Just a tad over 13 months ago, I decided that I was going to set a personal goal; a goal I would strive to achieve before I die. Even when I was an athlete in high school, I was never a runner. I never enjoyed it. But I do have a lot of friends who are runners, and many are marathon and ultra-marathon runners. So I figured I would have a good support team around me and plenty of places to ask questions, so my choice was to run a marathon.
I figured that to run a marathon, it would probably take me a couple years to build up the strength and ability to do so. When I first started, I could only run a little over a mile before being pretty exhausted. I started this thread (I’m JohnnyRoyale) to discuss what I needed to do to achieve this goal, and to ask MANY questions…and to have a place to bitch about running and the pains involved!
Now before we even begin this part, I want to note that there were over 27,000 runners in the Rock and Roll Seattle Marathon and probably over 27,000 different training styles and experiences. If a runner is reading this and says “That’s not how you do it,” I’m only sharing how I was not only told how to do it, but did it.
One of the first things I did was consult my family doctor because both of my knees are in kind of deteriorating condition. He had a look and basically said that as long as the pain doesn’t get to be too much, I should be okay.
From the beginning, I had no clue how much science (and money!) was involved with running. I just figured you go out and run, right? WRONG!! You have to have good shoes that can sometimes be expensive; sweat wicking clothes to wear; proper education on hydration, nutrition, electrolytes, salts, stretching, icing, recovery, etc.
A key thing for me is that I do have a day job where I work outdoors and with my hands, so it was crucial that I stay healthy and be very cautious with my training. If I got hurt, then I couldn’t work. If I couldn’t work, then I couldn’t get paid. Then I would be screwed!
You can browse through that thread above on a lunch break someday, but basically my mileage increased much faster than I ever thought it would. I kind of created my own training schedule and ran several races leading up to my half marathon performance last November at The Seattle Marathon. At that race, I actually ran an excellent time (for me, anyway) of 1:57 in my first half marathon.
But I paid a price. It turns out that I tore a muscle in my calf, which caused me to get tendonitis in my right foot, making it impossible to run. As you can see by my reaction of “Fuckin’ Fuckedy Fuck!!” on page 11 of this thread, I was less than pleased, especially since I needed to start training for the full marathon in June. I was told to wear an ankle brace at all times and to slowly build the strength back up in the foot while doing cross training.
But I did what I was told by the doctor, and I took the advice of an ultra marathon running friend and chose this training schedule, though altered it by adding two more weeks of training. A 20 week schedule was my final plan, committing myself to this thing five days a week.
I began this crusade in February, and just got back on my feet, collecting little aches and pains along the way. I was concerned that all of the time I lost by not running meant it would take me forever to get back into shape. However, my running friends told me that I would pick it back up in no time.
One thing that really went through the roof was my appetite. Once I started doing long runs each weekend of 12 or more miles, my stomach was just a bottom-less pit. When I began the training, I decided to cut out most fatty foods (especially fast food) and sugary products. The latter was the most difficult because I am a sugar-holic. It’s well known that I like to have cookies for breakfast. No more during training. My beloved cookie container was replaced with trans-fat free, low sodium pretzel sticks. The only exception to the rule would be on Saturdays, after I would do my long run each week, where I felt like I earned one day to eat whatever I wanted.
I began to eat two loaves of bread a week. A box of (healthy) cereal would last me about two to three days. Five meals a day became pretty normal. Eating healthy and having a larger appetite meant a larger grocery bill, however the freaky thing was that I began to rapidly lose weight. When I started running in the summer of 2009, I was about 167 lbs. (I’m 5’10”) I was down to about 160 when I began marathon training in February and by the end, I hit my low of about 151 pounds. I was pretty damn trim and looked good in some aspects (got my six pack abs back!) however I have to admit that I was too thin, and all of that muscle mass that I lost made me very frail. So much so that I became self-conscious about having a shirt off because I was too skinny! [Editor’s note: By day six after the marathon, I have gained back six pounds already!]
