Monday, April 25, 2011

Along For The Marathon Ride

If you read this blog hoping to be wowed by a spectacular marathon time, you’re probably reading the wrong blog. If you’re hoping to get some tips on how to qualify for the Boston Marathon, then you are definitely reading the wrong blog.

What I realized the most from my experience with the Diamond Valley Lake Marathon is that speed is not the end-all be-all to me. It isn’t.

Now, I will add this as a disclaimer up front: what I say from here on out isn’t necessarily an indictment on speed; nor does it mean that I don’t want to go after certain PRs at certain distances. On the contrary, I think for me those goals are healthy and important, to an extent.

But having a great time, setting a PR, knocking one out of the park is not the only thing I look for in marathons… races in general but particularly marathons.

I’ve compared and contrasted my two most recent marathons and came to that conclusion. For the DVL Marathon, my goals were to finish strong and to work on my mental state in the latter portion of the race (Miles 20-plus). I met those goals. My time suffered – 4:44:25. Yikes! It was a full 21 minutes slower than the PR I'd set at Surf City just nine weeks prior - 4:23:38.

There are factors as to why my time changed so dramatically, as I’ve blogged about already, but despite the disparity in time, I’m fairly certain I got more out of DVL than I did from Surf City.

Marathons are challenges. They truly are. Every one I’ve done has grabbed me, shaken me, picked me up my feet and slammed my head on the ground multiple times - and then they each proceeded to have their way with me. Consequently, my mind was in a pudding-like state while my muscles refused to act like normal.

And I think that’s what I enjoy about marathons. I like them precisely because they are tough, because they are challenging, because you can’t bullshit your way around one. Either you do it or you don’t. It’s the ultimate line in the sand and I’m one of the few foolish enough to cross it.

If I were to put all of my marathons in a bag, reach in and take one out – doesn’t matter which one – I could honestly say that that specific marathon was the hardest single physical thing I’ve had to endure in my life, bar none. They are each at the same level – on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most difficult thing you could possibly do, they are all 10s (I know, dropping 100-plus pounds was tough but that was a sustained period of difficulty, versus one grueling act).

And no matter how much I train for my next one or the next five or 12 or 23… they will never cease being 10s. I know that full well going in, which is why I bust my butt and train hard for them. That’s why I get up at 5:30 on Sunday mornings and go run 10, 12, 15, 18, 20 miles; that goes to the no BS’ing your way around a marathon thing. That’s why I take care of my body (mostly), why I’ve all but stopped drinking, why I have my gym membership, why I spend so much money on shoes and gear in general… the list goes on and on.

Time is only a part of the marathon experience for me. What matters most to me is conquering the distance, slaying the beast, defeating the monster. Believe me, marathons are monsters. There’s no sugar-coating it. I’ve been in the belly of the beast, and it’s as dark and dingy of a place as you can imagine.

But that’s what concerns me, delving to the depths of the dungeon and climbing out, not so much how fast I was able to escape from the monster’s clutches.

And if the journey is what matters to you, then stick around.

I’ll have plenty of those tales to tell.

5 comments:

Michael said...

I love following along your journey and like everyone says time is relative.....you are still ALOT faster than me. When I do my first marathon in Jan I will probably finish around 6 hours - I know I will definitely "enter the belly of the beast". I will be looking to you for inspiration - seriously...it's nice to have people out there who have been through it.

Mark said...

Wait, you aren't going to offer tips on the Boston Marathon? I've been reading you for two years for nothing?

Seriously, I'm not a speed demon by any stretch of the imagination. And I love reading your blog because you take pride in finishing and not worrying so much about PR's. Plus, every race can't be a PR can it?

Jim ... 50after40 said...

I love this post - I admittedly am one of those people who have to fight getting caught up in time. I always enjoy the marathon experience, but not as much as i probably should - but i'm learning to do that more. Great post!

Blanda Amania said...

Amen! I have come to the conclusion that I probably won't every "race" a marathon, but ran as many as I can for the experience and challenge. Rock on!

Glenn Jones said...

You've hooked me! So what's next?