Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Destination: Boston Marathon 2013

So now it all becomes real.  Less than one calendar year.  5 years ago my Uncle Steve told me that he hoped someday to run the Boston Marathon with me.  I was not a runner, not even remotely interested in trying to be one.  I made one vain attempt to rush into being a runner, got hurt, and quit for 4+ years.
Once I began running for real 13 months ago my Uncle again brought up the possibility of running Boston with him.  He wanted me to ride the bus from Hopkinton, family, side by side at the most famous race on earth.  I laughed still but deep inside I knew that it was my ultimate goal.  I never wanted to make that known too early on.  I mean, come on, who was I to say I’d run the Boston Marathon before I even completed a 5K?  I’m sure most would have shook their heads and thought of me as delusional.
Here I sit though, the 2012 Marathon just passed 2 days ago and I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I can’t think of a better metaphor.  In about 5 weeks I will begin a ‘beginner’ marathon training regimen.  The 20-week program will lead me almost exactly to the Cape Cod Marathon which happens in the last week of October.  My goal for that is 3:45, or roughly 8:34/mile. 
I will be very strict with my training, not going to stray from the allotted runs for any reason.  I do plan on running as many as 6 races during the summer, but they will all be shorter runs, no halfs.  Once the Cape Marathon is over I will likely rest a bit and then begin a similar training program for Boston.  Luckily for me I have a very strong connection which is going to help me get into the race, hey, it’s as much who you know as what you know usually, right?
This race, this goal, has taken on a far greater purpose for me with the news that my Uncle Steve has a fractured hip and is out indefinitely.  He has always supported me and stood by me even well before I was a runner.  Now I am going to do the same for him.  If it is at all humanly possible I am not going to let him give up on running.  He has run Boston several times, he’s an Ultra Marathoner, I believe that he is in too deep to not try to make the incredible comeback. 
I am going to be extremely focused and extremely determined to make sure that I am standing at the starting line in Boston in 362 days.  What once was a mythical place now feels like a real destination.  Soon I will be heading into uncharted waters, then again running in general was pretty uncharted when I began 13 months ago.  Boston 2013 is just the next logical step in my journey.
Certainly there will be times where I want to give up or slow down.  I’ll bet when I do my first 20-mile run, probably in the August sun, I will be wondering if it is all worth it.  All I will have to do is remember the bigger picture.  I want so badly to run this race.  It will be an amazing achievement to be able to always say I ran the Boston Marathon even once.  It will be an even greater honor to run it with my favorite uncle, and to be there with him to soak in the atmosphere and know that I pushed myself and made it to my ultimate destination. 
In my weakest moments I will keep those words and images in my mind.  They will keep my legs moving.  I will be there April 15, 2013 at the starting line in Hopkinton, nothing and nobody will shake me from my path.  Have you ever been motivated to run a race for someone other than yourself?  For those of you who have run marathons what was the training like for your first?  How much did it differ from previous training?  What should I be expecting?    
The motivation for us starts now.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Runner's High A Gateway to the Running Addiction

I had always heard about the ‘runner’s high.’  It is that point in a run when the adrenaline takes over and the endorphins give you a feeling that is hard to describe.  That feeling is what keeps a lot of runners going.  I know that after the first time I felt that rush I became addicted to running.  It was the hunger for that rush that kept me going through injuries, it still does. 
For me it usually happens on a slower run about 7-8 miles in, during a faster run I might get the runner’s high during Mile 3.  The reason I know this is because I am very aware of that feeling now when it comes upon me.  It is like someone flips on a ‘happy switch’ in my head.  Does the runner’s high give you that sort of feeling?  Are you able to notice when the endorphins kick in?
It is the runner’s high that much like any other drug leads to addiction.  Granted, a running addiction is far healthier than most other addictions, but it is one nonetheless.  I have been fortunate enough to not suffer a major injury in my running time.  That being said, I have had injuries which have forced me to the sidelines for a few weeks.  The running addiction really shows itself during that downtime, it’s like suffering from withdrawls. 
My most glaring example of the running addiction is the following story.  Last June I had a bad case of jumper’s knee, along with a sore Achilles in my opposite leg.  Common sense said to rest, the running addiction said to find a way around the pain.  I bought a brace specifically for the jumper’s knee which didn’t help.  Then I bought a regular knee brace to use along with an ankle brace which doubled as an Achilles brace.  I padded that with a sock on the inside, the brace, and a sock on the outside.  All I kept thinking was how Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling had the sutures put in to keep his ankle tendon in place during the 2004 World Series.  Obviously my injury was not that serious, but I was doing all sorts of odd remedies to speed up my recovery.
I would run slowly warming my legs up and slowly picking up speed just so I could feel that rush.  It was just so I could satisfy that addiction.  Part of me thinks that the addiction actually helps me heal faster because I am willing to do whatever it takes to get back to running full-time.  Do any of you find this to be true?  Do you enjoy that feeling of the runner’s high so much that it in a weird way helps you recover from injury faster?
I love that moment that I realize that the endorphins have kicked in.  I was running in Hull, Massachusetts, an hour from me on Cape Cod, last week and was able to pinpoint that moment.  It was just over 7 miles in and I was running back to the beginning of my 9.5 mile loop at Nantasket Beach when that ‘happy switch’ was turned on in my head.  I couldn’t stop smiling and enjoyed waving to a bunch of little kids playing at a playground too.  I often wish I could bottle that feeling.   
I am sure that every runner is different as far as how long it takes to get that feeling or whether you can pinpoint when it happens.  However I am pretty certain that it is the runner’s high that leads to the running addiction.  It is an addiction I don’t ever plan on getting help for!

