Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You ran a marathon? How long was it?

Strangely the question that everyone who does a marathon gets asked by non-marathon runners is, "You ran a marathon? How long was it?".

For the record, a marathon is not less than 26.2 miles, or 26 miles and 365 feet, 42.195 kilometers, and it can not be more than 1% greater than that distance (or roughly more than 42 meters longer).

The mistake that most everyone makes, including many marathon runners is why the distance is 26.2 miles. Most people believe that that is the distance that Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, ran to announce that the Greeks had defeated the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. However, the Greek historian Herodotus mentions Pheidippides ran from Athens to Sparta asking for help, then ran back; 150 miles each way or 300 miles total.

However the distance of the modern marathon was not fixed until May 1921 by the International Amateur Athletic Foundation, prior to that the distance was approximately 25 miles or roughly the distance from Marathon to Athens by the long route. The reason for 26.2 miles: that was the distance set for the marathon in the 1908 Olympics with the dramatic finish by Dorando Pietri.

By the way, all of this was pulled from Wikipedia's article on marathon, if you want to read it all yourself.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Portand Marathon

The Portland Marathon was hard, and it hurt a lot. I awoke at 4:45 AM on the day of the marathon and noted the pouring rain outside. It would continue to rain almost non-stop until after I had finished the race. By 6:45 AM I was wrapped in a plastic garbage bag and huddling under some available cover at the Convention Center with at least 150 other runners in my coral waiting for the 7:00 AM start time. I was in the light blue "D" group, so it was closer to 7:15 AM when we actually started moving.

The start of the race was great! The drum core, the shouts of the spectators! However a mere hour into the race I knew I was going to be in for some hurt. My left knee and hip were starting to bother me, and all I could think was that I pushed it too hard when I had done the Bellingham Bay 1/2 marathon 2 weeks prior to this. So I decided to take it slow and try and finish in under 4:30 rather than delude myself with any idea of a faster finish time. Originally I thought if everything was perfect I could conceivably finish in under 4:00, but just an hour into the run I knew that wasn't going to happen.

Around mile 17 or 18 both hips were really starting to hurt, which is something I had never experienced before when running. By mile 20 I was just trying to keep up with the 4:30 pacer, but by mile 22 the pacer was out of site and I was constantly stopping to stretch and walk. Walking really didn't ease the pain, and starting running again really hurt. I felt as though I had tons of energy, it's just that I hurt. Bad.

I vowed to run my last 3 miles in without taking any walking breaks, if for no reason other than it hurt so bad to start running after I had stopped to walk a bit. I even picked up the pace a bit around mile 25, however seeing mile 26 totally energized me and I gave it everything I had and ran as fast as I could, trying to not let anyone pass me that last 365 feet (one guy definitely did, but he finished only a second ahead of me). In the end I finished at 4:44:00. Despite the pain and cold, all I could think of is that I can't wait until my next marathon so that I can improve upon that time!

Friday, October 8, 2010

What's the Big Picture?

So it's been over 8 months since I've sat down to write anything here. But I suppose that's because I've been busy working on some changes. Last year the big change was massively increase the amount I commuted by bike. This year I decided to kick it up a notch when I realized that it would be my last full year before I turned 40. So I created a kind of 1/2 bucket list (a list of things to do when you're around 1/2 way to the bucket kicking!?). The list went something like this:
  1. I was not going to say "no" to any reasonable fun request of my time (my brother always goes on these amazing ski adventures, and I always say, "no, I probably shouldn't go").
  2. I would get myself in shape (I've been saying that for over 10 years).
  3. I would climb Mt. Rainier.
I kicked off the first item on my list by taking 2 amazing ski trips to Canada. First with a co-worker who invited me for several days of cat-skiing in the Monashee Mountains. Next was a week of skiing in the Selkirk Mountains with my brother; first at Revelstoke, then at Valhalla Mountain Touring.

The next two items on my list were sort of combined. In order to climb Mt. Rainier I would need to get in shape. I started running and hiking as much as my schedule allowed. In May I did my first running race since well before my daughters were born, the UW Bothell 5K. In June I did the Seattle Rock & Roll 1/2 Marathon. At the end of June I made an attempt at climbing Mt. Baker in one day, but fell short of the summit by 1,000 feet. When July rolled around, I thought I was ready for Mt Rainier; I summit-ed, but it kicked my butt. On Sunday I go for the next big step in getting in shape, and I run my first marathon in Portland Oregon. When all is said and done, a guy who couldn't run a mile to catch a bus a little over a year ago, will have run 2 full marathons and 3 1/2 marathons in the span of a year.

So what's this all about anyways? I'm in better shape than I've been in years (or ever), I've found a new activity that I enjoy (running), but now what? What does it all lead to? What does it all ultimately amount to? Running a marathon and climbing Mt Rainier were things that seemed well out my grasp a couple years ago, but I did it (or after Sunday I will have). I know it sounds corny, but I suppose what it all means is that I have proven to myself I can accomplish anything I set out to do. So maybe it's time to set the bar a bit higher...