Saturday, June 27, 2015

Talking to a Future Marathoner

Last night, I talked with a guy who is training for his first half marathon. He explained his training so far. I tried to offer up tips on recovery weeks, gu and when to buy new shoes. He said he thinks this will be is one and only half, but then later mentioned the marathon.

Each story is unique. We come in all shapes, sizes and ages. We run for different reasons.

This story happens to be mine. All nearly 20 years of it.

In the fall of 1997, I was a freshman in college. That October, I witnessed an incredible event - my uncle ran the Chicago Marathon.

Watching someone you know and love take on a marathon makes the spectating experience a very personal one. First, you're likely on the sidelines scanning for one familiar face. Second, you know this person is not super human. They like Oreos and beer just as much as you do, though maybe not together. Watching this regular person you know run a marathon means that maybe, just maybe, one day you could call yourself a marathoner too.

Somewhere in between the first few miles of that race to when we met him in runner reunite, I'd decided I wanted to run a marathon.

But we all know that talking about doing something is much different than training for something. I ran on and off in college, but not more than a few miles and never with enough regularity to make it habit. I had plenty of excuses why I didn't have time.

After graduating in 2001, I bought my first book on marathon training, the Non Runners Guide to Marathon Training. The title appealed to me as at the time, I would not have called myself a runner. I read most of the book and xeroxed its training plan. That spring, I made my first unsuccessful attempt at training for the marathon. I barely made it through the pre-marathon training program and had hung up any chances of the race by June. Good thing I hadn't registered, I thought.

Though I know now I'd been making a lot of rookie mistakes, I had experienced my first true runner's high. Just enough to want to chase training further over the next few years.

In those early years, I was building knowledge on distance running though I wasn't running long distances. No more cotton socks or running shoes from Kohl's for this girl. I started working with a trainer and doing a mix of lifting and running. Later I introduced yoga.

Three years to the day after I graduated college, I ran my first 5k - a Reindeer Run at a Lifetime Fitness. That experience was rewarding enough to sign up for more 5ks the following spring and summer. The next year, I ran a 10k.

Now in grad school and closing in on ten years since I spectated the marathon, I needed to formulate a plan to make my marathon dream a reality.

I ran a few half marathons in 2007 with varying success. In 2008, I took the plunge and registered for the marathon. I would graduate that spring and felt that the time I'd spent studying for the last four years could now become training time. On an early October 80 degree day, I completed my first marathon.

Through the CARA (Chicago Area Runner's Association) Marathon Training program, I met like-minded runners who became friends. What I thought was a once-in-a-lifetime experience turned into six years of training. Six Chicago Marathons, one Marine Corps Marathon and over twenty half marathons. Distance running became my thing (hence the blog). I have some incredible memories, funny stories and great trips all bound by racing.

Who would have known watching a marathon would lead me down that path. Maybe the guy I talked to last night is next.

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