Thursday, 16 April 2009

A QUESTION OF SPEED

Recently a fellow runner commented that he and I should run a race together at some point. That may not happen soon, as we live on opposite sides of the country, but meeting up somewhere is certainly possible, and has been added to my “to do” list. But we may not run together for long.

Other than suggest the shared run, he also asked about my pace. When I told him my average per mile time, taking into account my one minute walk break for every six minutes of running, his response was that we “need to get you down to a track and work on that”. Well-meaning, I have no doubt, and I took no offense. It did set my mind in motion, though, mulling over the whole question of, as John Bingham has put it, the NEED for SPEED.

I was wondering about that first marathoner, Pheidippides, who plowed his way from Marathon to Athens (allegedly) with a mission far more vital than my quest for finishers’ medals and free wicking running shirts. I have done no research into this, so I may be completely off base, but I’m guessing he may have actually taken a walk break or two. He may even have sat down and had a sandwich! I know he needed to deliver his battle victory report quickly, but I surmise, again, based on no hard facts, he wasn’t worried about his per mile pace. Job One was to finish. I also wonder, if he had taken a few walk breaks he may not have freakin' DIED at the end of the run.

Now, as thousands prepare to run Boston on Monday, I will confess, I have no desire to run that one. As speed is the prime ingredient in the marathon qualification formula, rightly or wrongly, it's pretty much a done deal that I'll never participate in this Holy Grail event. I hold everyone who wants to qualify for Boston, does qualify for Boston, and who runs Boston in the ultimate esteem. I'll be watching the live coverage on Patriots Day. But, and perhaps this is totally uncool, I have no desire to run it. Give me Paris, Vienna, Dublin, London, New York, and even Salt Lake City (where I am running my 3rd SLC this weekend). I have run in 24 marathons to date, and have not felt during one of them that I'd rather be in Hopkinton. (I would take an invitation to run Boston, in all honesty, but I'm not holding my breath.)

I finished my first marathon at 50-years-old seven years ago, in an admittedly then-disappointing 6:40. Since then I've dropped 25 pounds and, just last December, broke the 5 hour mark for the first time. I've also taken to heart the fact that I will never win a marathon, nor, probably, my age group. I'm okay with that. What I do care about is running for as long as I can, while avoiding injury, enjoying myself, and meeting more and more other runners, most of whom will be more cheetah-like than me. Also, there's way more room to run in the back of the pack, and I like my space.

In the name of full disclosure, I will say, that IF I do set a new PR anytime, in any marathon, in any city or country, I WILL be totally stoked, and surprised, by my time, momentarily.

So, if you line up at any starting line with me anytime soon, let me say this now. Chances are you'll get to the beer at the end before me. Just save me one, okay? I'm on my way.

Gotta run!



7 comments:

Allison (Dog Mom) said...

I completely understand this post!! I am by no means a fast runner. In fact, I'm pretty excited when my 5K time is around 30 minutes (when my age bracket winners are at about 19 minutes). The key is that I'm healthy, I'm happy, and I'm having a good time (something I never thought I'd say about running).

Power to the slowpokes!
Allison :)

TokyoRacer said...

Yeah! You've got the right attitude, Michael. Improving endurance is more praiseworthy than improving speed. That's why we're distance runners! That's why triathetes are cooler than sprinters.
By the way, check out this woman's blog, it's really good. Ok, the paean to Boston may not be up your alley, but the open letter to the 'Mill and some of her other posts are great.
http://therunninglaminator.blogspot.com/

kch said...

My attitude is about 80% the same as yours. Staying healthy and being able to run for as many years as possible are my top goals--and I'll never be really fast--but I also really enjoy the quest to get faster.

Best wishes for a good race this weekend!

Jayadeep(JDP) said...

I am in the same boat - running consistently for life is my goal. So I am not even thinking of a full marathon yet - may be I will reach there some day. I have got to say you are an inspiration for people like us!

kara said...

You should start your own club - folks who want to keep running and enjoying life sans the injuries.
PS.
I've never run a marathon only a half.
So you're way ahead of me : )

Looking forward to the SLC race report.

leslie said...

You have the BEST attitude ever!!!

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