Saturday, March 20, 2010


According to Hal Higdon, in his MARATHON: The Ultimate Training Guide, a “long run” is any run that is over 10 miles. Runners should take special precautions before these runs like eating the right foods at the right time, getting enough sleep the night before, drinking plenty of fluids, wearing the right shoes, etc. Now, whether these precautions are necessary or just beneficial (are you really going to collapse at mile 6 if you eat a hamburger for lunch and not a bagel?) are up for debate, and there are many running fanatics who “do it their way,” completely non-traditionally, and run marathon after marathon, problem free. Prime example: I tend to overpronate while running, which means my feet roll inward when I land. I also had a stress fracture in my left hip a few summers back (over-training injury), so when shopping for shoes, I have to look for brands that provide lots of cushioning for my hips and stability to prevent the pronation. In other words, I have to spend at least $100 for a pair of shoes that will “solve” and “prevent” these problems. Then you have those people who run marathons barefoot. So who’s to say these precautions are necessary or not- certainly not me.

That being said, I will still continue to spend hundreds of dollars on running shoes, and carb-load the night before a race, and follow training guides to a meticulous T. Why? Because following the “rules” of running correctly makes me feel better. It makes us runners more confident before those long runs. It helps us believe that even if it’s more miles than we’ve ever tread before, we can do it.

And in running, believing is key. I hate when I hear people say things like “I can’t run.” I want to respond “h¬¬¬ow do you know this? Because one time you tried and it didn’t feel so great because you’re out of shape?” I am currently 16 weeks into an 18 week marathon training program. Last week I ran 18 miles and afterwards my right foot was seriously hurting. A doctor/friend looked at it and said that though he did not believe it to be a stress fracture, I should probably lay off it for at least a week. “But I have to run 20 this weekend,” I said, almost frantic at the thought of skipping the longest run of the training program- the thought here being that longest = most important. My friend replied “meh, it’s not that important-“ (“NOT THAT IMPORTANT?!” my mind screamed) “- you really shouldn’t run more than 15 to 18 miles before a marathon. That’s all the training your body really needs. The rest is just mental.”

Even though I went ahead with the run despite my achy foot (which really didn’t hurt that bad during the run- if it did I would have stopped), my doctor / friend is absolutely right. Running is way more mental than most people think. And just as adding miles increases your physical stamina, it also increases your mental stamina. For all runners- beginners or pros, marathoners or 3 mile joggers- there comes a point during your run when you think you cannot possibly take another step… but then you do. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about running is that it teaches you that limits are mostly self-imposed; while running you may think you’ve reached your “breaking point,” and then moments later you realize it doesn’t exist. There is no “breaking point.”
Sure you might feel like garbage (at mile 19 last night I started to get “statue syndrome,” where every muscle in your body- face included- begins to lock up), and I am not trying to discredit the severe pain that can come with running. The aches and pains are not imaginary, they are very real, but it is the acknowledgment that you can work through them that allows you to keep on going. Without this type of mental training, one is apt to make the wrong call in many aspects of their life. Outside of athletics, people encounter many uncomfortable, painful situations. And too often, those people throw in the towel and say “I can’t handle this,” or, “I can’t do it,” and give up before they even try. I guess my point is strong body = strong mind, and a strong mind is the ultimate goal here.

With the 20 mile run behind me, my marathon training is literally all downhill from here (until race day, that is). Next week begins the magic taper, and my weekly mileage gracefully decreases day by day. It’s been a fun journey, and one that I couldn’t have gotten through without my running buddies, Ellyse and Eric. Without them waiting outside my door, there have been days where even I (despite all this preaching I’ve just done about mental strength) would have probably skipped a run or two. But thanks to accountability, a-runnin I go, and underneath a shroud of darkness (we all work 9 – 5s so our runs are always at night), I’ve learned a lot about myself. Last night I saw my hunched shadow on the ground and told myself to stand up straight. I know how to fix my stride so that my knees don’t hurt. I know that when I can actually begin to feel the ball of my hip grinding in the socket I need to pick up my feet more by engaging my glutes, and take shorter strides. I know that after two hours of running I will always get a hunger cramp and there’s just nothing I can do about it except take deeper breaths. Most importantly, even though 20 miles is the farthest I’ve run while training, I know that in two weeks I will run and finish the St. Louis Marathon.

Now I just gotta figure out what to eat for dinner the night before; I invited the same doctor/friend to a pasta party the night before the race and he said he’d heard that its best to carb-load two nights prior, and to eat lots of protein the night before…
However, in light of everything I’ve just said, I must ask: in the long run, does it really matter?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Real Estate

(The band)

Lyrics to "Beach Comber:"

What you want is just outside your reach
You keep on searchin’
You’re walking down that Pensacola beach
You keep repeatin’

While you’re waiting for that sound
Apparatus to the ground
You’re stealing from the lost and found
But what you find
Ain’t what you had in mind

Until you find your Rolex in the sand
You won’t be stopping
Until that solid gold is in your hand
You won’t be happy
On your office on the phone
You can’t say you won’t be coming home
You’re dancing vacations on

(Not lyrics anymore, just drunken musing)

Have you ever lost something on a beach?
I have.
Have you ever tried finding it with a metal detector?
I have.
Have you ever found it?
I have not.