Then there was the mental aspect. First off, I had to turn down offers to go hiking or camping with friends, or simply just hang out with friends at certain events and times. “Sorry, but I have to run.” For many weeks, I was running 30 or more miles a week (I think 38 was my top out point) and the body begins to get tired and worn down at this point. With this, I got very cranky and moody; I noticed myself snapping at people and getting upset often, which are two rather rare traits for me. One thing I did discover though was the value of tapering down as it really did bring back my energy and attitude, making me very ready to run the big race when it was time.
Now don’t let me paint just an ugly picture. I got tons of help and advice from friends, family and runners. Many running friends gave me more free winter clothes and gear to use than I could have imagined. And I ran at some really gorgeous (and sometimes challenging) places: Mt. Rainier, La Push, Shi Shi Beach, Cannon Beach, Wenatchee, I ran the Aurora bridge, I-90 bridge, Ballard bridge, Fremont bridge, University bridge, Ballard locks, the Alaskan Way Viaduct, I ran all through Ballard, Greenwood, Ravenna, a couple hundred laps around Greenlake, and I even ran up Dravus street in Magnolia…once. By the time June 26th 2010 rolled around, I was in the best shape of my life.
The race I chose was the traveling Rock n’ Roll Marathon, a marathon with live bands playing at about every mile. From my experience at the Seattle Half, I knew that I needed to stay very focused on pacing myself, which is something I’ve had a problem with all along. If I feel good, I run kinda fast.
From the very get go just after 7am, things felt right. The weather was a perfect 60 degrees or so, and cloudy. Sadly, I never really heard one note from the musicians the whole time, as my iPod was stocked full of high-energy songs. And I even saw a guy running in a polar bear suit at about mile four or so during the race. I really doubt he made it further than a half marathon. God speed to him for running at all though!
The course was set out nicely and we had a beautiful run on the first half along Seward park and out the I-90 bridge to Mercer Island. I knew I was running a rather quick pace, but I was puzzled when I eventually saw ahead of me a guy with one of the pacer tags on his back, and this one said 4:00. I couldn’t believe I was behind him (by the way, my goal for this race was 4:10) so I really tried hard to catch up to that guy, but he was cooking and I think I wasted a lot of energy trying to catch him, and I never did anyhow. So on the way back after the turnaround on the bridge, I saw another person with a 4:00 marker that I was way ahead of, but this one was carrying a stick with that tag. I was confused.
LINEBREAKI met my family at about 14.5 miles who re-filled my water bottles, electrolyte pills and gels. I was aware that I probably ran the first half faster than normal, and I was also aware that I didn’t drink a lot of fluids (as I wasn’t thirsty) but I felt great and just figured I could slow it down a little and I’d be fine.
I was wrong.
It all caught up with me, and hard. At about mile 18, I simply just started getting tired, and had to slow down my speed. Later I figured out that this was because I was dehydrated and a little fatigued. I knew Aurora Ave. was a sloped hill, but I just didn’t realize how long this slope goes for. At mile 20, disaster struck: My right knee started breaking down. When I had ran a 23 mile run weeks before, I had a lot of troubles bending that knee and being mobile that night, but I was fine during the run itself.
I decided to slow it down to a walk and maybe stretch out the knee a little. Well, even walking turned into limping and the pain was getting worse and worse. I decided to push through it, but after about a minute of running, I had to shut it down again. I tried one more time after about 30 seconds, but again, I got the same result.
I knew I could push through the pain, but what if I did so and really screwed up my knee…maybe permanently? I had to make a decision, and fast. Ultimately, I decided that since I had no cell phone and no money to call a cab, I’d have to either walk or run back down to Qwest Field to meet my family at the finish line anyhow, so I decided I’d just keep running/walking as best I could. I really had to dig deep down inside of myself mentally to not focus on the pain and remind myself of all I went through to get to this moment. Plus, I was almost done and would NEVER have to do this again.
