Still Running

Since completing the Flying Pig Marathon in May, I haven't been able to keep a consistent running routine. Part of the blame could be assessed to my work schedule. The lion's share of blame can be heaped upon the summer's fire, our relocation to the sidewalk-less suburbs, and my desire to stay alive. I did play some soccer this summer, and I managed to get a couple runs in per week, so I'm not in horrible shape. But since the Pig, I only managed four runs over six miles—the longest being 13 miles.

That's not a good base for a marathon run.

But I paid to run last weekend's Monumental Marathon in Indy months ago, so I was going to get out there as far as possible and see if I could manage my way to the finish line. I had some extra motivation to get this one in, as I'd be running with my good friend Larry. But he had his own training struggles. After a summer of solid running, he came down with a bad case of runner's knee that has severely hampering his long distance runs. Still, Larry held my philosophy: try to figure out a way to get to the finish line. If things with his knee got really bad, he'd just turn home at the split and run the half-marathon.

One more roadblock to this race is that I caught a cold a couple weeks before. My colds tend to move from the throat, up to the head, then to the nose, and ending with a terrible cough. I've been coughing non-stop for days. I had no desire to take my old standby—NyQuil—as I wanted to retain some semblance of healthy sleep. The night before the race, I lathered up with VapoRub to help me sleep and made it through most of the night without coughing. During the race, I had a pocket full of cough drops to suck on through the race.

It was a chilly day in Indianapolis this past weekend, with a high of 45 degrees. We made it to the starting line with a couple of minutes to spare, but nobody was lined up. We eventually surmised that our hotel clock was faster than actual time, making us earlier to the race than we desired. At the starting line, we started off with a solid, but respectable pace, and things were going well.

But then came mile five.

It was then that Larry asked to slow it down, and it quickly became to much for his knee to bear. We ended up walking about a mile-and-a-half. Realizing that he wasn't going to get the full marathon in, Larry blessed me to go on without him. I felt horrible leaving him behind, but he powered through the half-marathon, posting a great time for a bum knee.

So at 6.5 miles, I was out on my own. Because of my lack of training, I had been nervous about finding the right pace, but starting with Larry gave me a perfect pace. And our walk in the early part of the race, provided me with the ultimate opportunity: I was so far in back of the pack, that my slow pace was still much faster than those people ahead of me. Instantly, I started passing people along the course. This did wonders for my psyche, putting me in an excellent frame of mind with which to carry on. I'm so glad this was the case, because there were hardly any spectators out on the course. Just a note about this marathon in case someone stumbles on this post wanting to run it: nice, flat course. Incredibly friendly volunteers, but almost no spectators at all. You can't rely on the fans to bring you home in this race.

Approaching the halfway point, I was feeling great, but my time wasn't looking too great. But this gave me a new goal: record a negative split (finishing the second half in a better time than the first). I felt great through the next few miles, but then the weather started to shift. It started to rain, and then hail, when I reached mile seventeen. This didn't last too long, though, and I kept on at a consistent pace. It wasn't until mile twenty that I started feeling the effects of my poor training. My right knee (which has given me problems before) and my left Achilles tendon (again, a pesky bother in my running) both started to ache. At mile twenty-three, I was certain I'd have to start walking because of the tendon, but I kept running and powered through it. Oh, and the cough drops did the trick. Combined with the cooler air, I rarely coughed at all through the entire run.

I've never done so well keeping a consistent pace, even though it was slower than my normal time.

As I made the turn towards downtown Indy and the finish line, I was feeling great, so I decided to turn it up. I was pulling down some good time, but then it started to rain.

Very hard rain.

By mile twenty-four, I was soaked. I looked up at a bank sign and the temperature was 36 degrees. For some reason, that made me run even harder. It was one of the strongest finishes I ever had in a marathon. My 4:29 time was right where I thought I'd be. At the finish line, I took my medal and then broke into a minute-long coughing fit.

It wasn't a pretty race, but it was highly satisfying. I'm so glad that I stuck with it and ran it out. And I'm not really feeling any adverse effects because of my lack of training. I suppose the running I did at the beginning of the year, and my accumulated training over the past two years, bailed me out.

So that's now six marathons under my belt. And, as long as my body holds up, I'm going to keep at. I've already signed up for May's Flying Pig and will likely look for another marathon next fall. I never imagined that I'd turn into a marathoner, but I'm somewhat addicted. I love the challenge of the race. I love seeing how my body reacts to different situations. And it's just a great way for me to stay in shape.

But next time, I'll stick to training better.