Well, I found out today that I was not selected in the lottery for the 2010 New York City Marathon. I’m disappointed, but still want to compete in one or maybe two fall marathons. I would really like for one of these marathons to either be a big event, or a great destination (or both). My fallback plan was originally to go to Chicago, but it filled up back in March. My running group is headed to the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C, but this race falls on Halloween in 2010, and I really don’t want to miss this with my kids. Now I’m strongly considering the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis in early October. Anybody else have any suggestions for the fall? Anybody want to join me at Twin Cities?
Now that I’m hopelessly addicted to running Marathons (have finished Chicago, St. Jude & Knoxville), I’ve started compiling a list of races that I want to finish before I leave this earth….
- Boston – My goal is to qualify before my 40th birthday (I’m 35). To do that I will have to run a 3:15, which is 24 minutes faster than my PR.
- New York – As the intro to Letterman says – “The greatest city in the world!” NYC is my favorite place on earth, and I can’t wait to run this marathon. All 5 boroughs, 2 Million+ spectators, 44K+ runners!! I’m in the lottery for 2010, and will find out on April 7th.
- Big Sur (Monterey, CA) – 26.2 + The Monterey Coast = WOW! Might have to combine with a trip to play Pebble Beach.
- St George (Utah) – 5240’ at the start and 2600’ at the finish, running through beautiful St George, Utah. I’ve been told it is one of the best organized races in the country.
- Walt Disney World Goofy’s Challenge – My wife and I have been to DW 7 times since we were married in 1997, so we obviously love the place. The Goofy’s Challenge is to run the 1/2 marathon on Saturday and the full on Sunday. Runners get a Donald Duck medal for the 1/2, a Mickey Mouse medal for the full, and a Goofy Medal if they can complete both. I am registered for the Challenge in 2011 (my wife is registered for the 1/2).
- Marine Corps. (Washington, DC) – Running through the monuments in DC with Marines handing out water & Gatorade at the aid stations. Sounds pretty special. Would probably register for this year if it didn’t fall on Halloween. I really don’t want to miss Halloween with my kids.
- Rock n’ Roll San Diego – The original Rock n’ Roll marathon in the city known for perfect weather. I know that all of the Rock n’ Roll events are incredibly well run, and are BIG!
- Twin Cities – My friend Mary Anne says this is the most scenic marathon she has ever run, and she has run a LOT of marathons. Starts in Minneapolis and runs to St. Paul. Course passes by numerous lakes, and the Mississippi River.
- Country Music Marathon (Nashville, TN) – I’ve completed the 1/2 marathon, but never the full. Registered for the full in 3 weeks. Love running through the streets of Nashville.
- Miami – A flat, sea-level course in beautiful Miami. Finishers get a spinning palm tree medal.
- P.F. Chang’s Rock n’ Roll Phoenix – I love running in the Phoenix area.
- Mercedes (Birmingham, AL) – I’m not particularly excited about the course (a double loop), but really want the Mercedes hood ornament medal.
- Little Rock – Another one that is about the medal. Like having a dinner plate around your neck.
- Cincinnati Flying Pig – Why? – Two-Sided Flying Pig Medal….
- Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey (Nashville, TN) – Basically 2 laps around the main drive in Percy Warner park (1 in each direction). I regularly train in PW park, and to say it is challenging would be an understatement. Each lap has over 3500’ of elevation change. Not certified, not a BQ, but I really want to do this one. Part of it is because it is my home town. Part of it is the beauty of the park. Part of it is the cool, wood, flying monkey medal. Part of it is getting the bragging rights for finishing this brutal course.
So what great races are missing from my list?
By far the most common reaction I get from non-runners when they find out I’m a long distance runner and marathoner is some type of obligatory comment like “that’s great!” or “wow!” but their body language is saying “I don’t get it” or “You’re Nuts!” Some people are even more direct in voicing their bewilderment. My favorite comments include:
- Running a marathon is more dangerous than smoking
- You know that you’re destroying your body
- Well, I only run when being chased
While these reactions are frustrating, it is something I understand. For the first 30 years of my life, I hated running with a flaming passion. Running was punishment. Something you had to do when you made a mistake in practice. I always looked at marathoners with a sense of amazement, but also with a feeling that they were some type of freak of nature (like an alien).
I tried numerous times to become a runner, but I never seemed to be able to go farther than 3 miles without feeling like I would (a) collapse or (b) die of boredom.
When I reached my 30s, I started a new job, and began working with a lady named Mary Anne who had run over 30 marathons. I told her over and over again about my hatred of running, and she continued to encourage me to try it again. Eventually I did try it again, and again I seemed to get stuck on my 3 mile limit.
On one particular Saturday, I decided that I was just going to push past mile 3 no matter how tired I was, and right on schedule I thought that mile 3 was going to be the end of me. Then somewhere in the middle of mile 4, something clicked. I fell into this trance-like rhythm, and was able to complete 6 miles. I was ecstatic. From that moment in the middle of mile 4, I have been hooked. How could this be? I hated running? Yet, the next weekend I ran 7 miles, and then next weekend 8 miles, and so on.
