Marathon training begins

Well, actually, it began last week…and inauspiciously due to the aforementioned problems due to overenthusiastic racing. But it did begin.

I’ve selected my first marathon: the More Marathon in Central Park in late March, 2007.

I wanted to start training sooner rather than later (although if I decide I like running the marathon, I’d like to do a later one in the spring…possibly the Vermont City Marathon), and it seems like a good time of year to run (late March might be very cold, which I don’t mind, or coolish…which I also don’t mind).

Plus it’s five laps around the same loop in the park with 170 other marathoners. How much trouble can I possibly get into? Although normally the idea of running in circles doesn’t appeal to me, I rather like the idea of being able to gauge how I’m feeling during the different phases of a race. Plus, since I’ll be running it on my own, Jonathan can meet me at the finish line and snap a photo of my sorry self.

Here’s my training plan. Eesh.

A dash of plantar fasciitis, a pinch of shinsplints

Well, I learned the hard way over the past week or so that too much racing can cause some problems — at least on the left side of my body below the knee. I ran three races in a row over three Sundays: the Westchester Half Marathon, the Harry Chapin Run Against Hunger 10K and the Mystic Country 10 Miler.

The good news is that the 10 miler was my best race ever, in terms of relative performance. I finished in 1:24:04, and my goal time was 1:24:40. I wish I could have made it to the finish line just five seconds faster, but such is life. But that put me in the top 20% in my gender/age group, which has become a goal of sorts for larger races.

The bad news is that on my first few runs after that last race, I suffered bad pain under my left arch and along the ankle up to the front of my left shin. Yes, I managed to screw myself up.

But I’ve run for almost seven years with no injuries, and I didn’t want this to be the first. So I took some days off and did some very easy running when I got back to it. I did a seven mile run yesterday and the pain is almost gone. Yay.

I vow to stretch more often from now on. Early New Year’s resolution.

As for the Mystic Country race, it was a good experience. There was also a marathon race, which some elite runners won (people from Eastern Europe and Kenya, mostly). Enthusiastic spectators in some bits and well-staffed water tables. The course was 95% flat, the wind at about 4MPH. I ran a steady pace of around 8:28 throughout and picked it in the last two miles, running around 8:20 and then kicking it in the last quarter mile to the finish.

The post-race refreshments were outstanding: clam chowder, fresh bread and Krispy Kreme donuts! I haven’t had a donut since my fat days. I suppose one every few years is fine, especially after hoofing it 10 miles at (for me) high speeds.

And they gave out nice long-sleeved race tees with a simple logo on the left breast, sponsor “NASCAR” area on the back. I can actually wear this one!

And there’s a strange pleasure in getting up at 5:30AM on a Sunday and driving two hours to run in a race.

I can’t believe that bitch stole my trophy

Don’t mind me. I’m sure she’s a very nice woman. But she came in 23 seconds ahead of me this morning, and as a result took home what would have been my cheap plastic (actually, cheap metal) trophy (plaque, actually) for my gender/age group. Third place.

The race was the Harry Chapin Memorial Run Against Hunger in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. And what a race! Very challenging — big, long hills. And very scenic, with a run over the Croton Dam itself and lots of winding roads and quiet suburban streets.

The race starts with a brutal uphill (which you get to go downhill for the finish), followed by slight uphill. Then more uphill. Then, around mile 4.25 it veers sharply downhill and you fly for about a mile or so. Then another half mile uphill, then down the formerly brutal uphill to the finish.

There were probably around 250 or so runners, and it was a beautiful day for a race. Sunny and dry in the mid-60s. The race is in its 26th year and is very well-organized. Although they need to start bundling the raffle prizes. They began raffling off what seemed like the start of a hundred prizes. Around prize number 30 they decided to give out the trophies since people were both freezing and leaving.

That’s when that bitch stole my trophy.

Oh, well. I’m very happy with my finishing time: 53:07. Next year I’ll be back for my stinking trophy.

Fun Fact: A zillion years ago when I worked in book publishing, I used to work with Harry Chapin’s mother.

Zoom zoom zoom

Okay, I’m now a true believer in the value of training. I shaved 5:31 off my late April half marathon time, and this was a harder course. I won’t know the official chip time until tomorrow, but my watch has my finishing time as 1:54:07. The best part? I finally ran a race with a negative split. “Don’t go out too fast” has at last sunk in. And I don’t feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. This is progress. The real test will see if I walk down the stairs like a robot tomorrow.

It was a fun marathon to run, primarily because the course is one I drive often (the Bronx River Parkway), with the turnaround point at the bottom of our street. (We could have charged people to use our lovely bathroom!) So it was fun to see it from a new perspective. Also, I enjoyed running past the big board that gives your traveling speed. When I approached it, it said “Your Speed: 06”. That gave me a laugh.

The weather was near-perfect (in the 50s, with very little wind), and there were plenty of water tables (which I heard was a problem last year). Very few spectators, and one band. One very bad band. But their enthusiasm made up for a lack of talent.

The ratio of half marathon participants to full marathon participants was around 4 to 1. I have a theory that so few people run the full marathon because it’s only a month before the New York City marathon, during a time when I presume runners in that race are starting the tapering phase of their training. Since the marathan course was doing the half marathon loop twice — and it started half an hour before the half mary — I passed lots of marathoners (or saw them coming the other way on their second loop as I neared the end of the course) and wondered how odd that must feel. Or maybe this is how lots of combined races work.

I’m hoping to place in the top 10 percent of my age/gender group. And I plan to do the full marathon portion of this event next year, so I guess I’ll find out for myself how it will feel to be passed by a bunch of half marathon runners so early in the race.

I’m feeling quite pleased with myself, and celebrating with wine, smoked salmon and a lovely pot roast this evening. Recovery food, you know.

Over the pond, running is hot!

Just got back last night from 10 days in England. Had lots and lots of fun, spending half the time in London and the other half in Henley-on-Thames, staying in a rental house on the water on this street.

We managed to get in about five runs while there, although they were all easy runs as I’m tapering (translation: lazing about on vacation) prior to the Westchester Half Marathon this weekend.

First, the running: I did most of the runs in London on Clapham Common, which was interesting. It was a challenge to construct a route that didn’t involve crossing the street a zillion times (primarily because I still can’t train myself to look “the wrong way,” and I don’t want to end up being one of the four or so clueless yankees who gets mowed down in London every year). But we did a spectacular run in Henley a few times, which started along the Thames and then went up into the hills, through sheep and cow pastures, woods and charming backstreets, then back down into town on the main road in. We even spotted signs for the Henley Half Marathon (also this Sunday). Dang! If I’d known, I would have gone a week later!

Second, the runners. I was last in England about two years ago, when I also ran in London. This time around, there were a lot more people out running. It definitely seems to have taken off as an activity. But what was odd is that most of the people we saw out were under 30 (some in early 20s). It was unusual to see someone in the (cough cough) masters category like ourselves. So now I’m wondering if running is the latest fad, which will disappear as the next one takes over (we saw young people on rollerskates — not rollerblades — in Hyde Park practicing “roller disco” moves, so anything can happen, I suppose).

The trip was a lot of fun, with time spent reconnecting with family, and a couple of new Londoner friends made over the summer while in the Grand Canyon. I managed to eat fish and chips a record three times, and I lost count of the pints I downed in various pubs (the best one being by Gales Brewery). I even got to go to a live football match (Southampton Saints vs. Queens Park Rangers)!

Anyway, it’s good to be back and I appreciate all of the comments on the last post about the Slate piece. I’ve got lots of work to catch up on before the weekend, so my next entry may be a post-half-marathon report. Wish me luck on Sunday!