Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Another Year, Another Marathon

Last week I ran the P. F. Chang’s ½ Marathon. I should be thankful that I finished. But I’m kicking myself for doing so poorly, I’m kicking myself for overtraining. The one thing that I did learn through running this 3rd ½ marathon is that it is not the marathon but the training runs themselves are what is so memorable. Immediately upon crossing the finish line last year one of the first things that I said to my wife was “ I can hardly wait to get out there an do my neighborhood 7-mile loop.” It wasn’t the marathon that was fun, it was the feeling of being out there, alone on a desert highway running on a weekend morning as drivers passed by looking at me as if I were insane for being out there in the middle of nowhere plodding along. It was the feeling of the cool morning air, watching the sun rise, watching the ducks and the herons on the lake that was so memorable. Not to oversimplify, but it’s all about the journey and not the destination.

On our last trip to LA a couple of weekends ago I made it a point to take the running gear. It was two weeks before the marathon and it was critical to continue to lay down my base mileage no matter what. We checked into a nice little hotel in Camarillo and one of the firs things that I asked of the concierge was for a good running route. The person behind the desk was a runner and her family ran as well. “Let me give you a good route” she remarked as she highlighted the local area map. I was warned that there was a pretty big hill and that it was the standard route for the local high school soccer team. “Sold” I replied.

The next morning with iPod and running gear donned I left the room in total darkness and hit the route. For the first mile life was good. Seeing all of the trees and greenery was a stark difference from the barren landscape of the Arizona desert. I came to the first stoplight and there it was, Mt. MotherF@#$%r herself. I estimated that it was probably an 8% grade and that most trucks would not dare to descend for fear of total brake failure. I attacked the hill with a reckless abandon and before I knew it I was at the top. I ran through a residential neighborhood for another mile then climbed another small hill and turned left at the stoplight. What I saw next was nothing less that spectacular. On one side of me was a beautiful Catholic seminary and the view down the hill from it was incredible little valley with a small river at the bottom. Across the valley was another hill top with a mission surrounded by vineyards. The whole run was 5 miles of gently rolling hills and it took me about 55 minutes to complete. While I was there I had to run it again the next day.

To me this training session that run was the best memory of the marathon. The feeling of freedom, the morning, the outdoors, the view all mad me want to continue to run despite coming in with the slowest time for a marathon that I have ever run. On March 17th I have another marathon in Tuscon, the same one I ran last year, the Arizona Distance Classic. Again I look forward to the day of the race knowing that one of the days before it will contain a time out there on the road that I will remember.