Running My Own Race

Chelmsford Police 5K Road RaceAnyone who follows my Twitter stream will have noticed (and been reminded … and reminded … and reminded …) that sometime around the last week of November 2008 I decided to make a real effort to get back in shape. As if my obsessive running-themed status updates weren’t enough there, I even decided to duplicate them in a new Exercise portion in the sidebar of this blog, displaying the most recent runs posted to my training log at MapMyRun.com. More than just a way to allow people a peek into the tedium of my daily routine, making my regimen public helps motivate me. As pathetic as it may sound, the shame of too many days without an exercise update keeps me going when my own intrinsic impulses fail me.

Breaking AwaySpeaking of motivation, like (I assume) most people who fall off the exercise wagon and want to jump back on, I felt I needed this little push to get over the initial hump, where even a couple miles on the road or treadmill felt a little demoralizing. I also held a bit of my motivation in reserve (that is, I didn’t make it public), something I’d counted on before–namely, training for a race. More specifically, I decided I’d prepare myself to run the Hyannis Half Marathon in February, which I ran last year as one leg of a two-person full-Nmarathon relay. When I started in November, this was the prize on which I set my eyes, the thing I told myself I’d better be ready for to keep myself moving.

The Couple That Runs TogetherBut somewhere along the way–and it didn’t take all that long, really–I actually started to enjoy running again for its own sake again. This isn’t to say that the goal was no longer important (to tell the truth, I started to get more impatient about getting to that distance), but I became less dependent on the ideal of participating in the official event. So, after running my longest distance (8.3 miles on December 21) since last February and feeling really good about it, I decided to push myself a week later to see what I was capable of.

The result? Half-marathon distance, on December 28, on my own, in 1:49:55, about five minutes faster than my time last February in the relay. Though proud of me, my running (and life) partner, Kristina, was probably right to call this jump in distance “stupid,” but I didn’t injure myself and felt great after, so I’m glad I did it. I feel like I’ve already accomplished what I set out to do, and now I’m ready to maintain my health and enjoy what I’m doing, without calling it “training.”

But I don’t want anyone to misunderstand my perspective on formal races, least of all Kristina, who does train and does run races, all of which makes me more than a little awestruck. I still think races are great events and very important for reaching major goals, and, to be honest, I’m probably rationalizing not running Hyannis a little more than making a big statement, largely because it’s a financial expense I feel I can (and should) avoid. But there is a nugget of truth in there, at least for me. For the distances I intend to run and for my own goals, I don’t think I need a race to get me there.

Marathon ManNow, if I were to run a marathon, that would be a different story, something I don’t think I could ever accomplish on my own. I actually ran a marathon with Kristina once (well, most of the way, before I allowed her to leave me behind a few miles from the finish) and it nearly made me physically unable to run ever again (my knees! my knees!). And as you can see in the photo on the left, I did not feel great at the finish. As it turns out, thankfully, it didn’t end up killing my ability to run permanently, but it just may have killed my desire to run 26.2 miles in one stretch ever again. I’ll leave that to Kristina (her next marathon is less than two weeks away) and support her every step of the way (though not literally, of course).

Anyway, I’ve been running as much as I can since late November and clocked over 75 miles in December, which I’m hoping will keep anyone from calling this a “New Year’s resolution.” I’ve already run 21 miles in the first five days of 2009, which is just over the modest 20-mile goal I’ve set myself as my minimum weekly distance (there, I’ve said it out loud, so I suppose I’ll need to follow through), and I continue to feel great. I don’t get the crowds, but I get a finish line every day, and every day, I get to break the tape.

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