New beginnings

Just before running Grandma’s Marathon this past weekend, my perspective on this year’s race changed. So often, I’ve looked at marathons as the end of training – a celebration of all the long runs and training challenges.

In a blog post last week, I mentioned that this race would be mark a new beginning – rather than an ending. A close friend of mine sent me an email to inquire.

First, though, it’s important to take a brief look at the 2012 race. As regular readers know, training was a rough stretch, riddled with injuries, massive bonks and challenges. It appeared marathoning might be part of my past.

On the drive over, my hamstring tightened up – a sharp jabbing pain so reminiscent of the last 4 months. A stop at the hotel hot tub provided instant relief. Early to bed, I slept like a rock – until awaking at 1:15 a.m. and unable to fall back asleep.

Still, showing up at the starting line, I felt ready for the challenge. Well aware that I didn’t have the fitness of my fastest marathons, my hope was to run free of injury pain. My hope was to slip under 3:30, and if things went really well, then perhaps 3:25. But I knew if problems from a hyper-extended knee, the hamstring or my hip arose, there was a chance I wouldn’t finish.

The weather at the start – humid, sunny and temps in the low 60s – wouldn’t pose a lot of issues for me. And while there were reports that temperatures dropped during the race, that didn’t happen until the thermometer topped out at 73. In the middle miles, it felt really hot. My pace and concentration suffered a bit. Finally, about 10 a.m., the clouds rolled in and cooler weather helped us along.

After crossing the finish, and stopping at my watch at 3:24, once again I felt like a runner. Not a broken down shell of myself – but a runner who raced his best on that given day. There will be other days to run faster, but to finish feeling strong and healthy meant more than a time on the clock.

The new beginning is upon me: it means revamping my training and focusing on overall well-being. It means more structured cross training to include light weight lifting and cycling. It means recommitting to eating healthier – more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. As part of this new beginning, I’m also switching training shoes – an experiment that caused many of my problems in the first place. But this new pair resembles my racing shoes, which should help me run better every day.

A big part of this new beginning – on overall fitness and well-being – will be a focus on the nutrition, recovery and fuel for my body. Currently, I’m reading Scott Jurek’s “Run and Eat,” an autobiography of the ultramarathon great that came out earlier this week. The book is a terrific read and any runner looking to improve should take the time to read it. Some of it is a reminder on things I’ve learned, but there are some great tips in the book. And it gives a powerful, realistic and real-life connection to eating and performance.

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