Monday, April 16, 2012

In The Long Run: Running Changes Everything

Midlife Rambler and Triple T channel Bowie and face the Ch-ch-ch-ch changes they've gone thru since training for (and in the case of The Rambler, completing) a marathon.

On Sunday's long run, around mile #2, I passed an orthodox Jewish woman who was obeying her culture's rules of modesty.  It was in the low 70s yesterday: by mile #2, I was already regretting my choice of short-sleeve, tech tee (I should have run in just the tank that was underneath it). This woman was wearing a NY Yankees baseball cap, a long sleeve shirt, a skirt that fell just below her shins, wool socks (or stockings?) and the most beat up pair of trainers I've ever seen (next to Husband's).

She smiled as we passed each other, her face flush and glistening from heat and sweat.

She must've really wanted to run.

I've watched men and women in single and double prosthetic legs competing in races. I've watched one man in prosthetics pass me.

They must've really wanted to run.

Throughout this marathon training, I've really wanted to run. And I've really wanted to not run.  I seriously question the honesty and sanity of  anyone in training that ever says they are always 100% ready to run, especially when they're going for close to four hours by themselves. But if you have stuck through a 4-or 5-month training program, generally speaking, you really want to run (most of the time).

For the workouts when I really wanted to run, I ran. For the workouts I didn't, well, sometimes my brain kept me going. Sometimes it stopped me cold.

I've always been cautious. I've always been hyper-sensitive to my limitations and I've respected them, usually to a fault.  Marathon training has pretty much thrown that right out the window.  Marathon training told me that I could run more than 13.1 miles. And more than 16. And even more than 20. On May 5th, it will tell me that 26.2 miles was hard work, but that I can still run farther.

Marathon training told me I could run for 10 miles with plantar fasciitis on my left foot. And then again on my right (as long as I rolled my foot every 2 miles on a golf ball*). It also reminded me to not get cocky: I need to take care of that foot now, and have faith that the 21 miles I ran a few weeks ago will be enough of a distance base for my race.

I guess marathon training has taught me to have faith in things that I can't control. Or at least, to not freak out and give up what limited amount of control I do have. 

I've experienced my highest highs (the distance runs; running in cold, wind and precipitation; finishing the run that I wanted to quit at mile 1) from marathon training, as well as my lowest lows (those runs cut short by my brain). I put myself in a pretty vulnerable position every single time I leave the house for a run, which usually leaves Husband and kids guessing: Is she coming back sweaty and happy or less sweaty and crying?  But nonetheless, I keep leaving the house for a run: I'm evidently getting okay with the vulnerability.

Above all, marathon training has taught me of possibility: I really think it is possible that every person in the universe is capable of training for and completing a marathon. Do I think everyone will see a podium or qualify for Boston? Shit, no. But when I tell people I am training for a marathon and they say, "I could never do that," my immediate reaction is, "Sure, you could. If you wanted to."

I wanted to go to college, not to learn, exactly, but because I was told you had to go to college to get a better job. I wanted to get a job after college, not because I knew what I wanted to do for a living, but seriously, I needed to pay off my debt from attending college. I wanted to marry Husband and have kids, but I wasn't ever one of those people that started planning her wedding at age 8; marriage and kids seemed like the right step in moving my life forward like all the other God-fearing, college-educated, white-collar folk I was surrounded by. 

But unlike anything else in my life, I really want to cross that finish line: I really want to run.  I want to be able to feel that pain (preferably not until mile 20, thank you), deal with it, cross that little rubber mat and then stop.  I really want to know what it is going to feel like to stop moving after I've been doing just that for 26.2 miles. 

Man, I want to know what it feels like to stop.

Training for this marathon, running for a good, long time every weekend for the past 18 weeks or so, has changed me. It's given me an appreciation for everyone that tries to run, no matter how fast or slow - or what physical or mental challenges they might be dealing with.** While I know that 26.2 miles is my Everest on 5/5, I already can't stop but think about a 31 miler in March 2013, because if I can run 26.2 miles, why can't I run 31 miles? And should I start thinking about a Century by the end of summer? And if I do a marathon and a Century this year, then should I consider a 70.3 next year? 

Four years ago, I put on my iPod shuffle and cautiously ran one loop (about .33 mile) around the park next to our building. Yesterday, I ran to Winnetka wearing my badass calf sleeves, pricey shoes and with 2 lbs of fuel - and pieces of clothing that I had stripped off - attached at my waist.

I've come a long, baby.

And so has Midlife Rambler. See what he's got to

Oh...and we've got this little, unheard of race going on in the States today.  GO BOSTON RUNNERS!!! You are an inspiration to all of us!

*This was my Sunday long run - rolling my foot on a golf ball for 10 miles before I stopped the run. I'm three weeks out from my race and am trying to walk the fine line of not being a total pussy (by quitting) and not being a complete asshole (by pushing it too far). I feel inclined to make some kind of joke about the fine line between pussy and asshole.

**How many people are out there running through cancer or divorce or bankruptcy or tendonitis or plantar fasciitis? But they're still running.

Photo credit: lululemon athletica via photopin cc


  1. Quick addendum: by 'unheard of' race, what I mean is: it isn't televised nationally on non-cable stations. How is it that my Chicago news station will pick up feed from Punxsuatawney, PA, to see if a fucking groundhog will see it's shadow, but I can't watch the Boston marathon unless I pay to stream it to my computer. C'mon!

  2. Well how did your run go?

    It's so hard to know when to back off, when to keep going....when is it hurting too much? When is it damaging pain? I ran on my bad hip even though it hurt, and I shouldn't of...I guess as runners we learn these things as we go.

    And yes I get an appreciation for anyone who runs...whether it's a mile, or 26.2...and whether you are running it at a 12 minute pace or 7. If someone is out there trying...I have respect for them. Running is not easy, and though I love it, I probably hate it just as much at times.

    Your training has been great. I know you have had some rough runs, but you get out there an try again the next weekend. It's all about putting the effort in.

  3. It was one helluva tough run, Rain! I stopped 5 x in a 10 mile run (which I cut to 10 miles ... I was supposed to be out for an addtional two hours) to roll my foot on a golf ball. I decided to play it safe -- I really need this right foot for the race!

    Thank you for the kind words. You, along with several people who check in on this blog will certainly be with me on 5/5!

  4. Triple T... I am glad to have you in my life and watch you as you go through your journey and see what else you will have up your sleeve in the future!!!!! Wendy :)