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Monday, July 18, 2011

Yeah, and . . . so what?

For many people, the thought of completing 40 "event" miles in one calendar year may hardly seem blog-worthy. Heck, for some it barely merits a passing mention in casual conversation. For naturally athletic, dedicated runners, 40 might be a number of miles to complete in a single event, not over a year's time.

But this blog is not about any of those people.

I was always good in school, with a single exception: gym class. While skills in math and reading came easily, the speed, agility and coordination needed to excel in athletics were completely lacking. By the time I was in second grade, the delineation was crystal clear: academics and the arts were my things; sports were not. With few exceptions, my Phys Ed teachers established the primary goal of their classes to be the encouragement of excellence. Those of us lacking ability were tolerated, scored a passing grade, and forgotten.

It wasn't until college and after that I first encountered friends who participated in sports for sheer enjoyment. Some of these people were gifted athletes, but many were not--they just had fun and didn't compare their performances to anyone else. I was surprised that these academically-gifted individuals also thought of themselves as players of sports, even if they didn't happen to be very good.
My concept of "athlete" was expanding--but still, that label certainly did not apply to me.

Fast forward to 2006, when my friend Diane came with her running team to Nashville for the Country Music Half and Marathon. She was doing the half, but most of her teammates had trained for the full course. I had never been to any kind of race before, so I was interested to see what it would be like and to go watch Diane cross the finish line.

Being a complete novice, I grossly underestimated the scale of the event (I believe that year there were about 25,000 participants), and drove around so long looking for a parking spot that I missed Diane's finish. But we finally found each other, and headed over to the marathon finish line to cheer on her friends.

My mind was blown by what I saw. Far from fulfilling my preconceived notions of what marathoners looked like, here were runners of every description: tall and short, young and old, slim and large, graceful and, well, NOT. Runners with smiles on their faces as they crossed, and those who looked like they wanted to puke (and a couple poor souls who actually did). All of whom ran 26.2 miles. It was exhilarating, moving, and humbling. My concept of "athlete" was forever changed.

That next January (2007), I bought my first pair of running shoes and started training for my first 5K. I was a runner--at least for a little while. More in a future post about starting, quitting, and how I eventually came back three years later.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Training

Last year, when I was gearing up for the 2010 Tomato Art Festival 5K, I was pretty disciplined about getting up early to train before going to work. Since I rise at 5 a.m. to be at work at 6, this meant getting up at the ungodly hour of 4:00 in order to drag my slow self 3.1 miles (+ warmup). But I did it, and in about three months went from not being able to run even a quarter of a mile to finishing the 5K in 48:12. Hardly a speed record, but certainly faster than standing still.

I have not been similarly motivated for the super-early mornings this time around. The main difficulty is that I simply love to sleep. And though I know that I'll have more energy and increased productivity during the day if I get up and run first thing, these benefits are not particularly compelling when that alarm goes off at 4.

Also, there is the issue of the summer weather in Nashville, which is not exactly conducive to exercise. And in spite of prevailing folk wisdom, I contend that "it" is both the heat AND the humidity! The coolest time of the day is typically just before sunrise, but this also tends to be the most humid as the sun hasn't yet burned off the dew from the previous night.

Yesterday, however, I had the day off from work and so got to sleep until the positively decadent hour of 5:45 to prepare and head out about an hour later. At that point, the overnight humidity had dropped some, and the temp was still in the 70s (albeit upper).

The result was that in my first "official" training run for this year's Tomato 5K, I completed 3.23 miles in just under 45 minutes. My goal is to finish this year's race under 45, or even (dare I hope?) under 44. The course is much hillier than the part of my neighborhood where I was yesterday, but I also still have a month to prepare and maybe shave off a little more time!

Monday, July 4, 2011

The countdown begins . . .

Four weeks from today will be my 39th birthday, so it seems like the time to "go public" with the little project I've been kicking around for the past nine months or so. My plan is to "run" (AKA jog, amble, walk, crawl) 40 miles in running events in the 365 days before I turn 40 on August 1, 2012.

I'll be posting more in the coming weeks and months about what brought me to start this journey, where I've come to this point, and the actual events themselves! The first race I am registered for is the 5K for the East Nashville Tomato Arts Festival on August 13, 2011. I'm also signed up for the Nashville Half Marathon on November 12.