9 years ago I ran my one and only marathon, the Harrisburg Marathon. My hope at the time was to break 3 hours and then to really race Boston in the spring. My college running career was at an end and I thought marathoning was going to be my main racing pursuit. Boy was on wrong.
You know the old saying, “you have to respect the distance.” Well I didn’t respect the distance. I went into my marathon off of 3 months of cross country training that primarily consisted of 45-50 mile weeks with 2 interval session a race and a long run. I was doing plenty of hard running but for the most part my long runs were 12-14 miles. I did one 17 miler about a month out from the marathon. You have to understand that even though I was a worldly 29-year-old, I had only begun my 2nd running about a year earlier. I did not run a step, or even think about running any steps for 10 years after my senior year of high school cross country season. What I knew about racing and training then you could fit on a post-it note, a very small post-it note. It didn’t help matters that our xc coach didn’t seem to know much about training either, he got me to the final race of the season with thoroughly trashed legs. I found out after our championship race that the other guys on the team were smart enough to dog it during the last 2 weeks of workouts so as not to be exhausted for the last race, I wasn’t so smart.
Instead of going into my first marathon with, if nothing else, rested legs, I went into it feel beat to a pulp. Race day dawned bright and sunny with a stiff north wind and the thermometer reading 19 degrees (that is -7 degrees for my European readers). I’m not going to give the blow-by-blow of my race. I’ll just say that it was cold, about 30 degrees colder than it had been at any of the races leading up to this one. I finished in 2:57:56 and I ran a pretty large negative split. Partially my negative split was aided by the fact I had to take 2 porta-potty breaks in the first half of the race costing me a good 3-4 minutes off my time. I was happy with my finishing time, and aside from complete and utter exhaustion I felt pretty good. Lisa who was my girlfriend at the time drove us back to State College where I proceeded to sleep for 14 hours, a feat I had not accomplished since high school and haven’t matched since.
When I finally woke up and slid out of bed I knew something was wrong. I could not bend my right knee, at all. I was expecting all manner of soreness, but this was clearly no good. I had damaged my knee badly, so badly that it would be years before I was able to train at the volume and intensity I could train before the marathon. Once I was finally able to train properly I focused my energies on shorter race, swearing off forever the marathon. Every so often the sweet siren song of the marathon would lure me toward the rocks, but always I would avert course before I got to close and sail away unharmed. Always that is, until now. I have decided to take the plunge and swim toward those sweet sweet life sucking rocks.
I’m going to run the B & A Trail Marathon in Annapolis MD on March 16th. Hopefully this time I’ll train a bit wiser, and the weather will be a bit warmer.