Archive for December, 2009


December 14, 2009

You may have concluded from my earlier posts, I have an affinity for numbers.

Not 13.1.

Is there a worse number for a race?  It’s like the Olympics adding a 666 meter dash.  Aren’t there some distance that you just shouldn’t run?  Oh, some wise guy just noted that’s why they added the extra tenth of a mile.  Racing 13 miles would be unlucky, but the extra tenth  makes it all four-leaf clovers and leprechauns.

I ran the ThunderRoad half marathon this weekend.  Well, technically I didn’t run the whole thing.  In fact, I never  intended to.  I’ve been training for nearly 10 months and took my lead from this fellow named Jeff Galloway.  From what I gather, there are three reactions to Jeff Galloway:

1.  Who?

2. You mean St. Jeff, the prophet who shown me the way to achieving running goals.

3. Pppht.  Jeff Galloway, the guy who causes all these out of shape lumps to clog up our race.

I am in the second camp.  You see, Jeff says it’s okay to walk.  In fact, he tells you to walk.  He tells you to plan to walk.  And he says to walk early and often.  According to Jeff’s research, which I have never read but cling to like gospel, you’ll even finish the race faster by walking.  Sign me up.  And so after following Jeff Galloway’s 1/2 marathon training religiously (by which I mean intending to do everything he said, but occasionally not), I set off Saturday morning to run/walk 13.1 miles.  Here are some chronologically organized thoughts from that experience.

Check-in- There are a lot of people here.  A lot of skinny people.  They think I’m lost.

Two minutes after the announcer says go- I think I’ll cross the start line in another minute or two (there was a big crowd waiting to start)  Also, they are playing “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen.  I think that’s cool.  I wonder if the regular runners think that’s trite?

2 1/2 minutes– Time to walk.  I can’t believe I’m walking already.   (Following the Galloway program, I decided that I’d run for 2 1/2 minutes and then walk for a minute.  My watch was set to beep at me every time one of those intervals ended.  I had about 45 of those cycles to get through)  Yet, 2 1/2 minutes in, this just seems ridiculous.  We are heading down the biggest downhill of the course, adrenaline pumping, fans cheering… and I’m walking.

3 1/2 minutes- First walk over, time to run again.  And the second problem with the Galloway program early in the race.  I want to run faster than all these slow runners who passed me when I was walking.  So now, I’m running a slalom 1/2 marathon.  Oh well, this is fun.

10:37- One mile!  Wow that was fast.  I wanted to run at a 12 minute pace.  Hmm.  I wonder if that will matter in a couple hours.

Sometime over the next 40 minutes- Shirts.  I’m noticing shirts.  One lady has  a picture of a little girl and says, “I’m running for Leslie.”  I don’t know Leslie’s story, but it’s probably inspiring.  Another says something like, “The pain of endurance hurts less than the pain of failure.”  I’ll be debating that thought in a few hours.

55 minutes- 5 miles down, averaging 11 minute miles.  Just made it up Providence, which looked like the worst hill based on my pre-race recon.  Feeling good.  Only disappointment is that the Dyer family wasn’t there cheering me on.  Gray had said they would come out, but I had miss approximated when I’d be here and guess I beat them to the spot.

10k (6.2 miles, just shy of halfway there)- Based on the gun time (which if you’ll recall started about 3 minutes before I did), I’m about 1:10 into the race.  I’d learn later that the winner was a minute from finishing.

7 miles- Dyer!  There’s my friend Gray with his kids in the double stroller blowing a whistle, banging a tambourine and cheering wildly.  Ok.  That’s cool.   They must have known they missed me, so they came back to cheer for me. I make sure I run all the way through my 2 1/2 minutes, even though I’d been taking 10 second liberties at this point.

And then, even cooler, there is Gray running with me. Blue jeans.  Work boots.  Pushing the kids, dog at his side.  For the next three or four intervals Gray ran/walked with me.  Each was the shortest 2 1/2 minutes of the race.  It’s amazing what a friend in boots and jeans, pushing a double stroller and running by your side will do for you.

All I remember of the next 4 or 5 miles is that it was A) Uphill.  In fact, I think the whole course was designed by M.C. Escher.  B) At some point my 2 1/2 minute/1 minute pattern switched to 1 minute run, 30 seconds walk, 1 minute run, 1 minute walk.

Quite frankly, it was awful.

Mile 10- There is a guy standing in the median, just cheering us on.  Behind him is a van painted with “John 3:16.”  How much better a job at sharing the gospel is this guy doing than the guy who stands in front of High Schools holding blown-up pictures of aborted fetuses?  I guess in the course of 13 miles your mind is bound to wander to topics like religion.

Mile 11 1/2- Allison!  My good friend Allison Waller, who slayed the Chicago marathon a couple of weeks ago, was there, and ran with me for the last mile and a half.  Allison is incredibly positive.  (So much so you can’t even curse her out when she encouragingly asks you if you can run it in for the last half mile.  Instead, I responded, “I couldn’t run that far without walking at the beginning of the race).  Except for a short period when her dog Cooper just sat down and refused to run (I could relate) she was with me until peeling off for the last tenth of a mile.  She must have made the time go by fast, because thinking back, it didn’t seem like she was with me that long.  But it must have been about 20 minutes.  I strongly recommend an Allison if you ever try to run further than you a capable of running.

13 mile mark- Calves hurt.  Ankles hurt.  Lungs hurt.  Calf muscle spasm.  Want to walk.  Don’t want to walk in front of God, Allison and all these people.

13.1- Done!  Medal around my neck!

13.1 + 1:30- Oh I should stop my stop watch. And go home I guess.

Somewhat anti-climatic.  I don’t know if it’s because I walked more than I would have liked.  Or maybe it’s because I’d started running to lose weight, and actually gained 8lbs in 10 months.  Or maybe it’s the nature of setting a goal to do “half” of something, but I didn’t exactly feel like Rocky at the top of the Art Museum Steps.

My wife asked me what is next in my running career.  I said I may never run again unless being chased by a bear.  She said I have no commitment.  I said I was committed to running a 1/2 marathon and achieved that goal.

Perhaps, that is the problem.  I set a goal.  I did what I needed to do to achieve it.  But I never loved the process of getting there.  Never enjoyed it.  Never embraced it.  It was all just a means to an end.  And there really is nothing at the end except the end.


After walking a way from this for a while, I have realized that there is more to the end than the end. My family made me a great “Congratulations” poster and the last thing my 8 year old said to me when she went to bed was, “Good job in your 1/2 marathon, Daddy.” I have friends sending me words of encouragement and notes of congratulations.  Friends running with me.  A family encouraging me along the way and showering me with congratulations. Perhaps I’m so accustomed to the blessings surrounding me, that I overlooked what I was shown at the end.