Monday, 11 July 2011

#7: Eight Days a Week

The Marathon: the ultimate running challenge.

Whether one is new to running or is a seasoned veteran; everyone knows that in the world of running races the marathon is king. I will freely admit that I fit in the former category having only been running consistently for about two years now. In those two years I have made some amazing strides and have set and accomplished dozens of goals only to set new ones with every subsequent success. Goals don't always pertain to time, but can also apply to placing, running new distances, or beating tough opponents. Running is a deeply personal thing and can mean a variety of things to each individual person. Running can mean health, fitness, socialization, pleasure, competition, escape, routine and so many more. For many, running is a constant challenge to push our bodies to its limits and then push it further. Running is about setting goals and achieving them.

So far I have enjoyed my short running 'career' all the while ensuring that the marathon did not enter my thoughts... but I can hold it off no longer. I am a racer; I love to race. I am competitive and the thrill of the race is a major drive for my running and training. I've run a handful of 10K's, a dozen or so half-marathons (21.1K), and a vast assortment of 5's, 15's, 30's and odd distances in between. Each race is an opportunity to set a specific goal and push yourself further than you have before and is the most anxiety-provoking yet exhilarating feeling one can experience. I have accepted and met many challenges along the way, but in any running career, there will come a time when one must face up to and accept the ultimate running challenge, and this of course is the marathon.

I used to think that running the marathon was a stupid idea that would take far too much time and commitment and increase the risk of injury and insanity; and in many ways I still do! But I am now ready to face this ultimate challenge and achieve this highest of goal if for no other reason that I am in great fitness and have the time and energy to commit to training. Yesterday, I departed on my 14 week journey to accomplish this goal, which I really prefer to call a task, since I am confident it can and will be done. I believe it will be one of the most challenging tasks I have ever attempted but may also be the most rewarding. It will and should not be easy. I am new and naive to this but am truly fortunate to have so many experienced mentors in my running club who will push and prepare me along the way. I am already in debt to the wisdom and experience guys like Rob, Roger, Michael and so many others have shared with me. I will be extremely fortunate to have a close friend and training partner, MD, who I can count on every step of the way and without him I know this would not be possible.

For those who don't already know, the marathon is a grueling 42.2km (26.2mile) race. I will take part in Canada's largest marathon event, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM), which will take place on the morning of Sunday October 16th. To prepare for this, I will be running at least 6 days a week and sometimes 7. At times it will be necessary to run twice per day and some days more than 3 hours at a time. My mileage has been steady around 80K per week for the past two months or so but will start at 100K in week one of training and will gradually increase to a maximum of 140K (that's 20 per day!) at week 10 and then taper down until the race. In total, I can expect to run ~1560km in those 14 weeks which I estimate will total more than 110 hours of running!

While not wanting to set too exact of a time goal at this point, I will say that my recent race results suggest that I should reasonably expect to finish somewhere between 2:45 and 2:50, and obviously I'd prefer if it were closer to the lower value. It should be said however, that despite my success in the half and even at 30K, there are no guarantees for the marathon. Anything can happen in those last 10K once the body reaches the very sensitive point where glycogen levels are depleted (around 30-35K) and this can absolutely wreck a person (especially one as inexperienced as myself). As my first attempt at the distance, I will also likely race more conservatively in order to assure that I do in fact finish without taking too many unnecessary risks.

Many people run for many different reasons and at the end of the day, anyone who chooses to run is a runner; but we runners are not all the same. There is a huge difference between running a marathon and racing one. This difference is the same as the distinction between performing and participating; between competing and completing. I have no interest in completing a marathon; that is a task that can be done by almost anyone, anywhere. My intention is to perform and compete at the very best that I am capable of. It will not be easy, nor will it always be fun or enjoyable. Rather, it will often be painful, excruciating and exhausting, and will push my mind and body to its limits (but hopefully not to the breaking point).

Today is day two...
There are 97 more to go...
Will it all be worth it on October 16th!?
I shall see...

No comments: