Tuesday, 29 June 2010

MAGIC?

After running over a thousand miles last year, I have hardly run at all in 2010. Regular visitors here will know some of the reasons. I shan't go into them again right now. Suffice it to say, a number of conditions have not been ideal. However, with the San Francisco Marathon just weeks away, I decided yesterday that it was time to test whether I might really be up for it.

I discovered long ago that, at least for me, marathons are more about mental resolve than physical ability. In order to challenge both I hit the road yesterday with the goal of running a 15 miler. I have not run that far since the Santa Barbara Marathon last December. If memory serves, ten's as far as I've gone. I knew that trying for 15 was breaking one of the major rules of distance training, namely, don't increase your mileage by more than ten percent at a pop. Yesterday's run was an increase of 50% over my last ten, which was last week. My hope was I could still draw on the core fitness attained during the 12 in 12. Physically, honestly, I was pretty sure I could do it. In my head, maybe not so much.

I didn't run the Los Angeles Marathon earlier this year, even though I was signed up and had journied south to do it. The day before I realized the mental reserves were depleted, and I knew this race was going to require a lot of what was gone. Since then, I have been struggling to figure out what it is I love about the marathon. I've been asking myself, why? I haven't found the answer. I hoped I would rediscover it yesterday.

The first three miles were tough. I had forgotten it usually takes me 3-5 miles to really warm up and get into the whole groove. The conversations going on inside my head were not pleasant. I was calling myself names and going over a long list of things I'd rather be doing. At some point I convinced myself I was in for the long haul, but knew that I'd have to force myself to complete the task. So, seeing the course I'd set was an out-and-back, I committed to making it to the 7.5 mile turnaround. Knew that if I made it that far I'd have no choice but to finish, as I'd have to go home. The turnaround point was a Starbucks, so I promised myself a small coffee...and a breather.

That worked fine...but I still wasn't feeling the magic....and I still had 7.5 miles to go. Shortly after I began the return leg I remembered there have rarely been moments of joy during a distance run. Sure, I get those after it's all over, with beer in hand. At about mile 9, "it" all came back to me. I remembered that, in every one of the 30 marathons I've finished, there came a time when I realize that, in order to finish, I'd just have to resign myself to slogging it out. Looking for the magic is pointless. It's mostly about just deciding....to keep going, or to quit...and being prepared to deal with the consequences.

I finished my 15, and was more glad that it was over than I was that I'd done it. Not sure what that says about the upcoming SF Marathon. At this point I am committed to it. I need to do it in order to discover why it is I do them at all.

For all my running friends who still get "it"...I am envious. Enjoy!

Despite everything, for now...

Gotta run!

13 comments:

terry said...

i don't know how you do it, but i hope you keep doing it!

Rachel said...

this post couldn't have come at a better time for me. lately, for whatever reason, i've felt like i've lost my running "mojo". i'm also doing sfm next month and am struggling mentally to get in some decent long runs before then to prove to myself i can do it (despite having just run one earlier this month!). i'll be tackling 15 this weekend and will keep your thoughts in mind when the going gets tough. way to stick with it!

Ian Charters said...

I hope you get "it" back it quickly, Michael. Life seems better when long runs are enjoyable but then that is part of the reason I run off-road and only run on roads when it is unavoidable. Have you tried running on trails? No watch, no time target, just go and trot along enjoying the scenery - the miles go quick, I promise.

Highway Kind said...

Satisfaction comes from achieving a goal and is a nice steady feeling but the joy is far more capricious and never stays for long. When it does come and you have a sense of inner harmony - well it pays for the other times when you are just enduring

kara said...

It must be the year 2010 or something in the air... I'm feeling the same way - struggling through long runs (mentally.)
But
reading Born To Run right now - and it's working some magic : )

Good Luck M - U can do it!

John said...

what would yoda do?

Michael said...

Sometimes I think the reason "I do it" is because I'm afraid of not doing it. I'm afraid of losing all that I have gained through running... the friendships, the health benefits, the positive mindset, the incredible rush of crossing the finish line, and on and on. But mostly I run, to quote a well worn phrase, because I can. Michael, do San Franciso... it's calling you. Michael PS I agree with Kara above... Born to Run is an incredible motivator. I highly recommend it.

TokyoRacer said...

Well, you have to keep running so you can keep blogging about it. You're a great blogger. However, we don't want to read about how you walked to Starbucks for a cup of coffee.

s p running said...

thanks for your comment on my blog & all the best to you :-)
Goatie

Gina Harris said...

Thanks, Michael. That's exactly how I felt after I ran the Salt Lake City Marathon in April. I'm still running, but haven't committed to a race of over 10 miles until January. I know what you mean about the "Magic".

rUntoNamAste said...

Way to gut it out Mike! Like you, I can't remember ever liking any of my long runs, marathons included, until it's over and I'm in a state of euphoria courtesy a few muscle relaxants. Remember, you did this foolishness 30 times before so here's to #31. You got this :) Cheers!

Paul Rhodes said...

im with michael above, its like marriage, when it comes down to it the only thing that keeps you in it is pure resolve and nothing else....my view is we go thru lots of stages, from born again runner to mature runner and its filled with rocky periods etc.....dont give up mate....its not about enjoying it, just about doing it

http://runnershigh-paul.blogspot.com/

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