12 January 2010


My objections and reservations aside, I am in training to run my first marathon.

"I am not a runner" - I will still assert this. As I said to someone in the gym recently, "running is still my love language." Still, after my toe in the water with a charity 5k run in June, and people telling me I did well (surprised to hear this was my first 5k) ... well, I don't know if it was flattery, curiosity, or endorphins - I kept running, a little bit. In addition to time on the bike, I ran once or twice a week, and decided to see how far I could go without a lot of pain. The goal? "Friends" were egging me on to register for a specific marathon. I set a distance goal, and decided if I could handle a 10-mile run by the opening of registration for the marathon, I would do it. By September I had, and on September 1 I registered for the Big Sur International Marathon.

The Big Sur is NOT the ideal "first marathon." I have worked through this with the men I'll be going with (all of whom will finish the course before I do). It is a dumb idea; but on the other hand, since I have never run a marathon, I have nothing to compare it to. So, the reasoning goes - and even if it's only to make me feel better, I'm buying into it - I can just enjoy it.

Two things attracted me to the idea. Three things: 1 - it is a chance to get to California and see my son Chris, in the Bay Area; 2 - I have driven the coastal highway, and the idea of trotting along and being able to take it in is hard to resist; 3 - it is an "anniversary year" for the event (25th), and so should be specially interesting and fun. To top it off, I will be with 3 other men from church, including one of my pastoral colleagues. That will provide some training camaraderie, and an extra bit of personal engagement before, during and after the race.

While sorting out this prospect, I spent a few days in Portland, OR, with my Karen. As I do whenever we go there, I spent one of those days at Powell's Bookshop. There I found a cheap used copy of a 10-year-old training guide: 4 Months to a 4 Hour Marathon by Dave Kuehls. I almost disregarded it, then noted that Kuehls wrote the book after his father - A MAN IN HIS 50's! - decided, trained, and ran his FIRST MARATHON. OK, so this book had to come home with me. I ran it by a couple of marathoning friends, who said, yes, the training program looks good. The age of the book primarily meant information about gear had changed, but the advice was sound.

So by September I had bought my first pair of "running store running shoes" and registered for the Marathon. I wasn't ready to give up the bike in good weather, but I committed to running twice a week, just to keep the legs where I wanted them. These were mostly 5k runs in the neighborhood or on the paths across the road from me. 5k or 5 miles. For one of those runs I had ridden a bike into town to give to a friend, prepared to run back home, on streets and the path. The next day my knee was in a great deal of pain, which lasted a couple of weeks. That's when I stopped using my old running shoes as alternates ...

Christmas Day was exactly 4 months to the April 25 marathon in California. Happily, by tracking the weeks instead of the dates, I could put off the start of official training for a couple of days. This past Saturday I finished week 2, with a 9-mile run. This coming Saturday, at the end of week 3, I am meant to run 11 - which will then be the longest run of my life.

The only frustration so far is that with the intense cold - and actully more to the point, with icy streets and snow-packed paths - my first 2 training weeks were indoors, at the Wheaton College Sports and Recreation Center. That has got to change! Quarter mile speed intervals are lousy on small tracks, and 9 miles on a treadmill ... well, the Decemberists helped, and Johnny Cash. But still.

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