Saturday, October 2, 2010

To Be or Not to Run: a Pre-marathon Disaster

Yep, I'm in there, the only person looking at the camera
For ten years, all I did was run. And all I wanted to do was run marathons. I ran myself into five stress fractures because I didn't know when to STOP running. But when I realized that no matter how much I ran, I wasn't going to get any faster, I reached a turning point. I needed a new challenge and I became a triathlete.

But the truth is, I never stopped being a "runner." I still act like a runner. When I'm at my wits end about work and life stresses, I go running. Not biking. Not swimming. I've needed to run ever since my high school track coach, John Klarman, taught me that it clears my mind better than any drug out there. And today, I'm in need of a good mind clearing -- to erase the disappointments of this year -- the stupid mistakes, the missed opportunities, the betrayals, the ridiculous bad luck, and most of all, the almost-perfect-race-turned-utter-failure in Lake Placid. It hurts especially bad today as I read about others' preparations for Ironman Hawaii only a week away.

So I've decided to focus on a marathon. Yes, I still have Ironman 70.3 Clearwater in November, but I need a marathon. It keeps me sane. In fact, the most fun I've had in a race this year was in the Pittsburgh Marathon in May. And it had nothing to do with the post-race meal at Piper's Pub.

I didn't originally want to run a big scary marathon. I had settled on running the low-key, small-town Towpath Marathon in Peninsula, Ohio (where?). Heck, it's right down the road. I could sleep in my own bed. And it's one of my regular training routes -- the crushed-limestone surface of the Erie Canal tow-path. There would be no expectations. It would just be a "run." Then, through a friend's suggestion, I considered the Columbus Marathon. Columbus would definitely be a "race." It's a flat, paved course. It would require an overnight stay. In a big city. I would know a LOT of people in it. And there would be.. um.. spectators! Watching! And I would probably know a LOT of them. Talk about stress.

But I'll never be ready for Clearwater if I don't reach outside my comfort zone. And my comfort zone since Lake Placid has been to avoid further disappointment by not taking any race completely seriously. Despite this attitude, I've had several race wins, but I can't go to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship without mental engagement. I need to remember how to go into a big race with a competitive attitude AND have fun.

And like clockwork, once I had made up my mind, disaster struck. I started the registration process, filled out the entire form and what happens? Upon hitting the submit button, the page came back with the following message: "registration limit reached" and that was that. I went back to the registration page and indeed, it said "Marathon FULL."  My exact thoughts were: you MUST be kidding! How could I miss getting in by a matter of minutes?!?!? This could ONLY happen to me. I wrote to the race director. The race was, indeed, sold out. He was sorry.

I can't say I wasn't angry. Angry at myself for waiting. Angry at my bad luck. Angry at the Columbus Marathon for capping race entries (when did Columbus get so popular anyway?) Today I started looking for a different race. Because, now that my brain is switched over to race mentality, I can't go back to "just run the Towpath Marathon" mentality. From what I can tell, my best choices are Detroit Free Press and Toronto. One is close. One is far. But both are driveable. Maybe I'll flip a coin. Heck, my luck has to turn sooner or later, right?


  1. Detroit! Detroit! We would LOVE to have you come up and race with us. :o) We're staying overnight actually dowtown and my mom is watching the little guy....just to avoid the crazy parking in the morning. Think about it.

  2. I never did like Columbus anyway. Who needs it? Blah!!!

    I’m thinking you need to get your fall marathon out of the way and then we can pick a race to run together (hear me out). We’ll pick one with a half and a full option with the full being two laps (duh). I will sign up for the half and you can check the “full” box on the application. THEN, we start together (I’ll pace you the first 11 feet) and at some point you will lap me so “technically” we will have run together at two points along the course.

    I could also just ride my bike alongside you as you run. This way, I could keep up (as long as it’s a flat course), eat cupcakes and hand you Gu (I know, Saint Punky).

    All the best,