Monday, April 21, 2008

Acute Bostonitis

When I turned 30, I was a competitive recreational (if that makes sense) soccer player. I ran a few times a week, usually 3-4 miles, lifted weights once or twice a week and played soccer anywhere from 1 to 3 times a week. I knew some distance runners, would hear about marathon training, marveled at how anyone could run 20 miles, not to mention any more than that. At the not-so-surprise 30th birthday party which my wife threw for me, I half-jokingly told a friend who was thinking about running a marathon that I would like to run Boston when I am 40. Well, 40 arrives this year, and I have my sights squarely set on lining up at the starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts for the 113th running of the Boston Marathon.

While having this tangible, concrete goal is mostly a good thing, running shouldn't be driven exclusively by some such objective. Despite how much I think about getting to Boston, obtaining the coveted "BQ" (Boston qualifying time) of 3:20:59 and generally about the experience of lining up with 25,000 similarly "committed" runners, I do enjoy running for the sake of running. Getting faster also helps keep me motivated, but the sheer feeling of moving through the world on the power of nothing more than one's own two feet is unlike any other. Sometimes when we drive around town and I tell my kids or my wife that I've run by a certain area, they can't believe that I got there from home on foot. Yesterday my almost-seven year old son was surprised when I told him I'd run 10 miles on Sunday. "Only 10? You usually run 15 or more, right?" His little sister (4 years old) chimed in to ask whether I'd ever run "googleplex" miles, a popular modifier around the house these days. I told her that I hadn't.

However, I will confess here and now that despite all of the nobility of distance running, the proud tradition, the healthful benefits, the new community upon which I've happened, getting to Boston is what motivates me above anything else. It gets me out the door during the darkest winter mornings. It renders acceptable the sacrifices in terms of sleep, work, family, friends and everything else that I've been willing to give up in furtherance of this goal. I know it's largely vanity and self-glorification; I know it means nothing to anyone but me; I know I could stop training and spend more time with my wife & kids, or do more community service or get a better night's sleep more often.

But I am wired with obsessive tendencies, and the athletic part of the tendencies which used to focus on soccer now focus on running. And by that I mean actually running; keeping abreast of the latest & acquiring lots of running gear; reading about running; watching elites run; talking to other runners; blogging about running . . . I think you get the idea. I actually recorded all 5 1/2 hours of the local coverage of the Boston Marathon, and watched a fair amount of it.

Though she might disagree, I do understand that it must annoy my wife to no end that I am this interested in something she finds not only boring, but an affront to her very nature. She cannot conceive of why running is enjoyable, and simply does not value it as a leisure pursuit. She does get the goal-setting and need for exercise aspects of the whole thing, but it's simply not her cup of tea. This is the kind of thing that every so often keeps me up at night, because I hope not to have to choose between running and family. Of course, I would choose my family, but being forced into that choice could easily render me a resentful old coot, embittered by having been denied a chance to chase his dream.

So, I spent too much time online following the Boston marathon. I worked too long on my blog. I got less done than I'd have liked. But I have an itch that seems to need a daily scratch, and I plan to keep doing it.

Looking at the bigger personal picture, my sense is that if my body (and my marriage) hold up, I'll get to Boston and then settle into a better groove, where running is simply a part of my life, one which does not require incessant chatter and endless head-spinning in order to be satisfying.My dream vision for the next 10 years or so is to qualify for Boston, re-qualify at Boston every year, then decide whether to do other marathons without the same finishing time pressures, maybe focus on shorter stuff, run an ultra, think about triathlons or do whatever I want with the baseline fitness which running has given me. Doubt I'll ever be one of the daily running streakers, but who knows.

Injury Update

I went out this morning for an easy 8 miles, but my right hip was not especially cooperative. I struggled, stopping to stretch a few times (and once to use a port-a-john which has thankfully returned to a local baseball park) and generally trying to get through it. I ended up running a very slow 6.6. miles, mostly because I was about 3 miles away from home when I realized that I was hurting too much to continue.

The plan now is to take at least 2 or 3 days off from running, using the bike & elliptical machine to minimize fitness loss, and focus on getting to Sunday's 17-miler in good enough shape to run 14 of those miles at goal marathon pace (7:50-7:55 per mile). There's no choice here but to listen to my body, as the two long runs before I taper are the key remaining workouts. If they're the cake, the rest is mostly icing. In a marathon, it's the cake that will get you to the finish line. Too much icing on too little cake might leave you brokenhearted somewhere around mile 20, a cruelly long way to have gone for one's marathon dreams to vanish into thin air.

Hope your running is going better than mine at the moment.


1 comment:

Shel said...

I heard about your blog from Phedippidations. I've enjoy reading about fellow runners. You and I have/had the same goal. My biggest dream is to BQ. I need to shave 12 minutes off my time. I've been offered bibs from locals who can 'get them', but I keep declining as I want to be in that field of runners on my own.

Sorry about the hip. Sounds VERY similiar to an injury I had last year. Just keep stretching -- and I'll keep reading.