Monday, 26 July 2010


I have said this before and I'm saying it again. Distance runners amaze me...and this time, I'm including myself among them. No, I have not grown a big head.

I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon yesterday. My first official "event" since last December 7th, when I wrapped up the 12 Months/12 Marathons thing in Santa Barbara. I've been signed up for a three other races so far this year but, for varied reasons have bagged on them. I was signed up for the full marathon yesterday, but because of a nagging heel spur did not feel adequately trained to do 26. So, last minute, I switched to the half.

Went to lay out my "stuff" the night before...including my Big G singlet. It's the uniform of my beloved, goofy running club, Goon Squad Runners, in Boston. It's an XL. Turns out, after not running for months, I'd put on a few. Sadly, the Big G was not going along on this ride. I have ordered a new Big G singlet. It's black. Black's slimming, right?

I went in hopeful of rekindling some of the fire I needed to pull myself through last year's challenge. I've been trying to reconnect with why I want to be a distance runner, for the last couple of months.

It was a chilly morning in San Francisco. The weather experts tell us this is the coldest summer in the City for nearly forty years. The shuttle bus to the start at Spreckles Lake in Golden Gate Park dropped us off at about 6:50. Start was set for 8:15. I spent much of that time in porta-potty lines. I learned a long time ago that the first thing to do in the race start area is to get in the potty line. Then, when you come out, get back into the line, and do it all again.

I have done the full marathon in San Francisco three times, so it's a course I'm not unfamiliar with. That said, how I forgot about the hill that is Golden Gate Park from Ocean Beach to Stanyan Street, I will never know. For a better look, check this elevation chart for the first seven miles.

It didn't take long for the near non-stop climbing to take its toll. Checked my Garmin on numerous occasions, and discovered each time that my heart certainly was getting a workout. My normal is about 155 during training runs, except when doing speed work and hill repeats. Seems as though it was close to 170 for most of these 13.1 miles.

Coming out of the tunnel at the east end of the park, and stepping into the Haight, I breathed my first sigh of relief. From here on it's mostly flat with a couple of awesome declines. I can honestly say the first time I felt good yesterday was near-tumbling down Haight Street toward Divisadero. The second time was a few blocks farther on, crossing Market, heading downhill into the Mission.

At this point it was all about just doing it. My heel spur had paid a return visit at about mile five, and nagged all the way to the end. I was thankful I was not running in my VFF's, as my heel needed the padding of my hefty Brooks Beasts.

I wore my iPod this race, but didn't use it. I didn't want to add any more time to my finish by stopping to insert the earbuds or select the tracks. I just wanted it to be over. So, I had a lot of time to think. I noticed the other runners. I was feeling the pain of the marathoners I was passing. They were at mile 20...I was at 10. I hurt for them...but was well aware of the conversations they were probably having in their heads at that time. Trying to keep themselves going, and pulling it off. I told myself to just shut up.

My favorite marathoners have always been the one's who've done their first...and STILL decide to do another. My second favorites, are those who've never gone that far and have decided to give it a shot. Yesterday reminded me what a challenge distance running is. When I blissfully finished my 13.1 I tried for a moment to remember what it was like going twice that far...thirty times over the last nine years. I can not remember.

It was about this time that I realized that Greek dude who did the distance from Marathon to Athens, kicking off this whole craze, only did it once...and died at the end. I've gone the distance thirty times...and am signed up to run Athens this year. And, he's the legend? WTH? Kidding.

I'm not sure I found any answers yesterday to how or why I should keep doing this. But running beneath the "Finish" banner again did feel like hooking back up with a dear, dear friend.

Gotta run!


Anonymous said...

Nice post, Michael and good to see you back amongst the pack.

