Wednesday, March 24, 2010

03/21: Shamrock Marathon

I have run fourteen marathons and I still don't get them, by which I guess what I really mean is I don't see the appeal. I suppose actually training for one might give me a different, although not necessarily better, perspective but to me, the marathon's greatest contribution to civilization was inspiring the half marathon - a distance I greatly prefer because it's short enough to race, long enough to challenge, and also long enough to feel like you've really gone somewhere. Even if it is just around in one big circle.

I ran the Shamrock Marathon sort of by accident, if not by mistake. A friend was looking for a spring marathon; I pointed out Shamrock and told him I'd make the trip and do the half. That presupposed that we'd register while there was still room in the half, a presupposition that proved dangerously inaccurate. Apparently I'm not the only one who prefers halfs. At any rate, I held my nose and signed up for the full; I used to think marathons were too intimidating to jump into on a whim but when you hear of all these people running multiple marathons in, like, a weekend, it kind of erodes the fear factor.

Having signed up for a marathon, an intelligent person might actually train - maybe even with legitimate long runs - but I couldn't work it into my busy schedule of Ultimate Frisbee, bitching about the cold (and the blizzards) of Dallas, and general hanging out (sometimes with ensuing hangovers). I tell you, the days were just packed. By the time I got to the starting line the morning of the race, my longest run since last December's White Rock Marathon had been 10.5 miles. Which at the time seemed like a marathon but not so much from my current perspective.

So going in, I knew it was going to be a struggle and that I was going to be doing some - as in a lot of - walking. My plan was to take one-minute walking breaks at every mile marker and stick to that schedule for as long as possible. I figured if I could make it through fifteen, I'd at least have a decent training run. As it played out, I ran the first sixteen at 8:49 (missing my walking breaks at mile one, because I never saw the marker, and mile six, because I was in traffic and stopping to walk didn't seem conducive to safety), struggled walking and running through the next four at 13:17 pace, and basically walked in the last six at 16:16 pace. It wasn't a particularly fun walk, either; the weather, which had its favorable elements early in the morning (mostly a lack of humidity), turned against us when the temperature started rising, like up into the neighborhood of seventy degrees. Clouds refused to pass in front of the sun and the course, by that point, was devoid of shade. The important thing in those circumstances is never think about how much you're paying to be there.

Beers later, the death march was just a distant memory. Which isn't to say I didn't learn a valuable lesson about the importance of preparation. Which isn't to say I did, either.

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