Friday, April 6, 2012

It's Gotta Be the Shoes

I am sure that all seasoned runners know the importance of the right pair of shoes when it comes to running.  In fact I am sure most people period know this.  I knew that it mattered but I didn’t realize just how much until just recently.
When I began running last March I was running in a pair of New Balance.  After only a few weeks I knew I needed a new pair so I went to a local shoes store, Hanlon’s.  There the running-savvy staff would measure my feet and get me into a pair of shoes specifically for running.  The funny thing was once I got measured I found out that I had been wearing the wrong sized shoes for a long time.  I had thought I was a size 10 ½, but no I was measured out to be a 9 ½.  So there was a potential problem taken care of.  I was put into a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11, I was told they were perfect for beginners.
I ran in those shoes for 5 months, ran 4 races in them, had a few nagging injuries, but they were a good shoe.  However, as it came time for my first half marathon I decided that it might be time to try something else.  I thought there might be another shoe that would give me stability combined with pain-free running.  I was pointed to the Mizuno Wave Rider 14. 
I was deep into my training for the Harwich Half in October when I changed shoes, a big no-no.  Now, I had upped my longest runs to 15 miles right after I changed to the Mizuno.  I ended up with a pulled hip flexor in my right leg which I assumed was only a side effect of my increased training.  I injured that hip and my right groin during the race itself.  It was a terrible pain, the burn in my groin led me to believe it was torn, though not bad enough to require surgery.  I finished the half in 1:55, collapsing in pain at the end. 
Still, I believed that the injuries were from the training and nothing else.  I continued on, having to seriously cut back my running and training because of lingering pain in my hip and groin.  I thought rest would cure it, I’m sure normally it would have if I had been in the right shoes.  I ended up getting another pair of Mizuno and the pain of running did not cease.  I was getting blisters all the time and just could not shake the injuries to my hip and groin.
By the time January rolled around I had run another 5K and an indoor half on a track in New Hampshire.  The half was cut short due to pulling both calves 11 miles in.  Reducing my electrolyte intake in the weeks before that race hurt me, but I still was avoiding the obvious solution.  After that debacle I forced myself to take 3 weeks off from running to heal my injuries.  For the most part it worked, until I began running again and it all came back.
I was getting discouraged, putting back on weight that I had lost, and thinking there had to be something wrong.  Like I said, sometimes the most obvious answer is the hardest to find.  Suddenly it clicked, I had been running injured for 6 months.  What had I been doing differently?  Nothing, except for the brand of shoes which I changed.  I felt hopeful when I went back into Hanlon’s and bought a brand new pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12. 
That was the answer!  Sure enough, now about a month after that realization I just finished my 5th run of the week.  This week was the first time since right before Christmas that I ran 3 straight days, and 5 days in a week.  Sure I am being cautious, running with a brace on my left knee after dealing with some bad tendonitis, but with each successful pain-free run I am closer to taking that off as well.
So I learned the long and hard way how important the right shoes are.  I left Brooks for Mizuno and ended up injured for 6 months.  I am sure that plenty of runners have done the opposite, or with 2 totally different brands.  My story is not unique, except possibly for how long it took me to realize what I was doing wrong.  I am back with Brooks and plan to stay with them for a long time.  Have any of you experienced the same thing?  Have you switched shoes only to get injured?  On average how many different pairs of shoes did you go through before you found the right ones for you?
My new Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12