9 years in the making

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.