Sunday, October 19, 2008


It was waaaaaaaaaay back in April that teammate Lauren asked me to run the Chicago marathon with her. It's been a long road from then to now. So, here are some of the thoughts on the whole experience, in no particular order or with no particular significance...
  • DC Fit: Good idea in theory. In practice, implementation is everything. In this case, the other runners and the assistant coaches couldn't, in my mind, make up for the jackassedness of the lead coach. His lack of guidance, planning, and general enthusiasm leaked down throughout the ranks of the group, both staff and runners. In the end, I think we got enough out of it to complete our respective races, but I can see how much better it could have been, and that's too bad.
  • Injuries: I learned a lot about how to distinguish aches versus injuries. Along this journey, there were a few aches I mistook for injuries, and an injury that I mistook for an ache. I think this is one of the most improtant lessons I learned this year.
  • Walking in races: In three of my races this year, I had to walk what I would consider significant chunks (the last leg of MC200, the Philly Distance Run, and the Chicago Marathon). While I still don't like the idea of walking for any significant amount of time in a race, none were for lack of training, and I'm starting to learn how to deal with the fact that sometimes, your body doesn't cooperate. I've never done anything of the level of endurance as distance running before. This year, I ran three half marathons, the relay, and the marathon. I put a lot of miles on my legs, seeing as how Phoenix, back in January, was my very first half marathon.
  • Training: I hit a point in my training for Chicago where running wasn't fun anymore. It was an obligation, something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do. I found that I was actually most frustrated with the fact that I didn't like it anymore, and I really wanted to. Running is my outlet for all the crap in my life. I have some of my best runs at the end of my worst days, and if I run in the morning, it's like I'm coated in teflon for the rest of the day, everything just slides off.
  • Running partners vs running alone: I have found that I like running with people and also running alone. I can think of two specific runs with people that stood out in my mind as being really good this summer. One was with a friend from my old job, Kelly, who was in DC Fit training for Marine Corps. We ran a 10 mile training run during a taper, and we just cruised. It was awesome. The other was with Sarah, another DC Fit member. We ran a 10 miler in the rain on July 5th at 7 a.m., and it would have been terrible to do that alone. We really kept each other going and kept our spirits up as much as possible during that pretty crappy run. On the flip side, though, I did my 18 miler by myself at 5 a.m. on a Monday morning, and it was so great. That was perhaps the most fun run I had during the entire marathon training.
  • Why I run: I flew back from Chicago the Tuesday after the race. I landed, took the Metro home, dropped my bags, and jumped in my car to go to a workshop for work Tuesday night. On my way to the workshop, I drove past one of my regular running routes, and there were tons of people out. My first thought was, "I so wish I was out there right now." All the stress of training, all the "have to" versus "want to" crap about running mentioned above, it all left my mind about a week before Chicago. I remembered I run because I love it. I like that it's hard. I like that sometimes it hurts.
  • Race locations: One of our regular readers, Glaven, has mentioned that he likes how I tend to include a description of the city and my impressions of it as part of my race reports. I have found that the location of a race is a big part of my decision making process when looking for which race is next. There's a half marathon in DC in March, but I ran in Nashville in April because I'd never been there and I'd heard it was nice. The Marine Corps Marathon is three weeks after the Chicago Marathon, but I've run almost the entire MCM course during my regular running, so something new seemed like it'd be more fun. I am lucky that I have a job that affords me more disposable income than I need, and I can travel to races throughout the year.
  • Running friends: Of the five big races I ran this year, all of them were with friends who live in other parts of the country. Danielle lives in Iowa, teammate Lauren and her husband live in Chicago, the relay team is always made up of members scattered across the country. Running races with them is a fun excuse to see people I don't get to spend nearly as much time with as I'd like.
  • What's next: After this year, I am hooked. My goal is another marathon next summer. I'd like to do one healthy to see what I can really do. I've already started kicking around ideas with a few people, and we'll probably make a decision in January/February if we go through with the tentative plan to run a spring/summer race. In the meantime, there are a few half marathons in the spring that I'm considering. Hopefully there will be another relay next year, and I'd like to go back to Philly, as that was a really awesome race.
So, that's pretty much a brain dump of everything that's been rattling around in my head for the last few weeks or so. I consider 2008 my introduction to distance running, and overall, it was a pretty good year. I leave you with a pile o' memories of this past year.

2008's medals, shirts, and bibs


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Joe, great, thoughtful post. And I'm not just saying that because you link to me in it, because even without the link-love, the post would have been well above average. ;-)

But seriously - there's a whole lot to think about in this post. I just finished a 5k; it was only the third race I'd ever done, and the first in 7 months. I was nervous before it and was walking around the parking lot of Spruce Run Recreational Area, lost in thought and just nervous ... and then I looked up and realized: This place is friggin beautiful. I'm lucky to be here on a beautiful day, for whatever reason.

This calmed me.

So it seems the mantra location location location isn't just for real estate agents anymore.

And I visit Back Off, Man! for insights like that. Your description of Philadelphia; Danielle's of being trapped in Philly Traffic Hell on the way back ... it all helps put you there, forces you to realize what you kinda already knew: Running isn't just the race. It's the place; it's the people; it's the hurt; it's the hope.

So keep up the good work, sez this returning customer!


Marcy said...

Joe, Phoenix was your first HM also?! Not only did we lose our marathon virginity together but also our HM virginity :P HAHHAHAAAA

April said...

I love this picture with all your race memories of the year!!

And we need to get together for a beer while I'm in DC! Are you going to watch the MCM?

M said...

This post gave me goosbumps - this is some great writing.

Maybe because it lasts so many weeks, or because at some point, it turns more mental than physical, but marathon training really does broaden and strengten the mind as well as the body. You reall yhave had a ton of adventures of this year - different races with different people and different hurdles to get through with each of them. I hope that after writing this post, you stepped back and gave yourself a huge pat on your back - you've had a amazing racing year, Joe - congrats!

peter said...

The SunTrust National Marathon & Half-Marathon in DC in March are great races, try one!