Let me repeat, I HATE RUNNING! Now that that is enforced, unfortunately I am at its mercy while I travel the world. It’s the only exercise that you can do really in any climate and that is free. Aside from the shoes you wear down and the toll it takes on your body. And, of course, it makes you have to clean your clothes more often, as you bathe. A luxury only those who backpack or camp for extended periods of time can truly understand. Cleaning your underwear, shorts, socks and shirts while you shower is a necessity just make sure you will have time for them to dry.
Most of my 18 months traveling the world will be in my designated choice of country(s) ‘low season’ where the weather will be cool and likely wet. Sometimes downright cold. But on a day like today here in Malaga, where I’m blessed with a spring day bathed in bright sunshine that showers down 25°C temps and only a slight breeze, I took to the streets, happily, to shed some of my past couple weeks of bad diet and myriad bottles of wine. Not to mention too many now empty glasses of beer.
I always hated running. Even when I decided to run a marathon in 2002 (actually 2001 but I moved to LA and living downtown made it hard to train) I hated it. However, I took on the challenge of running a marathon because if my friend Steven who I had met in Switzerland just 3 years earlier could do it then so could I. So yes, I personally challenged myself. By the time I had arrived in LA in September 2001, just a week before 9/11, he had run 4 or 5 marathons and was clipping off 20 mile runs like it was a Sunday stroll to church. His roommate, and now one of my absolute best friends, Sean, was an avid runner as well. Actually, he is the best runner I have ever run with or trained with during my running life. I think he could run a marathon with a bucket of water on his head and never spill a drop. He is just that smooth. Like Velvet (“What is that? Velvet?”)! We took it upon ourselves to train for the Chicago marathon in October 2002. I wanted to run this marathon as it was my home the previous 30 months before my move to LA and it was my favorite city. Enduring the ‘moderate’ training schedule Sean provided me I took to the center of San Vicente Boulevard most nights as my legs would take me from Brentwood to Santa Monica on the grassy path, but mired with tree roots the entire way, for the roughly 7 mile journey. I actually loved the endorphin rush that would hit me on these 7 mile runs. I felt good!
It was the three 20+ mile runs you do on this training program that tests your resolve. Especially when you run downhill slightly from Marina Del Ray to Hermosa Beach pier then turn around and are hit with the headwind that slows your pace but furthers your endurance. My first attempt at this run I cramped badly and had to walk back the last mile plus to Sean’s at Mariner’s Village (I think everyone other than me lived there when they first moved to LA, it seems). However, our next 2 runs of this course I overcame the ‘wall’ and powered through. I was ready for this marathon.
We landed in Chicago, got to our hotel, headed out with friends on Thursday night for our final night of drinking before the race on the Sunday before Columbus Day, 2002. As we went to get our marathon credentials late on the afternoon before the race at McCormick Center the weather was a near perfect 65 degrees and no humidity. Standing in line I felt the all too familiar breeze that was accompanied by a bit of nip in the air. I knew the weather was about to change. And change it did. Within 24 hours, we would be off at the gun dressed in long sleeve shirts, gloves and a skull-cap. It was a balmy 38 degrees but at least the sun attempted to warm the chilly air and even colder breeze.
The largest marathon in America would begin in what was then Grant Park (now Millennium Park) and witness over 35k participants take part in the spectacle that morning and we were starting in the middle of the pack. As we crawled (figuratively) along the streets of Chicago for the first 5 or 6 miles, Sean looked down at his watch and said, “Dude, at this pace we won’t finish in under 5 hours. We are averaging nearly 10 minutes a mile”. That’s how many people there were clogging our way. As if God parted the sea of people for us, within just a mile of that statement, we were in the clear. I went left, Sean went right. We wouldn’t see each other again until after the race. Long after the race.
I hit the 13 mile mark and felt great. Grabbing a Powerade and water, I refueled and it seemed to kick me into another gear. I was in the zone. I felt like Bagger Vance on the crowded, loud and celebratory streets of downtown Chicago. Around mile 21 the challenge settled in. The proverbial “Wall” was beginning to take its hold and mess with me. As patrons who likely hadn’t slept from the night before would hold out beers for you and say, “Come on, you made it this far. You can quit now and have a beer.” Shaking off their very appealing invitation I muscled through. Looking at my watch and calculating (I still had enough wits about me to do math) that at my current pace I would finish below where I ever dreamed I would. My first mission when entering the marathon was just to finish. But you always hear people talk about a specific time and that if you can finish in that then you did very well. So, with that in mind I wouldn’t let my feet or legs slow. Heading through the shadowy loop, with now 40 degree air and a slight breeze in my face I carved through it like the Silver Surfer in Asics. The last part to the finish line was the Joker’s wild card. An uphill jaunt on Michigan Avenue that takes you up an off ramp with more obnoxious “Hey bud, have a beer” cheering or jeering you along only adds to the challenge of the finish. But finish I did. And strong! My official ‘Net Time’ was 3:58:41 (inside the top 1/3 of all racers). Sean cramped up he said along mile 18 and would slow his pace and finish in 4:10:13. Finishing under 4 hours many will tell you is a huge feat. Beating the best runner I know who had run a few marathons prior to this was an even better feeling and achievement. Knowing that I accomplished under 4 hours I knew that I never had to enter another marathon again. And to this day, 15 years later, I never have. And I am a better man for it. Hahaha.
However, for all that I hate about running, how it causes infinite aches in my knees and prolonged pain in my back and hips that last a couple of days, there is nothing better than sweating out toxins while enjoying the nice warm sunshine on a path that traverses along the beach. So as I travel the world for 16 more months, it will be running that keeps me in shape the most. Surfing and swimming where I can of course. But it will be a quick-paced run that propels me through the day and energizes my body for the next day. Not letting pain or aches stop me on this journey I plan to bathe more with my clothes! Did I mention, I hate running? Hahaha.
|Race||Last Name, First Name
|DIV||Net Time||City, State||AG Time*||BQ*|
|Me (M28)||4:12:51||11071||8321 / 1273||M25-29||3:58:41||Los Angeles, CA|