Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On the Trail

I first started running 21 years ago at the tender age of 16. In desperate need to shed some weight, running seemed like the best form of exercise to undertake. In conjunction with a couple of hours of bike riding (both stationary and 18-speed) per day, I I managed to shed 60 pounds that spring and early summer.

I've been running ever since, even as I gained back (and lost and gained and lost and gained and lost) the weight. The thing is, until about six years ago I never ran more than a few miles without stopping or walking. As a teenager I would walk the two and a half miles to the park, then start my running - one loop around the park at around 1.25 miles, plus the distance back. For most of my twenties when I ran it was usually a long combination of running and walking. It wasn't until Super Bowl Sunday, 2008 (the Giants shock the undefeated Patriots) that I finally ran more than five miles uninterrupted.

Since that day I've consistently been able to run without more than cursory walk stops, although there have been a few 90+ degree days after which I realized I shouldn't be out on the trail. By the end of 2008 I was running five times a week, and capped it off by running a half marathon length on the trail. The marathon was next.

And then kids happened. They say husbands often gain sympathy weight during pregnancy. I didn't - but did afterwards. My running became more sporadic. I was still able to run 7 or even 8 miles when I could find the time, but finding such time was becoming rarer and rarer. Finally, after the birth of our third child, I resolved to stop making excuses. I spent the winter shedding most of the weight I had gained back since the birth of our first child, and then vowed that I would get into marathon shape.

And so here I am, almost halfway through 18-weeks of semi-rigorous training. I decided to follow Hal Higdon's Novice 2 training schedule. It's geared for people like me who have never run a marathon but who have experience running. At this point in the training I am running not quite 30 miles a week, which is not stupendously rigorous. This past Saturday I ran 15 miles, which is the longest I have run at any point in my life, and there are longer runs ahead.

The only thing I have sacrificed is sleep. My alarm gets me out of bed by 5:30 most mornings, and thus far I have managed to stifle those internal voices telling me to just hit snooze and forget about working out. It hasn't been that difficult to rouse myself, as I frankly look forward to running and sort of resent my non-running days (which are three days out of the week).

Only once in the nine weeks so far have I thought to myself, "Why the hell am I doing this?" It came in the middle of a particularly 12-mile run, and I imagine it will cross my mind again as the long runs get longer. But as long as I have some good tunes and a peaceful trail at my disposal, I'm feeling good.

At any rate, nine weeks from this Saturday I will be running the Baltimore Marathon. If I finish the thing in under five hours I'd be pretty happy, and I'd be ecstatic with 4.5 hours. Then again, as long as I finish the damned thing, I think I will feel some sense of accomplishment.

Almost there.

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