Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Potential for Irony

So, sometime last year, I decided that it'd be a good idea to run a marathon.

Actually, let me rephrase that: sometime last year, I somehow got it into my head that I should run a marathon.

In 1998, I was planning on running the Bay State Marathon with a bunch of people from work. Ah, the halcyon days of my early career in computer engineering, working at a company that had its own staffed fitness center. We'd take two-hour lunches and play some hoops or go for a run, maybe do some lifting, grab a shower, and then eat at our (respective) desks.

Anyway, that year a bunch of people decided to train together for the marathon, myself included. It was maybe a month out from the actual race, when somebody asked me how many miles I was doing. I can no longer recall my answer, but I do recall that the person who had asked the question didn't think that I was running nearly enough miles to be ready for the race.

That weekend I did a 7 mile run and a 13 mile run, and by the end of the second run I had a sharp pain in one of my knees that forced me into a slow, awkward stride. I had a hard time walking the following week. Shortly thereafter, I managed to put myself out of my misery by spraining one of my ankles playing ultimate frisbee.

I quit. And vowed to never be so stupid as to try to run another marathon. The experience taught me that my body just wasn't designed for that kind of abuse.

Fast-forward 6 years to the fall of 2004. I'm at another company, post-dot-com bubble. We don't have a staffed gym, but we still have a weight room and a shower, which is all I ever needed, really. Long lunches playing disc and going running, maybe a little lifting followed by a shower and lunch at my desk. (Nevertheless, slightly less halcyon, FWIW.) And there's a small group of runners that are talking about running a half-marathon in the spring.

I'm reluctant. It does have the word "marathon" in it, after all.

Then, a confluence of events. Well, event. I get laid off from my job. Meaning, lots of free time. And a friend willing to be a running partner.

We sign up for two races, and this time, older and wiser, I actually set up a training plan. (And there are far worse things to do with your time between jobs than having a set training schedule.) And sticking with the plan, both races go pretty well, all things considered.

Which I must admit was somewhat unexpected.

A little less than two years later and about a year ago, perhaps a few weeks before finishing the massage therapy program, we were asked in class to do a goal-setting exercise. And I thought to myself:

Y'know, I'm getting old...
gonna hit one of those big milestones next year...
maybe I could... RUN A MARATHON to prove that I'm not "old" ...
yeah! there's an idea...

And now, here I am, one month into a new training schedule.

The crazy part is that I've been running in the mornings before work. There's no longer a shower at the office, so I could only run in the afternoon on weekends or days that I was working from home. And running after work is suboptimal because, being winter, it's dark outside (not to mention cold and often icy), the gym is usually packed, and when things run late, I'm also wicked hungry. So any number of things can tank a workout.

So I switched to mornings. It forces me to do the workout. And because I know I have to start working at a reasonable hour (say 10am, worst case), it forces me to start early. And for the most part, it's worked pretty well: I haven't missed any planned workouts, the regular workouts have helped improve my mood (it's always been a form of self-medication for me), and on average, I'm actually getting to the office earlier than I used to. The primary downside is that it's often colder in the mornings (say 10°F instead of 28°F) in which case I'm stuck going to the gym. (But it isn't any worse than going to the gym after work, and it's less crowded in the morning.)

I've also found that my sleeping habits have finally settled down. For the most part, I've been falling asleep pretty easily and on the occasions where I do wake-up in the middle of the night, I haven't had any trouble falling back asleep. Of course, the down side to that is that a lot of nights, I'll be wanting to go to bed at 9pm, which is just sad. It really messes with the social calendar, although I'm hoping to eventually adjust. Actually stayed up past 11 last night! Woo, uh, hoo...

So, I've opened myself up to the potential for some serious irony. The obvious one:

Things seem to be going pretty well so far, but I have had a nagging hamstring problem since last fall which may well be due to an adductor injury last summer. It seems to be holding out alright, but of course, I'm only a month into the training plan so far. It may be that when I get to the 16 mile or 18 mile runs, my body will just give up and stop working. So it may be that this exercise to prove that I'm NOT old may just prove that I am. Subjunctive oops.

The other potential irony?

Well, what do I mean when I say "old?" What do I think of?

I've already mentioned the part about the body breaking down, unable to handle the rigors of youthful exuberance. Or running several hundred miles (possibly over a thousand) over the course of the next several months. There's also a "responsible adult" component... I'm already guilty of some of that -- got a mortgage, saving for retirement, think about the consequences to your actions (look before you leap... and we won't talk about exactly how I got that adductor injury last year). But there's also the teetotaling, conservative, restrained old guy -- too old to be silly, too old to have any fun, too old to stay out late at night...

um, OOPS.

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