Oh, So You Run Marathons?

Identifying myself as a runner, as an adult, has been decidedly more difficult than it was as a student-athlete. 

When I was running competitively, I trained for very specific events – cross country in the fall (the longest race distance for women being 6 kilometers, or about 3.8 miles) and a variety of track events in the spring, ranging from sprint distances to around two miles.  I could say “I run cross country” or “I run track,” and people got it. 

Apparently, to much of the adult non-running community, there is only one distance worth running: the almighty marathon.  I can not tell you how many conversations I engaged in after graduation that began with a bright, confident (read: horribly arrogant) reference to my past as a collegiate runner, followed immediately by utter dismay as I sheepishly admitted that no, in fact, I did not run marathons.  While I’d been an incredibly dedicated runner, I was best suited for shorter distances.  I rarely hit double digit mileage on long runs in college, and I was more than OK with that. 

Was.

There came a point where I decided I might as well suck it up and just run one already, so that I could say that I did it and therefore fit this skewed and inaccurate profile of an adult runner.  I joined up with Team in Training in the spring of 2009, providing a great cause and additional motivation to do run a distance that even, as a runner, I found ridiculously long.  I trained VERY conservatively, at my natural easy pace, with one long run each week and sporadic midweek recovery runs when I felt like it.  My goal was to finish faster than 4:30, and the closer to 4:00, the better I’d feel about it.

I wound up running 4:03.23 at the 2009 San Diego Marathon.  My body didn’t fall apart – my chronically injured back didn’t even give me trouble – and I was even able to sprint around the track at the Corporate Challenge track meet the next week upon returning to Kansas City.  Coming that close to breaking 4 hours with zero speedwork pretty much guaranteed I’d need to run another one. 
Seven months later: I’ve picked my next destination, and in four short months I’ll be trekking back to my homeland to run the Illinois Marathon on May 1.

So I guess that makes me a marathoner now.  I have mixed feelings about it.  

The events I loved most in college – the 400 and 800m – require such a level of fitness that it’s basically impossible to even attempt them at this point.  The 5K, on the other hand, is a manageable distance.  It doesn’t require an all-out spew-inducing sprint, and by the time it starts to hurt, there’s only a mile or so left.  Additionally, 5K events are incredibly popular, relatively affordable, and easy to find on any given weekend in any given city. 

BUT.  I ran quite a few 5Ks back in my glory days, and turned in some decent times…times that, as an adult, I will not get anywhere near – especially without regular speed workouts.  And since that is simply not going to happen at this point, I have to come to terms with the fact that a PR is not in the cards at 3.1 miles.

Sure, there is enjoyment and satisfaction that comes from a run, but that’s never my reason for running.  I’m a competitor.  I run to compete, not only against the field in a race, but against myself.  If I’m not able to be competitive on both levels, I start to question why I’m out there in the first place. 

And since I have an inherent need to be out there…

Marathoner it is!

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About stillarunner

I used to run. Some days, I even ran fast. Then I got a job. And met a boy. And bought a house. And rescued a dog. And rescued another dog. And went back to school. And created human life. I might not run every day, or even every week. There’s a good possibility that I will never be fast again. But I’m still a runner.
This entry was posted in Ancient History, training. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Oh, So You Run Marathons?

  1. bouquetofparentheses says:

    You are so right about the common assumption that the only type of “adult” running is marathons. Which I suppose makes me “not a runner.”

    I’m okay with that for right now. Being “not a runner” is still keeping me in physical and mental shape. But someday I’d at least like to try a 13.1.

  2. d.a.r. says:

    Love your new blog!

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