Eventually I was able to run for two minutes then would have to slightly walk/limp. Then side stitches started up and I had to force my way through that and the knee. It was miserable! But slowly I could build up to three minutes straight, then five and finally at about mile 23, it was like all of those gel packs kicked in or something (or I finally got hydrated again) and I just took off! All of my energy was back and even though the knee hurt, I just plowed through it and it was somehow manageable.
I had purposely been waiting for mile 25 so I could put on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s cover of “Little Wing” and I blasted this as loud as I could take it. I can’t properly describe how euphoric that song was, but it put chills up my back as my speed picked up (and it was even a hill!) and I began to remember that double-amputee on the side of the road, and all of the crippled people I’ve seen while I was out running the past year, and all the other reasons I needed to be grateful to be alive and having that moment right there, where I was about to finish a marathon! And I had this powerful music (especially at about 2:40 forward in the song) pushing me on!! It was truly electric!!!
Listen to “Little Wing” here:[audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/06-Little-Wing.mp3|titles=Little Wing]
As I slowly approached the finish line, I could feel the huge grin on my face and hear LL Cool J’s “Momma Said Knock You Out” in my ear as I looked for my family near the end. I raised my hands in victory as I crossed the line and saw my cousin to the left. Then the feeling came over me, that I had just accomplished my greatest physical achievement to date, and I was just floored. I don’t remember much else, just being elated.LINEBREAK
LINEBREAKAfter the race:
As soon as my arms dropped, the pain in my knee instantly rushed back, walking became limping, and I grew concerned again. Hobbling to the medical tent, I sat down to get an ice wrap on my knee, fighting back tears of both pain and happiness. I did finally cry when I met up with my family and it was a wonderful feeling to have them there with me and to be there to support me.
But I was hurt. I had to lay on the ground for about 10-15 minutes and even after I changed shirts, they kept asking me if I wanted a long sleeve shirt or long pants (after they helped me up off the ground). I told them I wasn’t cold, but it was odd for all three of us because my legs were shaking uncontrollably. We had to walk very slowly back to the car and by that point, I really couldn’t bend my right leg and it was like having a full leg cast on the leg.
I ended up finishing with a time of 4:19:52, almost ten minutes past my goal time. I had finished the first half in 2:00:10, so I basically lost almost 20 minutes in the second half. On Saturday and Sunday, I felt like a failure personally, and I just couldn’t accept this as good. Okay, but not good. On Sunday, my mindset was pretty much that I had to train for another race because I must beat that time in the future. “I’m better than that,” I thought. But as the adrenalin slowly went away, I began to realize that maybe that was the best I can do and that my knee simply won’t allow me to do better. Sure, I screwed up with my hydration and such, but I’m not sure my knee will ever do better.
After several days, I was back to normal (though I did limp for a few days after the race). The bottom line is that the goal on my bathroom mirror was to run a marathon, and not in a certain time…that was just an extra part I added in. After thinking about it a lot this week, I’ve decided that I just don’t love running enough to continue. The day before the marathon, I went on a light, two mile run to get loose, and I was pretty much counting down the blocks until it was over. That kind of tells me that I don’t enjoy this. I might go for a two to four mile run every once in a while to help stay in shape, but as far as competitive racing goes, I’m done. One thing that I hope people get out of this is that I was a somewhat lazy, cookie-eating guy with two bad knees that used to think “I could never run a marathon” and I hear a lot of people say that when I talk about what I did. So basically, if I can do it, then anyone can do it!
I completed a life goal: I ran a marathon. Of the over 27,000 people who signed up for that race, just over 21,000 people finished, and I was one of them.
I did it.
Actually, let me change that: I FUCKING DID IT!!!
I would like to thank the following people plus the MANY MORE who helped me with encouragement, advice, physical care, free clothes, motivation, running partners, inspiration and everything else I needed to get this done: Jonathan, Christian, Dan, Wendell, Owen, Allen, Jessica, Mike M., Mike P., Molly, Jamie, Stefan, Joleen, Jill, Dene, Misty, Natalie, Gillian, Linda, Mary, Mike R., Steve, all of my family and all of my friends. THANKS FOR THE HELP!!