever whacked out goals I put my mind to.

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