Running Review: Part Two

Then I considered all my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. -- Ecclesiastes 2:11 

Running a marathon is a silly endeavor. Really. While thinking about the race the night before, I started realizing that there was no good reason to ever run 26.2 miles, short of being chased by something that could eat you. (If only I had realized that 6 months ago!)

Think about it: what good is there in running a marathon? Really and truly, other than bragging rights, there is no reason for it. (And that one surely falls short of the values I try to live by!) Come to think of it, there are probably more reasons NOT to run a marathon than there are TO run it. It certainly isn't the best thing for your body. That kind of pounding and stress over such a long period of time is as likely to cause chronic overuse injuries (and the need for early knee or hip replacements) as it is longterm fitness and health. I have heard it said that people who run marathons have as many free radicals floating around their body as those who smoke a pack of cigarettes every day. (While that might very well be a contrived statement by someone who scoffs at the notion of running long distance, there are certainly countless articles floating around that point to the health risks associated with marathon running.) And for those looking to drop a few pounds, marathon running is certainly not the way to go. (If anything, this last marathon added several pounds to my scale, leaving me 5-7 pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. Yeah, yeah, I know: "It's just added muscle or water weight"....good luck convincing my ego of that.)

So then why do it?

As I stared at the ceiling the night before, that is precisely the question with which I wrestled.

What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This is also vanity. --Ecclesiastes 2:22-23

I like a good physical challenge. I will claim that. I like to exert myself and push beyond what I thought was possible. I like to look into the mirror and see someone who is working toward something, even if that something isn't at all significant or meaningful to anyone else. I like to rationalize that it is good for my kids to see me working toward and achieving goals; or at least learning from the process. Would I prefer to be able to save lives, secure clean drinking water for all people and stamp out disease and pestilence across the entire universe and beyond while doing so? Of course I would! (Don't think I didn't get all sorts of grandiose ideas running behind the World Vision sponsored ironman guy for so many miles!)

But the truth is, this marathon was about completing a selfish and self serving goal. Yes, I tried to maintain a sense of the holy: reading my bible while training on the treadmill for instance and trying to count my blessings at every mile marker during the race (somehow with the lack of blood flow to the brain, I only came up with about 3 different things that circulated whenever the going got tough....I fell far short of counting blessings every mile!) but does any of that matter in the grand scheme of things? I suppose I can hope.

I will spare you the details of the 26.2 miles. YEAH RIGHT!

So, where was I? The gun exploded and off we went, a giant wave of 889 runners, eager to spend the next few hours doing what we came to do. At first, I wasn't sure about whether to stick with the 3:30 pace group or not. You see, everyone I had spoken to, with the exception of my five-time-Boston-Marathon-running-friend-with-four-kids, had told me to go out slow, 20 to 30 seconds slower than pace for a good three to four miles, easing into the race before hitting my goal pace. Well, apparently that wasn't in my cards. Instead, I simply tried not to run FASTER than pace in the beginning. I kept the World Vision guy in sight because I knew his pace was going to be slightly faster than mine and at first, I hung right behind the pace group.

Kurt was there to cheer me on within the first few miles, telling me the kids were wondering if I was done yet (met with a slightly disgruntled laugh). I ran on.

Around mile 6, I noticed my right calf was tightening and my plantar fasciitis was flaring up a bit. I knew I would have to stop to stretch at least once. After hesitating to do so, I fully caught up to the pace group before pulling off to the side to stretch my calves. After only a few seconds, I jumped back on the road and again caught up to the pacer. That would be my only stop.

About that time, I started getting the itch to pull ahead and go a wee bit faster. Still wary of going too fast, too soon, I jogged ahead and by the time Kurt saw me for the second time, I was well ahead of the pace group. He gave me some water and ran next to me for about half a minute, maybe less.

Along the course, I met several great ladies who wanted to chat but each time I had to explain that if I wanted to stay on pace, I wouldn't be able to talk much. We exchanged emails and phone numbers and went on our separate ways. (No, we did not do that but seriously, you almost feel like you should sometimes....)

Suffice it to say, with the exception of running on river rock for a couple of miles around miles 15-16 and then heading straight uphill, plateauing and then straight up again around miles 17-20, it was a fantastic course. And all the training paid off. I never hit a wall and I ran faster than I had intended (in part because when my pace slowed off a tad and the pace group caught me at the hills, the new pacer for the second half was so annoying that I had to get farther ahead of her so that I couldn't hear her constant chatter anymore!) And even though I did have to apply counter pressure ever so often to the IT band insertion near my right hip, I was still able to do what I enjoy best and start picking people off at the end....first the guy in the minimalist shoes (who said they were great up until we got to the rocks, ouch!) and a handful of women, one who was wearing a running skirt (a personal pet peeve).  Four Gu's and one massive yet painless blood blister later (I'll spare y'all the picture I was going to post....ewww), I finished in a personal best of 3:26:18! (My last marathon, ten years or so ago was a 4:23.) Better yet, my fastest mile was the very last one which I ran in under 7 minutes ending with an all out sprint in the last 200 meters or so. There was brief ecstasy.

And then, like every obsessed runner I know, I left the race feeling like I should have done better. (Yes, seriously.) Certainly I could have run it faster given the amount of energy I had left at the end. Don't get me wrong, I was on cloud nine: partly because of runner's high and lack of oxygen to the brain, partly because I was so wobbly the wind nearly knocked me over several times which I thought was absolutely hysterical (again, because of the runner's high), but mostly because I had reached my goal and qualified for Boston! Yippee!

Yet, within hours, I was plotting out my next course of running action. I mean, surely I can do better than that! While eighth overall female finisher isn't too shabby (uh, did someone mention something about bragging?), there were still SEVEN MORE TO BEAT! (No, that is not really my goal.....at least two of those women ran close to 3 hours flat which is not likely attainable for this gal. Oh well.)

Hopefully next time, I will train even better, learning how to keep life in balance as I go....hopefully I can find a way to add more meaning beyond just self-accomplishment and pride, thus completing my joy just a little more. (Could I, too, somehow wear a charity-sponsored racing shirt or is that only for elite athletes? Could I fundraise while I ran? Why do people give money to charities just because people run anyway? Perhaps I am destined to lead a running group, helping others achieve their fitness goals? Should I become a pacer and be that annoying person that pushes others to do better? Suggestions anyone?) I have to admit, I get shaky just thinking about running Boston....what if I don't succeed? What if it is scorching hot like this year and my time stinks? What if during my next taper I get taken out by an unexpected Ebola outbreak that makes it all the way here to MN from some high security CDC research lab on the east coast? What if......

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given for everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by. --Ecclesiastes 3:9-14

***Next up in the race series: an August Duathlon relay. I will be the running half of team Mieux a Deux during a 5k-run/18-mile bike/5k-run race.....hopefully I can actually run again soon because right now I am still barely making it up and down the stairs!*** 

For now though, it's time to get back to the neglected family I left behind a few months back....I think in the course of my training, Aidan joined a rock band, Madeline played Carnegie, Lily took up roller derby, Liam learned three languages so that he could better greet people in his world travels and Solomon became a highly renowned Jazz Singer after he became the youngest person to ever climb Mt. Everest....

Or something like that.....

1 comment:

  1. COngratulations Karen! Sometimes you just have to do something for yourself, to make you feel like a person outside of wife/mother/daughter/teacher/cook/cleaner/chauffer etc.
    And believe me, us peons who have no abilities or interest in running admire you, at least I do.


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