Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When I was in Marathon Shape

“I should have run 10,” my friend texted me on Sunday morning. “That was where I started coming apart.”

Marathon shape personified
I had asked him how the 13 miles treated him. Soon after that reply, he followed up with, “This is fun, right?”

It used to be.

Fast forward to last night. My same friend and I met up for dinner before going to the Caps game. The conversation, as it tends to do, turned to running. We sounded like two old codgers reminiscing about the glory days. Most sentences started with, “When I was in marathon shape,” and ended with a deep sigh and a bite of pizza.

In many ways, you could argue (and we tried to) that these so-called “glory days” passed us by after our fall races: I PRing in NY and he running his third fastest marathon of 17 in Philly.

Between those November races and last night’s dinner lay the wasteland of days marked by holiday food buffets, sprained ankles, and road trips. When the number of empty wine and beer bottles out-tallied the number of miles run.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re both back on the wagon (or bus as it were), and training for the Rock ‘n Roll DC Half Marathon in March. The meals are more sensible and a splurge like last night’s has become the exception rather than the norm. Words like “high fiber,” “vegetable smoothie,” and “lentils” are staples as are the noises I make a few hours after.

But gone are the days of the effortless 10 and 12 milers that were simply considered, A Tuesday Run. We romanticized the days of the 40 and 50 mile down weeks and scoffed at attempting that now. A 38 day hiatus will do that to you. The fitness lingers in your memory, but your legs and lungs have amnesia.

Our problem, my problem, is that I’m still in the mindset that a 35-40 minute run is not even a recovery run, but a taper run. The reality, however, is that the hills I used to charge up now leave me huffing near the crest. And the thought of suffering through my own first attempt at double digits this weekend makes me slightly nervous.

I know that this is just temporary, that my body just needs to adjust to training again, but in this day and age of instant gratification, “I want it now!” This feeling largely comes on the heels of my first “so-so” run.

I let out for an easy five miler in the misty Monday evening. The air was too warm for a jacket but too wet to go without one. I brought the dog with me to ensure I controlled the pace. At the 2.5 mile mark, my head felt cloudy, my legs heavy, and I groaned inwardly knowing that the hill work on this particular loop comes in the second half. Every thought in my head nearly began, “When I was in marathon shape….” before I finally snuffed the thought out with a simple phrase from a favorite yoga podcast: “Be in the moment.”

And the moment is of course this training cycle, this workout, this interval, or this mile.

While I daydream about the runner who led me swiftly through the streets of NY in the fall, I press onward with the visions of the runner I will become once the rust falls away.

When I was in marathon shape…. When I train up for this half marathon....


  1. I hear ya. Yesterday, my first double-digits run since November nearly killed me. Got to get the head and the body in the same place and on the same schedule. Sounds like you've got the right attitude and I will take a page from your book!

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