The Full

Somewhere back in the archives of this blog, if I look, I think I can find myself telling a story. Certainly, if I’ve talked to you about running in person, you’ve probably heard this story.

It’s the story of why I haven’t run a marathon yet.

When you talk about running, there are countless wonderful conversations you get into about it. With friends runners or not, with strangers who are runners, old runners, new runners. But when you talk to acquaintances, especially non runners, there are four fundamental observations people make. 

  1. “I would run, but running destroys your knees!”
  2. “I need to start exercising. I used to X but now I don’t.”
  3. “Oh, when are you going to do a marathon?”

That third one is the topic of today. Because they never ask, “Are you going to run a marathon?” No, it’s always when, looming large over your whole running career like I’m sure climbing Mount Everest looms over people who mountain climb, or hiking the appalachian trail looms over those who hike, or golfing at wherever golfers want to all golf. 

Maybe that description isn’t apt. The Boston Marathon maybe looms like all those things, and is, aside from a charity bib, the equal in exclusivity. But still, it’s frustrating to have everyone you meet think of every race as a marathon, when you know there’s only one precise distance that qualifies. A distance nearly perfectly designed for the human body to run out of energy before it manages to cover it.

So, inevitably, I have had that conversation with you, runner friend, or non-runner friend, or random stranger who notices my race shirt. And that’s where I tell the story of all the blogs I’ve read that start with, “I’m going to run a marathon” and end with “I ran a marathon!”.

Call it vanity, but I think a blog should have more than a single lifespan, it should have a purpose that transcends the completion of a single thing. So should a person, and I can’t imagine what would happen to me if I ran a marathon and never ran again. I waited until I knew running had me in its total and complete grip, before I signed up for one.

On January 1st of this year, I signed up for one. What can I say, there was a New Years discount! 

In a way, I knew it as soon as the price was a factor. Who runs more than 25 miles just because it’s cheap to do so? But really, I knew as soon as I ran my first race. That first 5k felt like a marathon. Hugging my wife. Lining up for a banana and a granola bar, as if one needed recovery food after a 38 minute 5k. Feeling slightly embarrassed that all this fuss is being made, but at the same time, grateful that all that fuss was being made.

The discount played it’s part, however, and I am signed up and registered for the 2013 Detroit Free Press Marathon. Not the mere Talmer Bank Half Marathon that I ran last year, but the whole damned thing. After this, I can finally tell people, that yes, I’ve run a marathon. After this, I won’t get any more questions of “when will you?” and can instead tell the story of when I did.

First I have to get there.

This was the first week of training, a 14 week plan I laid out based on Hal Higdon’s Novice plan, which commands a mere 4 days a week of running from me, but still creeps upward in mileage in a way that frightens my lizard brain. It tops out at 20 miles, which feels a hundred miles from where I am today, running brutal 11 mile slogs in the heat of the Michigan summer, but also a hundred miles short of 26.2 miles.

I started that training plan, like so many training plans before, with a rest day. Sure, the internet people are all agreed that rest days are important, to allow your body to reap the benefits of exercise, to knit together again those muscles you have pillaged by running far or running hard. It still feels very hard to wake up on Monday morning, first day of the first week of the first marathon training plan, and have your iPhone blinking at you with the reminder e-mail: “Daily Agenda for Donald Sullivan – Rest Day”. Yesterday, crawling my way out of the car after Steph picked me up from an 11 mile run that could easily be characterized as my worst run in months, I feel like I was paying for that rest day in arrears, borrowing from my past self for that care free Monday.

Here it is though, the announcement to the world that I will be running that ‘crowning’ event of road running. October 20th, Detroit. 

Mark your calendars.

3 months, 4 days until the Detroit Free Press Marathon.

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2 responses to “The Full

  1. Good luck with training!! Certainly there is no reason a runner must run a marathon. But…. There really is something special about 26.2. Not that I’ve done very many, but every few years when I can manage it I plan to keep doing a full. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship i suppose, but the allure is strong. :-) Maybe you’ll find a new favorite distance and maybe you won’t, but I’m excited that you are going for the marathon at least once. Hope you stay healthy & happy through training!

    • Definitely agree that the marathon is not for everyone. I think that running your own right distance is way more important than hitting some arbitrary number that other people think of as the ‘goal’.

      For me though, part of me always knew I’d want to do it.

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