Friday, March 15, 2013

The Gospel

So I'm two days away from my fifth marathon. I started out at this in 2010 when the race was the Suntrust National Marathon, in 2012, it rebranded itself with Rock 'n Roll, which I'm relatively neutral about -- my first ever race was the first year the Philadelphia Distance Run (1/2 marathon) was a Rock 'n Roll race. Since then, I've done the National Marathon/Rock 'N Roll USA all three years, and had a miserable showing in the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. 

Last year I was committed to putting an end to this nonsense. I was hurt all the time (I ran on what the orthopedist suggested were torn menisci...I'm virtually certain that was a presumed diagnosis that was off the mark in my case), I wasn't improving, and there wasn't much competitive drive for me. I was hanging it up. I was done until I got fat, turned 35 (then maybe I could stand some chance of qualifying for Boston, assuming I somehow got more athletic in the interim), or met one of my other fitness goals. I went out, ran a respectable 3:22:29 -- two minutes off my fastest pace, but on a course that everyone ran slower -- even though I ran 2 minutes slower, I moved up in the rankings, finishing 160th out of 3,155. In 2010, I'd finished 295th even though I ran it in 3:20:41. And I was done. That was it. No more of this nonsense, I'm hurt all the time, I am not getting better, and oh great, I'm putting on weight already. And I'm angry all the time. And I am completely unmotivated.

So instead of signing up the day the race was announced, I signed up a couple months later. And I think it's the first one I've ever actually looked forward to. The first one, I was looking forward to in a sense, but I was concerned I wasn't ready -- that I would never be ready, in essence. The second one was run three months to the day I got out of a walking boot, so I trained at the level that is supposed to result with stress fractures, and again, wasn't terribly confident about. It ended up being my best time. The third one was prefaced with injuries and was a disaster that has caused me to swear off the Philadelphia Marathon (without good cause) and last spring was the marathon of knee injuries. Every one of them, I looked forward not to the race, but to returning to a bacchanalia of soda, junk food, and alcohol. Now, eh. I've got a lot of soda in the refrigerator that's been patiently waiting, but I feel like I might finally be ready to dump it entirely, which would mean that the next time I start gaining weight, I will just die of heart disease. In retrospect, I needed to maintain a wholly destructive lifestyle for longer -- it's easier to lose weight when all you have to do is stop eating Taco Bell and Buffalo Wild Wings four times a week. 

Now, I'm just sort of okay. I'm not in great shape -- I would be flabbergasted if I beat my 3:20:41, but my knees are okay, my feet seem to be generally holding up after some extensor tendonitis issues in the fall, I've gotten long runs in (though I've done virtually no other runs most of the spring, so I'm not "trained" in the Hal Higdon sense). It's going to rain, it's going to be cold, and it's yet another new course that will be unnecessarily colder and windier than necessary at the expense of people's times, and I don't have all that much confidence (though I can't bring myself to say I lack confidence that I'll finish, so I guess I have enough), but I am genuinely excited to do it.

I suppose everybody needs some form of evangelism. For whatever reason, mine shows up when I get in the DC Armory, surrounded by people buying 13.1 or 26.2 magnets for their car or more magical items that they think will get them through the race (and I say this as a complete sucker for racing pseudo-science...I only am not buying magical amulets because I already have CES compression socks).