Melissa Cunningham said...

michael,there has been once in my life i pondered the question "why" i was a distance runner. there was a time i had gotten to the pont of true "burn out",where i thought i actually fallen out of love with running. and i questioned "why" i should was spring of 2001. crosscountry was over,indoor track was ending and outdoor track season was around the corner. i was in college and thought my coach was crazy. he pushed me beyond my physical and emotional limits. i was tired of running. one day while finishing up a particular brutal track workout,i told myself i was done. in the distance i saw the softball players heading onto the field and thought to myself that i should switch sports and go talk to the softball coach.i was tired of asking myself why i still wanted to run,and just wanted validation.

the next day,unkown to my track coach,i talked to the softball coach and was asked to show up for practice. so i dusted off my glove (yup,it had been 2 years since i had played)and ran onto the field. but wow, it was a good feeling to be on the field again,and i thought i had gotten my answer.....

and then the coach popped a fly ball in my direction. i run out like a mad woman,wanting to prove myself as a ball player.lo and behold i catch the ball.......with my face. i felt and heard my nose crunch like gristle on chicken bones. i felt the blood trickle down in my mouth as the numbing pain set in my eyballs. i calmly grab my crooked nose and start walking off the field. the coach is yelling at me to get back out there and when i tell her my nose is broke,she doesnt believe me and wants to look. so she does and i start gushing blood and then the AT is called and i am rushed to the training room. as im sitting in the room,my crosscountry/track teammates are coming in from a light run. how do i explain this one? they see my sitting there bleeding.i explain my story and then there is silence. and then there is laughter.lots of it. to the point of being contagious and hysterical. my friends just gave me a big hug and said
"melissa,you are a runner,not a ball player!if your were a ball player you wouldnt have a broken face right now.once your a distance runner,you are always a distance runner"

so there was my answer in a nutshell. it only took me breaking my nose and having 2 black eyes for 2 weeks to realize it.(and oh yeah,NEVER living that moment down!!!)

not to say ive never had my days of not feeling the running mojo,but after that mini epiphany a decade ago,i find it easier to get back in the groove of things when i feel i am in a rut....

i do hope you are able to find your answers,and i do hope it doesnt take you breaking your face like i did to figure it out...LOL!!!!!

take care,and heres to many more miles ahead!

rUntoNamAste said...

LMAO @ the legendary one-time marathoner :) Congrats, Mike! I too am constantly seeking the ever elusive answer as to why on earth I do this distance running nonsense. After my own race this weekend I damned running to hell, and now I can't wait to run again. [heh, go figure!] But you know what, some things are better left unanswered. Just know know that we do it because...and leave it at that. Run on, run strong and most important, run happy!

kchealy said...

So good to see you back to racing! Congrats on your half marathon finish.

Michael B said...

melissa - love that story...thanks for taking the time to lay it all down right here.

ms fool - i know, i know...blah, blah, blah...i'm pretty sure i'll be back out there...look out athens!

k - thanks. always nice to get props from you. :)

TokyoRacer said...

I've been waiting for this post. Glad you made it and that the heel spur wasn't TOO bad. Hope you can get that sorted out before you have to do some real training for Athens.

Runners Fuel said...

Good job on the race!

TP said...

Always a good read, thanks!

Rachel said...

Glad you made it out there for the half! It really was a perfect day for running : ) Sometimes I think part of why I love running is exactly because it's not always easy. It's like that whole idea that without sad moments, happy ones wouldn't feel nearly as great. We need those running "ruts" to make the good times that much more special. You've accomplished so many amazing things in your running career thus far, and I'm sure there will be many more in your future. Way to get back out there!

Karoline Steckley said...

You ARE a legend, my friend!!

Julianne said...

Nice job on the half at SF Michael!!! SO what are the other 3 that you signed up for?? Glad you're back!

Michael B said... was LA, Trieste and Prague....

Anonymous said...

This season is all about lace. thomas sabo schmuck günstig I am talking about crocheted cotton lace, sabo charms the kind your great grandmother thomas sabo engelsflügel wore. Think of the old doilies she used to angebote thomas sabo make. Lace is on everything these days from clothing, handbags and the rest of the accessories. You will see handbags made out of it or adorned with it. It is made into lightweight thomas sabo flowy scarves. Bangles are big and anhänger thomas sabo covered in lace with matching necklaces and earrings. The thomas sabo kette necklaces have lace beaded into it, thomas sabo 2010 beaded with lacey disk beads thomas sabo online shop or lacey beads themselves. It will not be hard to find a great shirt with lace on the top and accessorize it with matching earrings, thomas sabo halsschmuck necklaces, scarves or handbags.