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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fat Bloke Jogging! 5 Marathons in 5 Months, Part 1

Her Gabbyness asked me to scribe a little about my running exploits over the past year or so - probably as a cautionary tale about how not to be quite as blatantly stupid as me when you start off as a marathon runner.’s part 1 of how a relatively unfit, middle-aged, chubby Brit ended up running five 26.2-milers over a five-month period.

One of the for-the-most-part positive effects of running all these ridiculous distance events is that it forces you to become more forward thinking. As soon as you’ve completed one thing, there’s preparation, via recovery, for the next which kicks in immediately. This is generally A Good Thing: you feel that you always have momentum, there’re are constant goals and perceived improvement, and there’s a sense that you’re living a bit more in that elusive present tense. The dafter side of this is that you can get over-enthusiastic and your ‘eyes get bigger than your legs’ (and I have pretty big legs already.) The end result of that, unless you’re very lucky, is that you wind up injured, but more of that later.

Every November, the NYC Marathon trots past the end of my street. As many of us have, a few years back, I had the thought that one day I really should complete a marathon (just the one, mind!) and it might as well be the one here in Gotham since, let’s face it, it’s not going to get much better than a jog over the Verrazano via all 5 boroughs to the Tavern finish line. Having lotteried unsuccessfully but consecutively for a few years, it meant I was a shoe in for the 2008 run. Hence, I started jogging proper at the end of 2007.

Completing just 3 or 4 miles or so was a wheezing, spluttering struggle back then. Doesn't seem very long ago. And running more than 2 or 3 or so times per week not really an option for the middle-aged, fatboy legs. At some point a few months later, the heart and lungs conditioned themselves and I completed my first 10K around Central Park and then half marathon in Brooklyn in relative ease (if not speed).

Training went decently from then on apart from an idiotic decision to play (real) football for the first time in yonks in the summer. Oh-so-bloody-predictably I quickly got knacked with a fully-torn left calf muscle that put me out of commission runningwise for a good 8 weeks. That left a rushed mileage build-up and a no doubt equally foolish decision to run a full 26.2 miles a mere couple of weeks ahead of NYC. This really isn't the way to do things, obviously, but it is what you tend to do when you're not always that sensible.

I was signed up to run a half marathon in the plastic delight of Atlantic City on October 19th, 2008. I’d not yet completed a full 20 mile training run by then, so my initial plan was to complete the half and tack on a few extra miles and drop out. The AC route was a bit of an annoying multi to-and-fro out / back / out / back again and to stop anywhere near mile 20 would have left me stuck out on a limb in the middle of suburban nowhere. So, sort of predictably, I ended up completing my first full marathon by just jogging the last 6 miles too.

At least it was flat, flat, flat the whole way (although there was a fair amount of weaving involved to avoid running into the drunken, stumbling, obese, smoking, gambling dejetoids that were staggering along the boardwalk looking considerably more poor than they had done the night before). Miles 19 to about 22 were bastadd tough with little left in the leg tanks. (I thank an anonymous Japanese woman somewhere around there for distracting me with chat about her international marathon exploits and lying to me that I still looked fresh.) By the final 3 or so, however, a second (or ninth) wind materialized and I finished feeling surprisingly strong. Looking back, the race itself felt amazingly good considering, but I wouldn’t recommend doing your first and second full marathons that close - I definitely felt Atlantic City by the time I hit the Bronx a fortnight later. More of that next time....

1 comment:

Betty said...

I love the idea of a coffee running team. New York has such great places you can see on your runs. I recently started reading a book called Fun On Foot In New York. It includes all the details that are important to runners or walkers, such as restrooms, water fountains, public transit and food or beverage destinations. It's really kept my running interesting.