Thursday, December 4, 2008

How Not To Run A Marathon

I have always hated running. I don't mind sprinting races but I think that long distance runners are gluttons for punishment. I never really ran until about 10 years ago when I started dabbling with 5Ks which were the perfect distance for me. I was content running a couple of these a year until one day I saw a documentary on marathon runners. I was astonished to see the elite runners compete at a near sprint pace for 26.2 miles. I was even more inspired to see old and overweight people finish the race. The whole underdog concept was inspiring to me.

I had heard that many of my friends had run marathons over the years and I wanted to run one too. I decided to sign up for the Logan Marathon 2 1/2 months before the race date. I had not trained at all so I asked a runner friend some tips and she recommended the book Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higden. It was a great book and it confirmed my prior suspicion that distance runners are a strange breed. The book recommended 6-12 months to prepare for the run but I didn't have that much time and besides the author didn't realize who he was dealing with. I knew I could do it without all the recommended training.

In preparation I ran a half marathon five weeks later and it nearly killed me. I came across the finish line just under 2 hours and hobbled straight to a nearby stream to soak my aching legs. I'm good enough at math to know that since it took me under 2 hours to run a half marathon it would obviously only take me 4 hours to run a full one. Whatever. I eventually built up to a 20 mile run in preparation for the race but my knees were killing me from such an overwhelming work load in such a short amount of time.

The race day came quicker than I'd like. I found myself eagerly waiting at the starting line with a large and excited crowd. The gun fired and I started the run. I listened to music on my MP3 player to help keep me motivated. I know serious marathoners don't do this but I felt I needed the extra boost and some distraction from the monotony. I finished the first 3 miles in about 21 minutes and was running the pace I planned but by mile 4 my knee was killing me and I started limping. I stopped at every aid station for ice spray and ibuprofen but it just kept getting worse. I knew this was not a good thing but I kept running.

By the time mile 18 came I had hit the infamous wall. It seemed that all the runners around me were also frustrated, exhausted, and in pain. Many had discarded their now useless earphones since not even the most motivating music could compensate for the complete depletion of glycogen and adrenalin. By this point all the serious runners had finished the race. The most frustrating part was when I finally stopped running and started walking. I realized that I was actually moving faster by walking than I had been jogging. I continued running but more people were passing me which was frustrating. I really got mad when an old lady with a hunch back passed me after mile 23. The final miles dragged on forever and I had no strength left. I finally crossed the finish line hobbling in pain with clenched teeth. I immediately found a nearby place to lie down. I was in a lot of pain but I was just grateful that I was not one of the runners I had seen puking or collapsing at the finish line. I didn't finish anywhere near my goal time but I had finished a marathon.

I couldn't bend my knee for several days so I went to the doctor and he said luckily there was no permanent damage. His official medical prognosis was "that I was an idiot for not taking sufficient time to prepare." I was limping for over 3 weeks after the race and had limited range of motion but my body finally healed. I would like to run another one now since I know I could do better if I had trained properly. I would suggest a marathon for anyone who is interested in the challenge. It is as much of a mental feat as it is a physical one. My only advice is to take the time to prepare. You can B.S. your way through a 5 K but a marathon is a different matter.

No comments: