My First MaraNot

By now I’m pretty sure everyone who knows me on any semblance of a personal level –  and most people who follow charity marathon events – knows that The Memphis St. Jude Marathon was cancelled.
My/Our First Marathon.
Cancelled.
When I got the email – which, frankly, I’d been anticipating all day – I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut.
I wasn’t surprised.
Just felt the full weight of a disappointment I’d been anticipating for hours.

Memphis got hit by an unseasonably early ice storm.
Ice storms, for those of you who’ve never had the privilege of experiencing one, are nothing to be trifled with.
There’s black ice.
There’s ice on trees.
There’s ice on power lines.
There’s just ice.
The overall accumulation in any given area might not look like much, but when you take into account the overall impact on a major (or semi-major) metropolitan area you have to take into account The Greater Good/Need when there’s something like a marathon involving 20,000 participants, (roughly) 3,000 volunteers, who-knows-how-many First Responders, and even more who-knows-how-many spectators/supporters over a 26.2 mile course involved. (Not to mention the entire rest of the metropolitan area who – believe it or not – have no stake in The Marathon but might have a stake in first responders’ availability and medical personnel.)
Oh and the Finish Line which had become, basically, a potential skating rink.
Not sure about anyone else, but I don’t run in ice skates nor do I carry an extra set of strap-on blades.
In short: The Race Director and other Race/City Officials made The Right Call.

Was I happy?
No.  When I got the email that preceded the Official Announcement (because HCRP and I were assisting with the Race Planning Committee) I burst into tears.  And my BFF who’d come to town for the express purpose of seeing us run/finish Our First Marathon, and one of my Running BFFs/Mentors grabbed me and hugged me and let me cry.  (HCRP had stepped away from where we were to get with the captain of our marathon training team.)
Then I cussed.
Pretty much all the cusses I know.
Then BFF and Running BFF swept me away to grab a beer from the beer table at the celebratory banquet we were at.
Then the CEO of ALSAC (St. Jude’s fundraising organization) took the podium and explained the multi-faceted reasons behind the cancellation.

And then he shared with us how much we – The St. Jude Heroes – had raised for the hospital: $8.2 million!
And then he shared Sam’s Story.
And then he introduced us to Hillary, who spoke so beautifully and from the heart and for every child who has ever crossed the threshold of that place.
And suddenly the fact that I wouldn’t be running tomorrow (which is now today) Just Didn’t Matter quite so much.

Oh I was still disappointed.  I’m not gonna lie.  We’ve been training for SIX MONTHS!
But I gave myself 24 hours to pout about it after which it was time to Move On!

I have a 5K to plan for March 22!
And, I still have a marathon to run!
So HCRP and I will be re-beginning our marathon training come Monday morning.
We’ll be running the St. Jude Country Music Marathon in Nashville in April.  Possibly as Heroes.  The jury’s still out on that.  (Most likely, we will.  I mean, why not take advantage of the opportunity to raise more money for the hospital and its mission?!)

We spent the morning at the Finish Line venue helping to break things down and pack things up.
We spent the morning finishing what we started as our part of the Race Planning Committee.
We spent the morning with good running friends.
We spent the morning doing what we love.
Being involved.
Being engaged.
And come Monday, it will be Training Time again!

I commented to my BFF who’d come down to see us finish this race that, as I see it, we’ve spent the past six months “training to train for a marathon”.
We’ve made mistakes.
We’ve skipped runs.
We weren’t exactly diligent about cross-training.
Which means we have room for improvement.
And finishing even stronger in April than we expected to today.

So, yeah, our First MaraTHON ended up being a MaraNOT.
And that’s okay.
Because, like everything in running, it’s all part of The Process.
And The Process is The Thing of It.

It’s all about the numbers

Numbers of miles run.

Numbers of calories burned that simply must be replaced.

Numbers of ounces of fluid lost that absolutely must be replaced.

Numbers of ‘other things’ you pass on because “I have to run tonight/early tomorrow.”

Numbers and numbers of numbers.

And the numbers that matter most of all? 12/7 and 26.2.

Oh, and 1.9 million.
That’s the number of dollars it takes every single day just to open the doors and turn on the lights at St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Only those doors never close, and those lights never go off.

So all those numbers of miles and calories and ounces and “Can’t make it”s really don’t add up to a hill of beans in light of that $1,900,000.
Now do they?

One number that keeps resounding in my head, because it’s pretty huge for me, is Sixteen.
That’s the number of miles we ran last Saturday.
That’s 2.9 miles further than the half marathon that seemed like So Many Miles a little over a year ago.
That’s four miles further than than my Waterloo Distance of Twelve Miles.
And at the end of the Sixteen I felt pretty damn good!
Or at least better than I’d expected to feel.
I think I actually got a little Runner’s High around fourteen miles because suddenly my legs that had been filling with lead at Thirteen felt awesome!
I felt awesome!
The air was airier, the sun was sunnier, I think I actually levitated for a few steps!  Okay maybe I didn’t levitate, but  I can see how people get addicted to running these longer distances.

Tonight’s seven miles started out great.  Legs and lungs were working together from ‘Go!’ and everything was awesome until it wasn’t which was around four miles when my right hamstring started tightening up.  Then my left knee started humming in harmony, and by 6.75 miles both hamstrings were doing all they could to secede from the union of my legs so I walked the last quarter mile and until HCRP could get back to the car and come pick me up a little past seven.

I know what caused it.
Lack of consistent cross-training.
So we’ll be correcting that immediately.
And I’ll be getting in to see Dr. Awesome Sauce, Official Unofficial Chiropractor of Every Runner I Know, to see if he thinks taping my hamstrings will help.  Or if he, like TJ (my Running Friendtor – Friend + Mentor = Friendtor) thinks this is lack of consistent cross-training.
You know, doing what I know I’m supposed to be doing.
Another thing that adds up.
Doing + What You Know To Do = Success
What You Know To Do – Doing = Pain/Possible Injury
That’s math I know how to do.

Merrily we run along! And longer and longest!

I promise I’ve not forgot about you.
I didn’t forget my password.
I didn’t lose my laptop.
I’ve just been . . . well . . . running.
And working and other things, but what I mostly think (and I’m sure my non-runner friends will say talk) about is running.
And eating.  There’s a lot of eating and thinking about eating and talking about eating going on too.  My appetite has been taken over by an adolescent boy and that kid can put away some groceries.

We’re 73 days from Race Day and the training miles are starting to ramp up.
Last Saturday we ran fifteen miles. All at once. On purpose.
This week we’ll do the same thing for sixteen miles.

Twelve Miles seems to be my personal Waterloo Distance.
Last year when I ran twelve training for my first Half it was torturous and involved far more walking than I’d have preferred. I don’t recall all of what contributed to that, likely the fact that it was the first time I’d ever run that distance. But it was awful and had me going into that Half with more fear and angst than was necessary. Fortunately I paired up with another first-time Halfer who was as nervous as I was and enough younger than me that my Inner Mommy sprang into action, my own fears were set aside, and the race itself was a blast!
I know exactly what loosened the lug nuts on the wheels of this year’s twelve miles: lack of rest and insufficient fueling. Those lug nuts started dropping around mile nine when I actually considered stopping. As in sitting down right where I was and calling someone to come get me. Quitting.  And crying. There might actually have been a few tears mixed in with the sweat dripping down my face during that mile. I did not; however sit down, quit, or phone-a-friend.  But with the wheels falling off we walked nearly all of the last two miles.
It was ugly.
It was awful.
It was demoralizing.
It was a Lesson Learned.
You must rest.  You must fuel.

Fourteen Miles was looming the week after The Worst Twelve Miles Ever which began with me really, truly, not caring if I ever ran another step.  After consultation with one of my Running Mentors, I blew off Monday’s short run. I just wasn’t feeling it (not good when you’re coming up on The Longest Distance You’ve Ever Run at the end of that week).  But, according to the wisdom of my Mentor (which turned out to be wise wisdom indeed) sometimes you just need to step back from something, even something you love.
As it turned out what I was feeling was a combination of defeat and sinus infection.  I went to the doctor who put me on one of those antibiotics that upholds the adage “the cure is worse than the cause”. The combination of illness and side effects of the ‘cure’ had me walking more of those last two miles than I ran as well.  I spent a fair amount of the next couple days beating myself up over those last two miles until I finally accepted that being sick (and medication side effects) were a factor and it wasn’t (entirely) a huge personal failure.

Sidebar:
Before we get to Fifteen Miles, Let’s talk about running on flat courses versus running hilly courses, shall we?
Conventional Wisdom would dictate that running flats is easier, therefore it is better. Right?
Wrong!
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong wrong!
Remember that fourteen mile run? We ran that one out of town.  We were in St. Louis for HCRP’s 30 year reunion and rather than running the ridiculously hilly (and sidewalk deficient/not very safe) course he’d mapped out (not knowing about the no sidewalks/shoulders thing) we opted for one of their Rails-To-Trails courses: Grant’s Trail.
Beautiful trail!
Very well maintained trail!
Essentially flat trail.
I say “essentially flat” because the way we ran it it was seven miles of a ½% – 1% ‘downhill’ grade followed by that same percent ‘uphill’ grade on the way back. Essentially flat.
Our first run back home we ran on Memphis’ own R-T-T which is flat, then the Friday night we ran a race whose course was also essentially flat. For those of you playing at home that comes to twenty-four miles of . . . Flats!
And buddy boy did my quads let me hear about it on that ‘just’ nine miles!
Yet another Lesson Learned: Hills are our friends!
End Sidebar

The next week (after Fourteen) was a ‘drop back’ week – nine miles.
The night before our nine mile run was one of the best and most popular races in Memphis and since we’d missed it last year we were determined to run it this year. This meant switching up our training schedule, skipping Thursday and running Friday, but since it was ‘just nine miles’ (cracks me up every time I hear myself say that) I wasn’t worried about it.
And I PR’ed the four miles!
I mean, it was a ‘given’ PR since it was my first four mile race. But I PR’ed the first mile (11:03), ran the entire first 1.45 miles with no walk intervals, and finished the race with an overall pace of 11:41 min/mile. Official Finish Time: 47:48.  Booyah baybee!
For someone who sticks to those regular run/walk intervals like they are oxygen and maintains a consistent 12:00 – 12:30 min/mile pace that was pretty cool! 
We stayed up way past our bedtime enjoying the race’s after party and the company of our BRFF Couple so Saturday’s nine started well after our accustomed 6am start time and we ran that nine in our (very hilly) subdivision.
Running Friday night then getting up and running our long run Saturday was good experience for running on ‘tired legs’.

In the wake of my recent ‘disastrous’ twelve and fourteen mile runs, I went into this past Saturday’s FIFTEEN MILE run with a fair amount of ‘fear and loathing’.
Lots of fear and loathing.
I had visions of not just thinking about quitting and sitting crying on a curb waiting on someone to come get me, I had visions of that actually happening.
Not because I wanted to quit, but because I had to.
Because I failed.
Because I had bit off more than I could chew with this whole “Hey everybody! I’m gonna run a marathon!” delusion and was simply not capable of it.
To say I started Saturday’s run with ‘butterflies in my stomach’ would be an understatement of hyperbolic proportions.  I started Saturday’s fifteen miles nearly nauseous with butterflies stomping around in combat boots in my stomach. Combat boots made of fear and laced with loathing.
My mantras (mantri?) for the entire fourteen miles were:
This isn’t harder than chemo for a kid.
and
I can do anything for five minutes.
And at the end of that fifteen miles? I did it! We did it! Because HCRP was there with me every step of the way.
When we came to a completely unexpected overpass where I nearly stopped dead and turned back around.
When we ran (TWICE!) past one of Memphis’ best breakfast joints and did not stop in for either biscuits & gravy (first pass) or bacon (second pass).
When we knew we were absolutely, positively Dead Last by a good distance.
We were doing it.
And we did it!

At about mile thirteen when I knew we still had two more miles to go, and the specters of the ‘walked more than run’ last two miles of Twelve and Fourteen playing at the back of my brain, I had an epiphany: I felt really good!
Not “That was a great massage” good.
Not “Mimosas and Omelettes at Noon” good.
But definitely good for thirteen miles in and two more to go good.
We finished those last two miles running more than walking. In fact, with one brief ‘walk off a cramp’ exception we ran every run interval and only walked the walk intervals and hit the ‘finish line’ marveling at just how Fifteen of Fifteen Miles Good we both felt.
And for the first time in all this running, and running longer, and Running Longer Than I’ve Ever Run Before I began to see The Finish Line of This Marathon (My Marathon) as truly doable and not just some pipe dream made of other people’s marathons and finish lines.
Now I’m excited!

One last ‘shout out’ before I put this one to bed…
Our local Running Store that sponsors our training program/runs are some of the most incredibly supportive people I could ever imagine having behind us on this journey.  And these are some serious, experienced, fast runners I’m talking about!

Saturday’s fifteen consisted of a 7.5 mile loop through neighborhood streets, a greenline trail, and trails through a large urban park that we ran twice.
There were five points along the trail where store employees (and the owner) were set up to provide us with water, make sure we didn’t miss turns, and make sure we were okay (by which I mean vertical and moving). When we got to the first aid station on our second loop we told the guy standing there that we had ample water in our CamelBaks and to call ahead and let everyone know they could go on about their days since we were Dead Last by a good distance and knew it. He asked if we were sure, and we assured him we were.
As we got to the second aid station, there sat Michael. Encouraging, offering water, and just there.
We got to the next place where we knew someone was ‘supposed to be’ and sure enough: There sat BR (the owner) with water and encouragement and shrugging off our “We told him you didn’t have to wait for us!”, because that’s just not how they roll. They’re not done supporting until there are no more runners out there.
You don’t get that just everywhere. But here in Memphis, and especially with Breakaway, it’s pretty much the norm.
For which we are grateful beyond words!
And because of which we’re really gonna do this thing!

Week One: And so it begins!

This is Week One of our Marathon Training Program to complete The Memphis St. Jude Marathon.
The Full Marathon.
26.2 miles.
All in the same day.
This is, arguably, the single biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life!
Yes, that counts childbirth and motherhood.
I always expected to have a child and be a mother.
Running a marathon?!  Not ever in my wildest dreams (until sometime late last year) would I have ever seen myself running a marathon.
And the thing of it is, running the marathon itself isn’t really The Thing of It.
Oh, the marathon is big.  Huge!
The marathon is The Prize.
The Victory Lap.
The cherry on top.
The point and purpose to be sure, but not really The Thing of It.
The training is The Thing of It.
Or so I’m told.
Right now the marathon seems like complete insanity.
But I haven’t finished a 20 mile training run yet.

We’re following Hal Higdon’s Novice Supreme, 30 Week program.
We’re implementing upper body strength training, yoga, elliptical cross-training, and various interval running training . . .  ummm . . . running training things.
We mutually agreed on the overall training program.  And we have a spreadsheet.
HCRP is in charge of the interval running training things seeing as how he ran cross country in high school and knows what pyramids and 400s and 800s and other such things actually are.
I’m in charge of diet and nutrition.  And yoga.  I’m mostly in charge of sharing what I learn from my Personal Yogi with HCRP.
We are mutually in charge of keeping each other from freaking out.
The rest of you are in charge of keeping us from chickening out.
Just so you know.

Tonight was our first Short Run and it called for 1.5 miles.
On one hand that seemed like a really short distance given that nine days ago we did a 10K race.
On the other hand we truly are Supreme Marathon Novices so it has been decided that we will follow this plan To The Letter.
So we ran 1.5 miles.
They weren’t fun miles.  My sinuses and allergies have been giving me fits so I felt like I had no lung capacity and the sore throat that set in late this afternoon made the breathing less than comfortable.
But it will get better.

In addition to training to and running the Marathon, HCRP and I are registered for The St. Jude as St. Jude Heroes which means we have each committed to raising funds for St. Jude and the incredible, miraculous work they do there. If you are interested in assisting us in our efforts to support St. Jude, below are links to our individual fundraising pages.
And thank you for any amount you are able to contribute.  Every dollar helps.

My St. Jude Marathon fundraising page.

HCRP’s St. Jude Marathon fundraising page.