Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Second Half (Marathon)

I ended last year with my first half marathon under my belt.  As the New Year approached I began forming personal and professional goals for this year: complete my resume and start searching for the job I’ll eventually move into between now and the Summer of 2014, plans for what Steph and I might do for our 20th wedding anniversary this coming Summer, and a few running goals.  While I haven’t locked specific races down, the running goals had gelled to include running two more half-marathons, and my first full marathon.  Little did I know I’d complete one of those two half marathons this month.

Not long after I finished the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas half marathon early in December, I received an email encouraging me to consider running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona event on 20 January.  I learned that these two “desert” races are linked in that if you complete them back-to-back, you get an additional finisher’s medal.  It’s amazing what someone like me will do for a t-shirt and some ribbon with a medal on it, and so I signed up and rolled right back into training.

With training complete, I drove down to Tempe, Arizona, stayed with friends over the race weekend and set off on my second half marathon.  Like my first one in December, the race was pretty much everything I had hoped it would be and as is the case with all adventures, I learned a few more things about myself.

It wasn’t a fluke.  If you can do something significant twice, it’s probably not a fluke.  Not that I thought the race in December was a fluke, but running a particular distance once means you can do it once.  I followed a training plan and the race went flawlessly, but somehow it felt great to do it a second time, especially not long after the first race.  It seemed to remove any chance of doubt that it might have been a one-time experience in my life.  Consistent with my goals, I just showed myself I can do more.  That makes me happy and frankly builds my confidence in myself as a middle-aged man.  I didn’t doubt I could complete the Arizona race, but having mental confidence in the ability to do something is clearly important; actually doing it is the proof.

The base.  For many years I’ve heard and read runners talk about building up a base, and that that base essentially becomes a permanent fitness foundation they can rely on during those times of rest or injury.  Knowing it’s there is one thing, but seeing the practical effect it has is exciting.  I’ve mentioned previously I’ve run for most of my life, but generally shorter distances:  10Ks and below.  Having trained for two half-marathons within two months of each other let me see a little bit of what that base does.  After the December race, I was pretty sore for four days or so, and still a bit achy for a week to 10 days.  No injuries, nothing bad, but my body was clearly telling me it noticed I had just done something that I’d never done before.  I remember saying after completing the race that mentally I could do it again right then, but physically I needed to recover.  After a week or so I was running again with no issues at all.

The day I completed the Arizona race I felt just as sore as when I completed Vegas, but there was a big difference the next day:  in terms of being sore or stiff, my body was almost completely back to normal.  The only way I can explain it is to assume I’d built up a base more consistent with the half-marathon distance.  I didn’t expect to recover so quickly and it came as quite a pleasant surprise.  Still, I gently and patiently stepped back into a running routine after the race rather than risk overdoing it.

People are people.  I think it’s less obvious during shorter distance races, but it becomes very evident in longer races that just as with anything else we humans do, there are awesome people and...let’s just say “less than awesome” people.  Okay, I won’t beat around the bush.  In large groups, people run like they drive or walk through the mall:  there are some rude folks and frankly a few idiots out there.  Runners are an awesome and often selfless community, but it’s no surprise that people are people no matter where you go.  More on this in a later post.

The fine folks at Competitor Group.  I’m sure all races, especially endurance-length races, have their issues and some will always be better than others.  Having sampled two separate Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series events though, I think Competitor is doing an awesome job with these races.  Both races I participated in had a variety of issues, but nothing that ultimately diminished the overall experience.  For folks who are looking to train for and run their first half or full marathon, I’d encourage you to seek out one of these Rock ‘n’ Roll series events.  Depending on personal preferences and who you ask, I’m sure there are better races out there as well as many that are worse, but so far for me these events have been a quality experience.  Add the particular experience of hearing local bands perform while you’re running makes it special beyond just the race route and location itself.  Not to sound like too much of a groupie, I absolutely plan on running other races that aren’t affiliated with the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, but I'm also going to seek out and enter more Rock 'n' Roll series events.  My point is that these two races were well done and I felt, worth the time and money I spent to participate.

Back to running, goals, and fatherhood.  I’ll most certainly continue to work toward running another half and my first full marathon this year.  The other “goal” I have is to start running with my son.  I didn’t ask him to start running with me; he asked me if he could start.  So this Spring we’ll step out together and see how he likes it.  Just as my Dad did with me, I won’t push him.  Instead I’ll encourage him and hopefully this becomes yet another thing we can enjoy and share together as Dad ‘n’ Lad, as we continue through life’s journey.

It’s great to be a dad!