Sunday, January 26, 2014

The road more travelled...

I've been running since I was a kid.  I started, grudgingly, when I was about 10 years old.  My dad would drag me out on our bikes, and ride to the 1 mile grass loop at Cal State Bakersfield (go Roadrunners!).  I usually had to run at least one mile, which elicited a lot of complaints from me.   I grew, and I started up again when I was about 13 years old and now living in the Taylor Street neighborhood of Chicago.  My parents now both worked, and during the summer I had ample time, and few friends as we lived in (a) graduate student housing (read: no kids around, at least my age), and (b) we just moved from NYC.   After getting board of hanging out at home and playing Nintendo 8-bit, I started running during the heat of the summer.  I started with one or two miles and began moving up to longer distances - about 5 miles or so.  

I had speed work of necessity.  At that time, our neighborhood was bisected by public housing.  So a pasty white boy with a Los Angles PD t-shirt running through the projects didn't go over to well (took a bit to figure out why...).  Anyway, I booked it through the houses.  I'd run towards the loop, under the elevated, and basically roamed the industrial wastelands west of the Loop.  I kept doing it, even as I made friends and played tennis, then signed up for JV wrestling in high school.  I kept doing this high school, into college in Colorado, marriage & moving to upstate NY (with some brief flirtation with triathlon and vegetarianism - both failed), and back to graduate school.  In Boulder.  The running mecca. 

So most of my life, at least until college and graduate school, all my milage was like 99% spent on roads.  I gave no thought to surface.  If it was there, I ran on it.  Not quickly, but rolled along like a tank.  I ran trails in college and graduate school - and when I began running again in late 2012 I started running on some local trails within running distance to my house and work.   

I've sped up more in the last couple months then I've ever done in my life.   Probably because I've lost weight and gone over my personal max of 40-50 miles per week.  In December I scored a 2nd place overall at a local half-marathon at the Houston Running Festival - a 1:42:23!  For a guy that looks like a rugby player that was pretty quick.  I'd never held sub 8 (7:49 min/mi) for that long.  I also decided to try a full marathon.  Today I ran a marathon - the USAFIT/Memorial Hermann marathon out in Sugarland TX.  I had never really given much thought to the surface I was running on - it was road or trail.  Or a little of both - kinda like the Osmonds.  

Man, was I wrong.  The whole marathon was on concrete - and it trashed my legs.  Even my Hoka One-One Stinson Tarmacs couldn't ameliorate the pounding.  Then I realized, that all my runs - even runs longer than a marathon distance or in the vicinity - were always on mixed surfaces (concrete and trail), or trail.  

I ended up finishing in 4:16:17.  I was hoping to finish in sub-4, and perhaps a year ago I would have been beating myself up during and after the race.  Today, I was just happy to finish.  I finally ran a marathon.  I no longer wonder what they're like, even though I've run farther.  Mentally, I feel it was tough because of the long straight views and unchanging surface.  The aid crews were fantastic, the organization and operation of the race were phenomenal, and Sugarland PD was great about keeping traffic at bay and keeping runners/walkers safe.  The race even accommodated longer marathoners by even having a 4:30 AM start and 12:30 PM finish - roughly a 18 min/mi pace.

Did I mention the medal was pretty swanky?  The little star that sits over the greater Houston metroplex actually spins. 

So, in closing, I think I had a one-morning affair with a road marathon.  Maybe I'll try one again, but I think for the sake of my legs, sanity, and love of dirt - I'll stick to the trails.  Not a slam on roadies - I still will do a lot of my runs on hard surfaces.  I just don't know that I want to do another for a while.

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