So what is it that “clicked” on that particular Saturday? How did this moment transform me from someone that hated running into a hopeless addict. How did I become a person that has completed 11 half and 11 full marathons? I guess on some level I agree with the one who says they only run when being chased. However, the things that are chasing me are not wild animals or bad guys. They are the things that drive me, that push me to run, and run, and run.
So What is Chasing Me?
A High Stress Life – While I love my life, I have to admit that it is extremely high stress. From my job, to frequent speaking/teaching engagements, to family and church responsibilities, I can’t seem to slow down. Running has become my outlet, and my solace. Nothing can drown out the noise of the world like the rhythm of running long distances. I used to think that activities like golf and tennis were good outlets for stress, but they bring their own stress, especially golf. The only thing stressful about running is finding the time to do it. Otherwise, running is like the greatest drug in the world to me.
An Inferiority Complex / Scars from High School – To say that I was not very popular in high school would be a big understatement. I was shy. I was a nerd. I didn’t date a lot. I didn’t “party” with the cool kids. I did not play football. I was the last one that got selected for teams in PE and recess. I got picked on constantly. Now, I often wonder to myself how many of those that tormented me through those years can do what I can do. All of this just adds fuel to my addiction.
Small Fiber Sensory Neuropathy – Approximately 6 months after the moment when running “clicked” for me, and 1 month before I was supposed to run my first half marathon, I began experiencing some bizarre neurological symptoms that started in my legs, and quickly moved throughout my entire body. Running only intensified these symptoms (including numbness in my feet, arms, and face), and I was forced to stop. It took 7 months, and a trip to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to discover that I have a rare neurological disorder called Small Fiber Sensory Neuropathy. This is an auto-imune condition that destroys the small nerve fibers in the skin, leading to intense feelings of burning and numbness. The good news that I received at Hopkins was that this condition would not affect my motor skills, and the symptoms could be controlled by medication. Even though I lost a year of running due to the disorder, the medication allowed me to return to training, and complete my first 1/2 marathon 8 months after being diagnosed. When I started running again after my diagnosis, I was even more driven than before to run, no longer taking this ability for granted. It continues to be a major motivation for me.
Family History of Hypertension – Almost every member of my immediate family is on some type of high blood pressure medication, and I began to see signs of this in my own life very soon after I graduated from college (1996). However, since I began running in 2007, my Systolic pressure has consistently been less than 125, and my Diastolic less than 75.
A “Type A” Personality – Mary Anne often tells me that she knew I had a personality that was perfectly suited to long distance running, and that is why she talked to me about it so frequently. I am a “Type A” perfectionist, to the extreme. I think this is ultimately why running “clicked” on that Saturday in 2007. Once I pushed past that 3-mile barrier, it was something I knew I could do, and I wanted to do it really well. For the first time in my life I saw the possibility of completing a half, or possibly a full marathon, and I wanted to go for it. This insatiable drive to get better continues to push me through every training run, every track workout, every cross-training exercise.
Fear of Failure – I set lots of running goals, though I rarely share them with others. However, part of my motivation to continue running is a fear of not meeting these goals. This fear is exponentially intensified if I do share a goal with someone.
Well, there it is….the reasons why I run (at least many of them). Why do you run? What is chasing you?
Last Updated: 04/08/2012
My thoughts on the 6th annual Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon…
Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon
March 28, 2010
My Run: Overall, the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon was my third full marathon. For a number of reasons, I came into this race with very few expectations. I had been battling significant shin splints during the week leading up to the run, and feared trying to navigate a hilly course while dealing with an injury. Also, my fourth marathon (The Country Music Marathon) is only 4 weeks away, so I was unsure of how hard I wanted to push it. My marathon PR was 3:42:22 at the St. Jude last December, so I decided that I would just join up with the 3:45 pace group and then take it from there.
That plan was quickly foiled when I arrived at the expo on Saturday, and found that there were no pace groups between 3:15 and 4:00 (more on this later). I decided Saturday night that I would just start off at a 3:45 pace (8:34 per mile), and then see how I felt. The forecast for Sunday was for rain throughout the race. Luckily we caught a break, and the rain let up just as the marathon started, and the sun even came out occasionally. The temps were in the mid 50s. As planned, I started off conservatively until we came to the Tennessee River (about 2 miles in). I was feeling fantastic. No shin pain, great running rhythm, high energy level. I carried this throughout the first half, and was able to maintain an 8:12 per mile pace.
Once the 1/2 marathon runners split off and headed toward the stadium at mile 13, I felt pretty good about my chances of holding this pace to the end. I continued to feel good through mile 20, 21, 22, 23 … with my overall average pace fluctuating between 8:12 and 8:13. As I approached the 24 mile marker I could feel my legs getting heavier, but I still felt like I could hold the pace. However, just as I reached the marker, the heavens opened and a torrential rain followed, accompanied by high winds.