Do you remember when you first started running? Do you remember the excitement of that first running event. I remember it clearly, I wasn't sure I could do it, yes I had trained so I knew I could run the distance but could I race the distance? I posted a while back on why do i run, well it's time to update that post but first a brief look back into my running past.
My first running event was a 5k race back in 1992 called the "Race for the Rainbow", we started at Minnehaha Falls and it was an out and back. I remember thinking what am I doing here, my stomach was churning, the fears - how would I pace myself, would I go out too fast, would I finish last, would I embarrass myself? I felt like I didn't belong, but I had a couple of buddies who kept me calm and then paced me the entire way and all went well.
It was the start of a running adventure that continues to this day and it lifted a monkey off my back. You see growing up I had a firm belief that I could never be a runner. I played baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, water skiing, all sports where running wasn't really a part of the sport. It took me until age 33 to figure out that the reason I couldn't run. You see in all of the sports that I did when we did any running, turns out it was sprinting. So when I got into my 20's and decided to try this running thing out again as it couldn't be as bad as I remembered, I would go out what I thought was easy and within a quarter mile, I would be completely out of breath and my legs would be hurting. I would say to myself I am not a runner. I was frustrated, I didn't like failure and I gave up on myself as I didn't want to embarrass myself by publicly failing. Move forward 10 or so years where I discovered how to run at my in-laws. I have posted on that before so I won't bother to repeat it all here, the key is I became a runner in December of 1991, at age 33.
Like a lot of runners, about a year after I started running, I signed up for my first marathon. Why, well because a buddy and I convinced ourselves we should. Personally, I couldn't imagine how we could or the why about it but we signed up. Before we started training for the first marathon, I ran all of the shorter distance races and I had no doubts about finishing any of them (I did have many concerns about pacing). The reason I had no doubts concerning finishing was because I had run the race distances in training be it 5k, 10k or the 1/2 marathon distance. The marathon though required a leap of faith, a long run of 20-22 miles, maybe even a few of them and then on race day and you take the leap of faith that somehow you will work or will your way through that remaining 4-6 miles. It is safe to say that I had many doubts and concerns and that is what set the marathon apart from all other events. I still remember that first marathon finish, it wasn't pretty as I went out probably too fast and crashed at mile 20. I also remember the highs and lows along the course, the battle within, can I do this, yes I can, no I can't, shut up keep moving, you can do this and then I did.
After the race, I, like many first timers uttered those infamous words that most marathon runners have said once (in my case multiple times), "Never again". Then a few hours later you talk with your buddies about which marathon to do again. I have to admit that marathons have gotten a bit more like other races. I know I can finish them, now the pace and the time that is still unpredictable but finishing is not an issue. It is why I started down the 50 state path. It allowed me to take on a challenge that took away some of the predictability of the normal marathon. It was rejuvenating as in order to get my 50 states by age 60, I will need to run 4-8 marathons/year depending on how long I stay distracted with this ultra thing. I do enjoy the planning and I look forward to when I can run marathons on back to back weekend days. Why, well in 2008, I ran a couple marathons 6 days apart but can I run them on consecutive days. Again the challenge of doing something that I am not sure I can do. When I trained for my 50 mile event last fall I did do long runs on back to back days so the two marathon thing will be doable, not easy but very doable and it is something I want to experience.
So as I contemplate my race schedule for this year what jumps out at me is what is this years challenge? Do I run marathons on back to back days, do another 50, do a couple of 50's, do a 100k, do a 100 mile event?
Regardless of this years goals, I know now I run because I want the challenge to fail. For me the only way to fail is to go longer and longer. Yes I could try to go faster again and who knows I may but there is a big difference between running 7 minute miles for an x distance race and running 50+ miles. Faster is simply a by product of training at least until I reach my genetic max but running 50 miles and longer is a battle within regardless of the amount of time it takes.
So in looking at this years race plans, I do need to accomplish three things: first, remember that I run for enjoyment, second, I need to run an event that I might not be sure I can do and last I need to do something that I rekindles the spirit of running in an unpredictable way.