Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Dig: Running the Chicago Marathon
Lots of training (18 weeks' worth) came to an exciting (it was exciting to ME, at least) conclusion this past Sunday in downtown Chicago: I ran a marathon. I set a few different goals for myself but the hardest one was probably my time goal of 4:20 - that's four and a third hours of running - and, what do you know if my actual time wasn't 4:20:47! I'm cutting myself some slack on the 47 seconds and calling it a win. My first goal was to just finish. That was going to be pretty much a given. Unless I blew out a knee or a spleen or something, I was going to get myself across the finish line. My second goal was to run the whole thing and not take any walking breaks. I allowed myself to walk through a few of the water stations so I'm saying that goal was achieved also. And then I met the whole time thing so all in all a pretty good day.
I won't bore you with too many details about the actual run. This blog o' mine ain't about summing up my physical feats of strength (insert comment about my limited physical feats of strength here). These electrons are about things that I dig, hate and don't get and I'm here to tell you that there were a few of each on this particular 42 degree day. So, the over-riding theme is a big Dig (pardon the reference to the super-duper construction project in Boston) but let's review a little, shall we?
Don't Get: How do those Kenyans do it?! Good God, the winner ran a pace of 4:51 per mile. I was happy with my 9:56. I can't run one mile in under 5 minutes, let alone 26.2 of said miles! Unbelievable! I might move to Kenya so I can run faster.
Dig: The spectators. They were huge for me. Supposedly, there were a million of them. There were plenty of times when I needed to be distracted so I didn't focus on my misery so I just people-watched which was almost as good as my recent airport-people-watching activities. Saw lots of dogs, signs, pseudo-runners, people holding signs, my wife and the occasional sign. Gave high-fives to a boat-load of perfect strangers and every time I slapped some skin (or glove, since it was so chilly), it pumped me up to run faster. Saw Elvis and any time you see Elvis, you know it's going to be a good day! (Ironically, I was in Chicago on 8/16/77. Do you know where you were when you heard that the King died?)
Hate: Chafing. But I've already covered that in a previous post. Let's just keep moving along since you really don't want to know about where I chafed. I'm happy to report, though, that a couple of well-placed band-aids did their job!
Dig: Gutting out the last 6 miles or so. I Started to fade but I just kept pickin' 'em up and puttin' 'em down. I told myself that all I had to do was run to that No Parking sign and back that I had done so many times in training. Forget the 20 that I had already done. Just run to the sign and back. The definition of "sucking it up".
Hate: That feeling of almost-puke that I got for about 24 hours before the race. You know that feeling? Like if you caught a whiff of the inside of a dumpster at the wrong time, you might just lose it? I can't tell you how many times I had to grit my teeth and go to my Happy Place during the day prior to the race.
Dig: Only peeing in an alley once. Bonus! It was just that little nervous pee, anyway. Otherwise, I had a pretty good balance of fluids going out and fluids coming in.
Don't Get: People who do this on a regular basis. For me, this whole thing was less about running than it was about me setting a goal and achieving it. I haven't decided yet if this will be a one-off or if I'll be one of those people who runs marathons. For now, I'm a guy who ran a marathon. Big difference - and not just the letter "s". For a "Dig" within a "Don't Get", though, I dig that other people don't get how I could do this. Here's a little tip from an experienced marathon runner on how to run a marathon: Run 1 mile. Repeat 26.2 times. It ain't that hard to understand and it's as much in your melon as it is in your legs. I guess it's kind of like me thinking the people who do the Ironman triathlon are freaks. Let your Freak Flag fly, I say!
Hate: All the pre- and post-race shenanigans. It was really distracting (in a bad way) to have to worry about getting to the race on time, meeting with my wife, checking out of the hotel, etc. Us small-town boys don't know nothin' about them there taxi-cabs and those boys with the funny accents who drive them.
Dig: A sign that said "No Namby Pamby Bullshit". Amen to that, my brother! That's what I'm talking about! As a matter of fact, that's what I said to the guy holding the sign. That sign carried me for at least 0.37 miles.
So there you have it. A pretty good Sunday morning for this 39 year-old. I'm reluctant to say that it wasn't as hard as I was expecting, but I felt pretty good at the finish line - and even for the 26.2 miles prior to the finish line. Any of those freak-ish triathletes would be planning their next marathon to better their times but I'm just going to bask in the glow for a while. If you need me, I'll be over here in the glow.
For all the race details, go to www.chicagomarathon.com. Check out runner number 39362. I'm the good-looking one in the yellow hat.