Going the distance?


I’ve got this January marathon on the schedule.  Hyped it up as kind of my last “Hurrah!” before strolling into the triathlon/racing sunset for the 2009 season.  A fun day-in-the-sun trip to warm weather Phoenix with some friends, pounding out the 26.2 miles to finally say that I’ve conquered this distance.  

Up to this point, the training has been going along okay, at least.  To be fair, though, I hadn’t yet hit the “REALLY LONG” long runs.  I had worked up to 16 miles, but still had 18, 20 and the mother of all long runs — the 22-miler — ahead of me.  In the back of my mind, I knew these runs were out there on my schedule, and I was nervous about them – almost dreading them.  But also knew that as awful as they might be, I would complete them with a certain sense of accomplishment.  “What did you do this weekend?”  “Oh, I just ran 22 miles in the snow and cold.”  I mean – how awesome would that conversation be?  (and yes, I understand that I’m a little bit warped)

But now, due to a series of unforeseen circumstances, I’m the only one from the group that’s still able to head out to Phoenix to run.  So, the question:  do I forge ahead on my own and run the marathon, or do I abandon the challenge and start my off-season, effective immediately, celebrating with holiday cookies and eggnog?

I’ve got to admit, from the beginning I wasn’t completely stoked about doing a marathon.  For whatever reason, when a run goes longer than 12 or 13 miles, I start hating it.  The length of it, the pain of it, the boredom of it, the difficulty of it.  It’s HARD!  And as I mentioned, I was dreading the idea of the long runs — and while the run is time-consuming, there’s so much more to it:   not only is it the 3+ hours spent on your feet, but it’s eating right the day before, getting enough sleep, getting the nutrtion right, mapping out a route and then time afterwards recovering — recovery meal, ice bath (one of the finer pleasures in life – try it sometime!), post recovery meal snack, shower and clean up, additional post recovery snack, and then the most important recovery task of all… the NAP.  One long run can legitimately tie up an entire day (or weekend!) by the time all is said and done.

And then there’s the doing this all on my own.  Now, being single I’ve done a fair amount of traveling by myself, and it has it’s pros and cons.  For certain trips, I don’t mind it at all (and actually prefer it!), other trips, I really enjoy having someone to travel with.  And where do races fall in this spectrum?  In my mind, that’s definitely more of a group event.  What’s the fun of going to someplace new and exciting, racing 26.2 and then not having anyone to dissect the post race party with afterwards?  Not having someone to agonize with the night before over which restaurant will serve the best (and blandest!) carbs?  Or missing out by having to wait in the pre-race port-a-potty lines all by your lonesome (or – I suppose – with 30,000 of your new best friends…).  While I’ll socialize with people along the way – I’m pretty friendly and chit-chatty when I’m on my own like that – it’s just not quite the same, either.

All that said, there’s still a part of me that wants to chase this marathon.  Sure, the toughest part of the training is still ahead of me, but that doesn’t mean that what I’ve done up until now has been easy.  With the exception of needing to drop a little holiday poundage (yes! already!), this is about as good a time as any for me to be training for this.  Life has slowed down enough that I’ve got time in my schedule to get everything in, and it serves the purpose of keeping me focused throughout the holidays.  And anyway, I’d hate to throw away all the work I’ve already done!  It’s not like I can come back to this at some later date and start where I left off.

I really want to be done with this distance – but “done” meaning that I’ve run a successful marathon.  I’ve done two previously, and both were disasters:  the first was 16 miles that weren’t so bad and then 10 miles of running port-a-potty to port-a-potty (try squatting when you’ve already got 20 miles on your legs!) and the second was the infamous 2007 Chicago Marathon — the one that was cancelled due to the heat (when I was at mile 22) and declared a “Fun Run” instead.  (“Fun”??  I think not!).  So, I’ve got some revenge to take on this distance.  I want to do it one more time, and I want it to be done right, to be able to consider it a success.  And this isn’t completely measured in finish time, either — it’s being able to go the 26.2 miles and finish knowing that I gave it my best shot, that my best effort was left there on the course.

It’s funny, I read what I’ve already wrote and if I were looking in from the outside, I’d say there’s a very clear case for giving in to the relief of just having it be over with now — and a relief it would certainly be! And yet…  I just can’t seem to quite let go of it, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to the rational, non-crazy, why the hell would anyone want to run 26.2 miles side of my brain.

So, here’s my tentative plan:  this weekend I’ve got my 18 mile run.  Perhaps I’ll suit up for it and that’ll make my decision for me.  If it’s agony from start to finish?  Bring on the cookies!  If it goes well?  Then I’ll put the decision on hold until the 20 mile run.  And then rinse and repeat until I’m either stuffing my face with pumpkin pie or toeing the line in Phoenix.  Sound like a plan?


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