February 28, 2008

Marathon, part 2

If you are just joining the party, you can catch the beginning of the story here.

Kevin came home from work one day with a training schedule and some advice for me from one of his co-workers who had completed numerous races, including marathons. The training schedule involved running one mile and then walking one mile. I wasn't completely enamored with that idea because it seemed to me like I would not be running a marathon but rather walking a marathon. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.

My first day of training dawned muggy and hot, typical New Jersey summer weather. I put on my sneakers and my new running shorts and began to mentally prepare myself. Twenty-six point two miles is one thing in theory but a whole other thing in practice I would come to find out.

The previous day I had gone out for a drive and clocked the miles of my would be route. I knew enough about running to know that starting small and gradually increasing the mileage was most likely the best recipe for success. I had a plan. Begin with two miles and increase each run by two miles when I felt comfortable. My first run was two miles, and I felt good. I ran that two more times before increasing to four miles. The single digit runs were going well.

Mentally, something happens when you think about going for a 10-mile run. It suddenly seems a very daunting task. Even though it was only two more miles than 8, and my body was ready, I was overwhelmed. I knew that I had to do it though, because it was now August and I only had two more full months before the race.

My 10-mile route took me right past the street that I lived on as a teenager and young adult. It brought me down familiar roads. I felt comforted and reassured by the lack of change that I saw around me after not living there for over six years. It felt like a well worn path of predictability. Sometimes I would run down the middle of the road with my eyes closed and see how long I could run in a straight line trusting only in my senses to keep me on a direct course. I felt free and light, totally unencumbered by life and all of its messiness.

At this point in my life I had been married for 6 years and I had two children. John was 4 and Jeremy was almost 2. I was not really coping well with the move that we had made and the state of upheaval that my life was in. I don't really function well with chaos or disorder in my home and there was a considerable amount of disorder. There were boxes strewn all about the apartment that we were renting and I was so against living there that I just didn't even want to unpack. This only compounded matters because I could not find anything that I needed. I attempted to establish a routine and some order to our day, but a normal day consisted mainly of going to my sister's house or picking her up and setting off for Target or the beach. On the days that my mom was not working, we would pick her up, too. Retail therapy and sunburn were the short-term cure for what was ailing me. These things were in the forefront of my mind every time I went out for a run.

Running was quickly becoming the solace that I longed for. Kevin would call me as he was getting ready to leave work and come home. "I'll be there in 20 minutes, get ready to run." he would say. I would hurry into the bedroom to change into my running clothes and grab my sneakers. I listened for the sound of his truck tires rolling slowly down the driveway. It was the sound that signaled my departure.

I had done the 10 miler twice already. I was going to do it a couple more times, until I could run it without walking breaks. When I first began training I was doing a comfortable 12-minute mile. Now, I was able to run an 11-minute mile with my goal being a 10-minute mile. I felt pleased with my ability to shave time off of my mileage and I began to mentally calculate the time that it would take me to run the marathon. I could have stayed with the 11-minute mile and finished well, but my goal was to complete it in 4 hours and 30 minutes, a 10-minute mile, which meant shaving more time off, which meant no walking breaks.

To this day it still I am still amazed at how much mental energy goes into a feat such as running a marathon. I felt an incredible sense of strength and power come over me each time I willed my self to run one more step, 30 more feet, just to the end of the road, the last half-mile, one more mile, and be able to do it. The mind is a powerful instrument.

Then, one day, my right knee began to throb and I thought, I need new sneakers. I took a few days off from running and went out and bought some fancy new kicks and resumed training. My knee still hurt.


I was up to 14 miles at this point and I was feeling confident because I could do at least half of the marathon comfortably. With every step forward I would wince. This was not good. I could not run 26 miles like this.

In addition to training for the marathon, I was teaching aerobics about 7 times per week. This coupled with a rigorous running schedule was becoming too much for my body and my body was responding with irritation in the form of injury. I knew that I had to cut back, but that was so difficult for me to do when I knew that there was a deadline looming. I made the decision to just keep going and hope for the best.

My 36-year old self wants to go back in time and smack my 29-year old self over the head with a blunt object for the sheer stupidity of that decision. That decision is the reason that my knee, still to this day, hurts me when I run.

The longest run that I ever completed before the actual marathon was 20 miles. It was now mid-September and the days were getting shorter. Kevin came home from work and I set out. Twenty miles didn't seem too bad. I had taken some Advil before departing to take the edge off of the pain from my knee. I had clocked the miles the previous day and was confident in my route. The streets that I was going to be running down were tree-lined and quiet. I ran the first 16 miles with no problems. I had watched the sun as it set behind a cluster of evergreens and felt the last of its warmth. I was thankful for the cool air.

As I gazed down the three mile stretch of road in front of me I noticed something that I had never paid attention to before, there were no streetlights. The once pleasant, tree-lined street now seemed an ominous length of darkness and I was afraid. I had thoughts of someone jumping out of the trees and killing me, so I ran down the middle of the street. There seemed to be no lights on in any of the houses thus diminishing my thoughts of calling Kevin to please come and get me. I simply had to keep running.

I could see a streetlight way down the road. I glued my eyes to the light and didn't look at anything else. I chanted over and over again, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Do not fear, nor be dismayed." It became my new mantra.

I arrived home to find my dear husband frantically pacing along the sidewalk. I had been gone for almost four hours and he was worried because it was so dark outside. From then on, I had to apprise him of exactly what route I would be taking should he have to look for my body. My words, not his. (Gruesome, huh?)

Twenty miles under my belt. I felt adept. Able. Competent. Prepared. I was ready. From there I began to taper my runs down in miles, as suggested by the official marathon training schedule, in preparation for the marathon.

In less than six weeks I would be standing at the Verazano Bridge awaiting the sound of the gun and I could not wait!


Jersey Girl said...

Loved this post - looking forward to the "big day" post.

Laney said...

Thanks, Mom.


CMB said...

Great post - you should have been a writer! I am on the edge of my seat waiting for Part 3!

Donna Boucher said...

Does writing your story make you want to do it again?

Laney said...

Yes, Donna, it does. But I ahve wanted to do it again since moments after I finished. I am still disappointed with my finish time.

We'll see. :-)

Donna Boucher said...

Oh Laney,

As long as you didn't come in last, in the dark, like you see sometimes. But even that person tried.

I sit on my bum and watch the telly.

Now that is really losing the race!!