Friday, March 22, 2013

The Whys of Thirteen Point One

I was thinking about the “why” of running a race. Why pay a registration fee? Why get up early to mill around with hundreds of people and then go for a long, sweaty run? After all, I can run in private on my own turf and for free. I wouldn’t get a t-shirt commemorating the event, but life can’t be all about the clothes. (Don’t quote me on that.)

But there is something to be said for the preparation of this. Of course I could do those things on my own and without the cost, but there wouldn’t be the same amount of motivation and determination that I’ve had. Ever since I decided to do this I have put time into training and preparing and grown stronger faster than I would have thought possible. Suddenly, I am a runner.
I decided back in November to sign up for a half-marathon. I knew I wasn’t ready, but my logic was that in committing myself to doing one I would have to get ready. My logic was right. Over the Christmas holidays I had some extra time so I used it to increase my distances. Whereas for years I had been a solid three-mile runner, all of a sudden I found that I was doing five, six and even seven miles at a stretch.

When I returned to teaching spin classes at the gym after a two week break, I wasn’t sure how I would be able to endure an hour-long class. But after two weeks of running and working on my endurance there, a one hour spin class seemed almost like…a joke.

Soon I could run the length of Burbank all the way into Glendale, the neighboring city. Coming back was another story, though. I started bonking. For a few weeks I started cramping and running out of energy at about mile eight. I talked to my nutritionist about it, and she confirmed the “bonking” diagnosis. I made some adjustments to the amount of food I ate the night before and morning of a long run. I carried more fluids with me and changed the type and amount of nutrition I took with me, and then I could do 10 miles without a lot of problems. For the last long training run I did two weeks ago, I ran essentially the circumference of Burbank – 12 miles.

People, experienced runners, have told me that I’m going to “love” running thirteen point one miles. I don’t think I am. I didn’t fall in love with doing twelve. I was pleased that I was able to accomplish it and have enjoyed growing stronger and building endurance, but I don’t LOVE it. I love four, find five to be enjoyable. Six is nice, seven is tolerable, and eight is still in my comfort zone but not fun. I tolerate nine and start to get bored at ten. Thirteen? I don’t know. I know I will be pleased when it’s done and that I have finished. And that’s my goal – to finish.

Speaking of finishing, there is one bit of training that I accidentally neglected. “Accidentally” because I didn’t know I was going to need to do it. This race has several different versions – there’s a family 5K, two 10Ks, and two half-marathons. I originally chose the flatter, takes-place-on-the-road version. Several people kept telling me I should do the trail version. I kept saying no because I haven’t done trail running. I’ve done lots of hills to get ready, but all on paved roads – none on trails.

Then someone said the thing that made me change my mind: “The last half is all downhill!” I immediately switched my registration to the trail version.

What I didn’t think of until a few days later was that if the last half is all downhill, that must mean the first half is all uphill. Uh oh. Apparently the middle eight miles are on trails, and it’s supposed to be beautiful. I don’t know how much of the beauty I’ll be able to appreciate as I’m focused on finishing this thing in the time I have set for myself, but there you have it.

So here it is – less than 24 hours before the race that I’ve been focused on for the better part of three months. People keep asking me if I’m ready, and my response is, “As ready as I can be.” I don’t mean that to be self-deprecatory or negative; I mean simply that I have prepared the best that I know how. I also don’t know how well prepared I am until the event actually happens, but that’s how it is with anything you work hard for, isn’t it? Studying and preparing only gets you so far until you have to actually take the test. You can’t spend your whole life preparing – you have to go and DO.

As Paul said, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection...” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) (“Keep under” = rigorously discipline.)

Or as my running shirt says that I’ll be wearing, “It’s not about keeping up, it’s about keeping on.”

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