Chapter 15: What’s a Marathon?
Pre-race: Well it has been only been a few months since Chattanooga but it feels like a few years. After the overwhelming success of that race my work life just took over (the holidays mixed in there didn’t help any). However, the main thing was just the reality of my work schedule, balancing trainees, grants, manuscripts, etc. While still making sure my kids remember my face and my wife knowing I was alive. But the biggest thing was a loss of the balance I pride myself on. Once I skipped a run it became all too easy and for the first time since I really started running distance (Spring of 1995) I missed more runs, not related to an injury, than I ever have. In fact, I think I skipped more runs in the first 1.5 months of 2016 than all of 2015 combined.
With that said I was really thinking about not running this marathon. The actual numbers really highlight the dip in training. For Chattanooga I put in 1,005 miles pre-race and for this attempt at Birmingham I put in 540 miles pre-race. In fact that is my least miles of all 15 marathons, by 81 miles (over 18-wk). But with a helpful push from my wife I decided to run anyway. So what is “run” in this case? What is a marathon? It is not a distance to be trifled with. However, it all depends on what you want out of it and what you’ve put into it. In this case I’ve put 21 years of training into despite the slight lag in training. However, since I only had a few runs in the double digits going into it I knew endurance was going to be an issue. So my only plan was to hold on to 7:## miles as long as I could. So again, what is a marathon? It is so much more than a random distance dictated to us by the “Royals” at the 1908 Olympics. To me it is a challenge we face and for me that challenge has been maintaining the family/work/life balance.
Race: I picked up a friend from church on my way to the start. She was running the half marathon. Once to the start we went our separate ways. I struggled to find the “Road to Narnia” but once I did realized I had the whole wardrobe to myself. They were a couple blocks off the start this year and I wasn’t the only one who didn’t immediately find them… But once nature was taken care of I did a light warm-up and then just got into the mix waiting for the start. It was colder than I would have liked and I actually started with a double long sleeve covering and my “Flying Squirrel” singlet. The one layer was over the top with the intent of taking it off at 8 miles. I started up a bit too far and just went with my pace. I was surprised how disciplined I actually was. I did head out “too fast” but 6:52 with a goal of 7:00 with dozens of people passing me is not too bad. The first four miles were actually too fast by this standard but once I hit the 8K mark I seemed to settle into a rhythm. Now I have to say this was my least eventful race. The main thing was having half marathoners and some marathoners pass me. But I kept my cool, new I was out just to run and not race and went with it. My family was at the 8-mile mark but in the against the wind segments I was chilly so I just kept the two long sleeves. I stopped for another Narnia visit and swapped my singlet to above to two long sleeves. I took Gus at miles 4, 8, 13, 18, and 21 and BeetElite pre-race and mile 21. Around mile 12 a guy caught up with me and tried to encourage me to run with him as we only had a mile to go, but when I informed him I had a lap to go he wished me luck and went on. That was really my only contact. Strange to be along in a race with 100s of people. The crowd where present was great and the BUTS banner was hit both times around this year as in 2014. My C standard was 3:30, my B standard was 3:20, and my A standard was 3:15. So even though this was my slowest marathon it was also my least trained and I about lived up to the best I could have expected. Official time was 3:19ish but minus the pit stop Garmin was 3:16:31. I’ll take it.
Post-race: I stopped on the way home and bought 40lbs of ice. Cooled the tub down to 50F and chilled for 15 minutes. I kept the rest of the ice and cycled between hot/Epson salt baths and 50F ice baths for the next three nights. Surprisingly no training or not I felt pretty good and was evening walking down stairs at a normal speed by Wednesday, not the strenuous hike on the why home like after Chattanooga J… I took a week off and hopefully this experience motivates me to reclaim my balance and repeat the Chattanooga performance (or better) soon.
All the best,