March 30th, 2014


LJI:3 In Another Castle

I’m a runner, and while I’m reasonably fast, I’m not going to win a race; not even in my age category.  So I work towards a more elusive goal, a Personal Record or PR.

PRs are nifty things that can be calculated with as few variables (distance of race) or as many variables (weather, start time, road or trail, etc) as you care to throw in.  They’re also a little maddening, because when you set a new PR you get to celebrate and revel in your accomplishment, hopefully for a whole day, or at least until you get home and hang up your new finisher’s medal.  Then you realize that getting faster this time means to set a new PR next time you have to go faster yet.

I have run 14 half-marathons, a distance of 13.1 miles, since 2005.  I finished my first one in 2:51:05, a PR (pro-tip, your first race at a new distance is always a PR).  Over the next several years I kept setting new PRs every time I raced a half.  It made sense: I was gaining experience at the distance, my training was improving, I had lost some weight, and I had decided to commit to this running thing.  But after seven PRs in a row it finally happened.  A race finish that wasn’t any faster than my previous race.

Well, the world didn’t end.  I found a new Zen in my running, and while I continued to tweak my training; I also kept showing up.  At every race the goal is a new PR, but I discovered that even when I slowed down a little I still enjoyed the community of runners, the support of spectators, and the satisfaction of an actual finish line.

I ran my 14th half-marathon last Sunday in Oakland.  I finished in 2:07:44 which was, yes, a new PR (at 9:44/mile).  My original Oakland goal when I signed up was just to get under ten minute miles, but then I did that last fall at a race in Berkeley and had to adjust.  I’ve gotten used to my races being the same but different - exactly 13.1 miles whatever the variations of the course, striving always to be a little faster next time.

So having gotten used to things, I decided to blow it all up, because why not?   I signed up for a full marathon in July.  Several things contributed to this decision: running a marathon has always been on my bucket list, I’ve been running steadily for the past year so I have a strong base, and particularly good marketing by the race organizers.  The SF Marathon has created several challenges to keep people coming back.  My goal is to join the 52 club, which is for people who’ve run both halves of the race in the previously consecutive years and are running the full marathon this year. For completing this three year task I will get a super-special hoodie, exclusive only to the folks who have done the same thing.  I realize that a super-special hoodie is a ridiculous reason to run a marathon, but then again a marathon is kind of a ridiculous thing so I am choosing to enjoy the symmetry.

Of course, it being my first marathon, whatever my finish time is will be my new marathon PR.  I have no idea yet if I’ll be able to revel in that accomplishment and simply move back to my currently preferred halves, or if I’ll level up into full marathons from then forward.   I guess there are some things you just don’t know until you get all the way to the end.

***It's another LJ Idol entry for the topic "In Another Castle", which is what poor Mario hears at the end of every level except the final one, "Thank you, but the princess is in another castle". Read more fabulous entries on the topic here, voting should go up on Monday evening.***