The Marathon

by david

(this is the third in a series of “important” vanity posts. Previous installments are here (I’m doing a cool show) and here (I’m writing a book that’s going to give all of our lives meaning).)

So, I mentioned that I’m running a marathon in memory of my friend TC. Though I’m essentially starting from zero, I’ve realized that there’s zero and then there’s zero, and my zero is non-italicized. That is, I’ve got a little something to build on. I’m not starting from a complete sucking vacuum of bottomless non-fitness. As The Princess Brides Westley might ask, were I to propose this, “What are our assets?”

My assets:

  1. The marathon is next January, so I’ve got 11 and a half months to get from where I am today to 26.2 miles. That’s a GREAT amount of time.
  2. I just had a nasty bout of the flu, the silver lining of which is that I’m nearly at my ideal weight: paired with a commitment to eating better, I could very well be doing significantly less damage to my joints just by virtue of dragging less weight around the streets. I have no interest at all in body shaming or fat shaming, but this is, from an injury-prevention standpoint, good news. I’m 15 pounds lighter than I was a few months ago. Were I not, I’d be fine, I’d just have a little more work ahead of me, and a slightly higher chance of injury.
  3. I used to run some. I mean, I’ve hauled myself onto a gym treadmill on an irregular basis even up until late fall, but there was a time (six years ago, it turns out) when I was running so frequently that I was able to regularly go 5-8 miles, and my long runs could get to 10-12. So it’s not unprecedented. And that summer, 2007, I got to those 10-12 mile runs after about 4 months of effort. So based on past experience, I know this is doable, which is a psychological advantage.
  4. My wife is totally supportive of this, and is actively pushing me to train. That’s just huge. Life is complicated, and life with kids is absurd. It’s sooo easy to skip a run and have it feel justified when there’s so much that needs doing. Having my wife say, “go run. You need to go run,” when I’m dawdling? That makes this much, much easier.
  5. There’s a training group. Admittedly, I haven’t taken much advantage of it yet, mostly due to the flu, and the fact that I live out in the suburbs, but the fact that about a dozen other people on the TC run live in Boston and are eager to run as a group, and support each other online and off… another big asset.
  6. I have several good friends who’ve run marathons, and they’re offering a lot of support and advice, and are available. Again, seeing other non-athletes having done this, I know I can.
  7. I’ve been worried for a couple years about succumbing to the standard mid-30s/father of small children slide into gradual ill health. I don’t want to just gradually become more sedentary and less active and a decade later realize that digging out of that hole requires major lifestyle changes. This particular mission (the marathon) requires a level of commitment and activity that will hopefully lead to better habits in the long run. So while I didn’t decide to do it for health reasons, it directly addresses something that’s been bugging me.
  8. This book, The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, is super helpful for helping set and meet practical goals.
  9. Being at TC’s memorial service last night was an astounding reminder of how much better a life I could live if I made the effort to be more like the guy we’re running for. As much as I love that we’ll be raising money to fight pancreatic cancer, I’m even more motivated by the simple desire to carry some of last night forward. Running next January with about three dozen (seriously!) friends is something that TC would have just loved.

So that’s not zero. That’s 9. And I got new shoes. I’m willing to call that 10.

I’ll post about this more throughout the year, particularly once we’ve got our fundraising up and running. But for now, I’ll just say this. I’ve gone from running about twice a month, on a treadmill, to already comfortably running in freezing January weather four times per week. The first run, just a few weeks ago involved a hacking cough at .8 miles. I can already run 30 minutes without stopping, and run 3 miles comfortably at about a 10 minute per mile pace. Maybe that’s not Olympian, but Olympian isn’t the goal. Finishing a marathon (and doing it without injuring myself) is my goal. I don’t expect it to be a continuous, easy improvement, and I don’t expect to not hate it at times. But I can’t overstate how immensely rewarding it is already to see how quickly change can happen if I commit to it. It’s so very easy to get in a rut, or assume you’re powerless. I don’t even like running. I really don’t. But being able to do what I can already do makes me think I can meet these other goals I’m writing about. Marathon training is going to be an immense time commitment, but I’m starting to believe that those hours don’t come entirely at the cost of other goals, but might set me up to reach the other goals more successfully.