Oh, the torment bred in the race, The grinding scream of death

Once upon a time this blog was all about me, but in recent years I’ve done more writing about the team than I have about myself. Don’t worry, this isn’t a post to say the blog is going to be all about me again, but this post is going to be all about me.

All you can eat bacon and eggs.

Here I am in February 2002 on a Caribbean cruise.

Beer… no glory

Here is my friend Marco on the same cruise.

Anyway, as regular readers of this blog will know, in the winter of 2002 I was a very out-of-shape, pack-a-day smoker. And while I had managed to not put on any weight in the 10 years since I quit running, I was far from healthy. The day I returned to work following this cruise I was informed the company I worked for (800.com Electronics) was going out of business. I could work out the rest of the week if I wanted, or I could just take my severance pay and go home. I took my check and left. One month later I quit smoking. Two months after that I got on a plane and returned to my parents’ house in Poughkeepsie as an unemployed, marginally educated 27-year-old with no skills other than cooking for campers and buying bulk DVDs and CDs to sell on the internet.

See you later, Mount Hood.

I decided to start running and to go back to college to finish my bachelor’s degree. At the time I was certain, like so many other runners and nonrunners alike, that running a marathon was the be all end all of the running experience. So a year and half after I quit smoking and started running, I ran in the Harrisburg Marathon. I was woefully unprepared for the effort. My longest run was probably 16-17 miles. Most of my “long” runs were in the 12-13 mile range and my average weekly mileage in the few months leading up to the marathon was certainly under 50. Remarkably I felt fine during the race and easily beat my goal of sub 3 hours (even with 3 bathroom breaks). My plan was to take it easy during this marathon then really train hard for Boston in the spring. I had no idea that Boston was likely already sold out for that spring.

As it turns out, that wouldn’t matter. The day after the marathon I couldn’t walk. Not because of muscle soreness (I was actually not that sore) but because my right knee wouldn’t bend without causing severe and immediate pain. I’ll never be sure what exactly I did to my knee. It might have been an IT issue, although as time has passed I’ve grown more inclined to think I tore my meniscus. Whatever I did it to, it was months before I could run more than a few miles at a time and years before I began training seriously again. By that time I had moved from Pougkeepsie, NY to Austin, TX and then to Rochester, NY.

RKR runners take an early but short lived lead.
Earlier Days of Roadkill Racing

I’d also sworn off marathons. They were a sucker’s game. I was more interested in running fast than plodding along hour after hour.

Or so I told myself.

But there it was, like a splinter in my mind, driving me mad. And mad I must be, because after 12 years I’ve decided to take another crack at the marathon. I’ll be running the Buffalo Marathon on May 24th. Maybe it was turning 40 and feeling like my chance to see what I could do in the marathon was slipping with each passing year. Maybe it was because the people around me (the runners anyway) are training for and racing marathons. Or maybe it’s because there really is something special about the marathon. The race distance grew out of history, turned into myth, and settled on 26 miles 385 yards because the ruling family on a tiny little island wanted to watch people run by from the comfort of their royal view boxes.

So, when Persia was dust, all cried, “To Acropolis!
Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!
Athens is saved, thank Pan, go shout!” He flung down his shield
Ran like fire once more: and the space ‘twixt the fennel-field
And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,
Till in he broke: “Rejoice, we conquer!” Like wine through clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart, – the bliss!~Robert Browning from Pheidippides