Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In the long run...

(I just noticed that this is post number 250 on my blog! No wonder I'm so rich.)

The Joongang Marathon sits glowering and licking its lips, just four calendar pages away, waiting for me to jump into its gaping maw. While I was in the States (blog post to come, I swear), I found Jeff Galloway's marathon guide at Barnes and Noble. Galloway is the runner who pioneered the run/walk method that, he says, allows you to run three times as far as your conditioning would otherwise allow. I used his method, more or less, in 2004, when I ran the Gate River Run 15K (9.4 mile) race in Jacksonville. It worked.

So I brought the book back over the Pacific with me, picked up his marathon schedule in Week 8 (as that would get me to the Joongang at the right place on the schedule), girded my loins, and ran. Actually, you know, girded loins are too dang hot in July, so I just wore the usual running shorts...

Sunday, the Glorious Fourth, was my big test: 13 miles, 50 percent farther than I'd ever run in my life. I have to say that I did everything about as stupidly as it's possible to do it, but apparently I survived. I say that only because someone seems to be typing this now.

What did I do wrong? Well, for starters, I did follow the plan (walk one minute of every five) but Galloway says to run the long run two minutes per mile slower than your marathon goal pace, plus 30 seconds per mile for every five degrees over 60... this would have had me doing 14-minute miles; I can walk a mile in 15! Also, I couldn't figure out how 13 14-minute miles would prepare me to do 26 10-minute miles... so I did the run at my usual 10-minute pace. Secondly, I didn't eat anything before running. I also figured there would be bathrooms and water fountains on the way; there were, in fact, bathrooms. Finally, I had brought back a couple of packets of energy gel (sugary salty vitamin goo that refills your tank) from California and forgot to take it along on the run.

Five miles and a little more found me emerging from the path along my stream to the banks of the Han River that divides Seoul, and in another mile-plus along the sunny, hot riverside I was turning around to head home. I'd seen some cool stuff along the way: an early morning taichi session for seniors under a big bridge, a guy soloing on his saxophone under another, a mama duck leading her half-grown 'lings across the trail. I was feeling good and strong and, well, like it was my Independence Day.

And of course on the way back I started getting aches and pains, but that was no surprise. It wasn't till I got two or three miles from home, shirt plastered to me as if it had been spray-painted on, that I began to get a little empty-stomached and empty-headed, wondering if I'd make it back at all, let alone running. I thought about taking off my shoes and soaking my feet in the stream and how I was sick of the incessant din from my iPod and about what I'd ingest first if I made it home. (Answer: a whole bottle of Gatorade, a banana, yogurt, and a bagel.)

I'd told my student Hanbyel, during her first and only 5K, "Sometimes you have to tell your body to shut up." So I did, and pushed and willed and forced my way somehow through the last few four-minute run segments and made it back in 2 hours, 17 minutes, 59 seconds (but who's counting?)

The result? Six pounds of self-criticism for my stupidity and seven pounds of pride. In two weeks, Sunday means a fifteen-mile run... with water and energy gels and maybe a cell phone... just in case.

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