Thursday, July 19, 2007

Marathon training, take 2

Well, it's official. I'm an assistant coach for the Woodlands Fit "red
group" (the 10-or-more minutes/mile pace group), and I'm 25 weeks (or so) away
from running my second marathon. It's been quite a year.

I started running in 2004, when I decided that I really needed to get some
exercise, I couldn't find three people to play volleyball with me, and I needed
a sport that was inexpensive. Running seemed to fit the bill. I ran a couple
of 5K races in early 2005, neglected to buy new shoes, and developed a nasty
case of plantar fasciitis that took me out of running for over a year.

By this time last year, though, I had just started running again when I saw an
ad for Woodlands Fit at Luke's Locker (during the Wine Walk, of all things).
I'd already run some 5K races, and I was planning to train for a 10K, but I
thought training for a half-marathon might not be too far out of my reach.
Well, actually I was pretty sure that it would be out of my reach, but it would
at least be fun to train with other people. Shrug

So, I went to the first meeting last year, shyly talked to a few people there,
and somehow got talked into running the 3-mile time trial, despite the fact (a)
I hadn't run anything farther than 1.5 miles at a stretch in over a year, (b) I
wasn't planning on training for the marathon, but the half marathon, and (c) it
was darn hot. After the second mile, I felt like I was going to die, but I
finished. (This would become a theme.) I then made the fateful decision that
I would train for the full marathon, even though I was still planning to do the
half. (I'm not sure how I was talked into that, but I suspect that Beth
Whitehead was involved in the process somewhere.)

My wife, upon being informed that I had done something so foolish, ordered
me to go see our physician and get checked out. Smart girl.

Thus began my foray into endurance running. Running minutes at home, often
with Ophelia (my dog), wasn't too bad. Hills were harder. Beth would fib to
me that the hills were almost done (those other hills we still had to climb
weren't real hills, she'd say) to get me past them. For the first several
months I couldn't see how the 3.2 mile Thursday social run could possibly be
considered "an easy 3 miles", as I frequently had to walk during some portion
of the run.

Then there were the Saturday runs. Almost every Saturday my run was farther
than I'd ever run before. Almost every Saturday I felt like I was going to die
trying to run that distance. Almost every Saturday I had to walk at least some
portion of the run. Nonetheless, with the help and encouragement of many
Woodlands Fit runners, I survived every single run. It's possible that I'm a
tad stubborn. Also, the fact that my wife was incredibly proud of me didn't

(As an aside, you know you're a runner when you're running a long run, and
you actually forget that it's raining!)

On 14 January 2007 I completed my first (and, so far, only) marathon in roughly
five hours and thirty minutes. I'd have liked to have finished faster, but I'm
not really complaining.

After finishing the marathon, some sense returned, and I thought, you know, I
don't really need to run another of these. Famous last words, of course.
Three Saturdays later, I was out with the group at 6am again, running in the
rain. Since then my 11+-minute/mile pace has somehow been replaced by a
Wednesday speed run at 9:20 over nearly 5 miles. Of course, since I'm running
faster, I still feel like I'm going to die during some of these runs. On the
other hand, 3.2 miles actually does feel like "an easy distance" now, at least
most of the time.

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