Sometime during the summer, I came to a realization. Maybe it was the snug fit of the jeans, or the jowly look of my face. Or perhaps it was my inability to handle hills of any kind when I was out running. My thinking was, “How did I get here?”
Last year about this time, I ran a half marathon with an OK time. Then I ran hard the rest of the week, which is always a swell idea after doing a race. Once that week passed, I let off the gas. For months.
What this means: I kept eating the same amounts I did when I was training hard and put on about 10 pounds, maybe more, and very little of that was good weight.
The result: Not only did I lose what running base I had (running 10 miles a week is not going to keep you in shape for things like half marathons), but I also got pudgy and out of shape.
Late in the summer, I resolved to do something about it, gradually adding miles, hill work and speed work to drag myself out of this morass of sloth, and I signed myself up for three races in the fall: The Fleet Feet Quarter Marathon in September, the Tulsa Run 15K in October, and the Route 66 Marathon half in November. Signing up for races (and the money involved in entry fees) has a way of holding you accountable.
Back in September, I called this “my decision not to suck.” Bear in mind, you do not suck if you don’t do these things. But for me, I had made a quiet decision to suck by wasting the hard-earned fitness I’d achieved going back to 2013.
Running back then became fluid, fast (-ish) and natural. Two years later, it had become laborious and frustrating, and it was my own fault. This crept into other areas of my life, most notably anything I tried to do in the mountains, or missing out on the opportunity to run with friends who had definitely decided not to suck and kept themselves in shape.
My fall race season concluded this past weekend, with some plusses and minuses. On the positive side: I did drop about 5 pounds, and successfully got to a point where I could run and finish another half marathon. On the negative: I sure wish I’d been faster. A 2:20 is not the slowest I’ve run (there are two 2:22 finishes out there), but far from my fastest (2:11) and behind last year’s 2:17. So I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I came, I saw and I conquered. Let’s just say I got what I trained for and got the job done.
But in this case, not sucking is going to be a choice to keep the gains — meager as they may be — from fading again. I’m not where I was in 2013, or even 2014. But I’m not where I was four months ago. Going forward, it would seem that my nine-month period of sloth can be reversed, and a new foundation laid that can be built upon. I’ve got some goals in mind, though we’ll see about all that.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THAT RACE?
As for the race itself, it was about what I expected, but with a few twists.
First, the race is top-notch. I know one of the main organizers, Kim Hann, and she and her team always do a great job. This year was no different. Well-stocked and manned aid stations, a great (and challenging) course, and some of the coolest finisher medals around. That’s what you get with the Route 66 Marathon.
The weather was great: About 30 degrees at the start, but sunny with calm winds. Perfect for a long-distance event, and it was in the upper 40s by the time I finished.
But there were some differences between this year and races past. For starters, the size of the race was much larger. Nearly 16,000 people signed up, so the course itself was quite a bit more dense in terms of other runners.
And for me, since I didn’t sign up until September, that meant being pinned in the D corral.
Here’s the thing about the D: There are two types of runners here — those whose predicted finish times were on the slower end, or those who, like me, who signed up late. The D corral was the biggest of the four, and being packed toward the back of that one meant that the normal dodging and passing of runners at the start was turned up to 11. Lots of love to my fellow D-corral runners (y’all rock!), but the sheer mass of people made for slow going those first couple of miles. I’ve been spoiled by starting in the B corral the previous two years.
Having to stop for a restroom break at Mile 4 didn’t help, either. That’s another minute or more down the drain.
But I kept a fairly even pace throughout, predictably cratered on Mile 11 (the big hill going back into downtown), but gutted out the last mile with a little juice left over.
Lots of friends hit PRs for both the full and the half marathon races. Even more snagged their first-ever 13.1. It’s fun watching social media feeds as race day unfolds, and seeing the pics of tired but happy runners on what has become the biggest day of running in northeastern Oklahoma.
Being a part of that is cool. I guess that’s why I keep signing up. Partly it’s to stay motivated (and trying not to suck), but also reveling in what all of us can do when we push our limits on a bright Sunday morning.
On to the next big day.