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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.***

I'm always amazed by the number of people I know who are into half- and full- marathon running. It sounds like a wonderful thing, and you sound like you've got yourself some very manageable targets... once you'd let go of the 'improve everytime' goal.

Good luck with the full marathon, and a pre-emptive congratulations on the new personal record. ;)

I was kind of grateful to break the PR streak actually, it took a lot of pressure off.

Thanks for the good wishes and the early congratulations. I keep reminding myself it'll be a PR race for sure when I get scared of the distance.

Being a New Yorker, I know a thing or two about running, and marathons, so I know what you're doing is very impressive! Here's hoping you can break 4 hours in your SF run, and that the course doesn't go up California Street!

The SF course is hilly (not much choice) but it doesn't go up any of the nastiest streets in town luckily. Having done both halves I've actually seen the whole course before, which is another reason to start here.

Ooh the NY marathon. Maybe someday!

Thanks for the well wishes!

That's amazing, it is my goal to one day be fit enough again to run a marathon. Good luck in July!

It was when I finally let go of time goals and realized that finishing a marathon is different from having to finish in a certain time that I decided to just do it (as Nike would say). It all starts by just being on your feet.

Thanks so much!

Great original idea for the prompt half to full marathons are your castles. Well done.

Thank you. I tried to sneak some video game language in there about leveling up too. I had been meaning to post about signing up for the marathon anyway, so this worked out nicely.

I've always wanted to do marathons - hell, I'd love to just be able to run well! This was an interesting insight to someone who does, thank you for sharing.

The advantage of running is that it can be so low maintenance: just get outside, pick a direction, and move. It's a big part of what I enjoy about it.


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.

Man, it sure feels like it, though. For me anyway...

This was such a perfect use of the topic.

I can still list for you the litany of (all very good) reasons why I didn't PR that day. Missing that PR helped release some odd pressure I'd been holding onto which was making running a little less fun.

But then again, finally setting a new PR two races later was like sunshine and rainbows and puppies.

Thanks so much, I had meaning to write about the marathon sign up anyway and was excited to get a topic that I could slide it into.

Measurement is motivation! Fun to go on this journey with you, too. One line caught me up - "I decided to blow it all up" - because then my brain went to the Boston Marathon instead.

Have you thought of running the Disney Marathon sometime? I have friends who trained for a few years with that as their goal.

Thanks for the kind words and for pointing out the unintentional link to Boston. I was going for video game imagery, that connection hadn't occurred to me. I'm going to leave it for now (I dislike editing after the poll is up), but am going to remove that phrase from any future talking about the marathon.

I have yet to run any race that requires traveling far enough to stay in a hotel. But I've heard great things about all the Disney park races, and think I may use a "destination" race as a reward for getting through the first one.


yeah. PB are great, but so is just *doing* it. I had that on my work commute. It isn't so far (only 9kms) but I got better at riding etc and dropping 10min off it. So that felt good :-)

good luck for your full marathon!

Aw, thanks!

Exactly, if you can't just enjoy the ride (hee) no matter where you finish then sooner or later you'll come against limits that just leave you cranky. Better to always have fun, even though getting faster is still awesome.

The fact that you run marathons is awesome in my book. I could never think of doing such a thing!

Thank you! My parents have both run at varying times, so I had this admittedly crazy behavior modeled for me early.

Okay, I love this. I hope to get up to a half-marathon someday - I'm currently working my way up to 10K. I've injured my back twice this year and had to take time off, so it's SO SLOW and every time I get back out there my times are terrible and I have to rebuild my distance. But, you know, I just keep going because running has become a way to stay sane. So all this is to say GO FOR IT! I love the though of being able to run a half-marathon or even a marathon someday...and I'm always thrilled and amazed when I see others do it.

I tripped and fell hard on a run last spring and broke two bones in my hand, had to stop running entirely for seven weeks. I fully understand the frustration of needing to stop to heal, and how much it feels like you've lost when you can finally restart. But it does bounce back a little quicker each time, at least in my experience. And oh do I agree about it being a place (or a movement?) where I keep my sanity.

So back to you I echo GO FOR IT! You'll get to your 10K, and hopefully beyond, and be awesome at it.

I am a completely awful runner. Good for you! I like reading about things that I know I can never do!

Thanks for the encouraging words.

Half-marathons (let alone full ones) are a thing I'd never do, so it's cool that you're into running and able to do it. Good for you! *\o/*

Thanks so much!

I still thing the full marathon is insane myself, so I'm right with you on that one.

that's commendable...best wishes to you!

I'm really impressed that you've taking this on. I used to be a runner, a long time ago, but I haven't done it in years, and right now 1 mile seems out of my grasp, much less 26, or even 13. Kudos to you. It's got to be a great sense of accomplishment. I would say a real milestone, but, at this point, you're at something like the 183rd milestone, I guess... either way, you certainly deserve to be proud.

The races are super fun but my milestones tend to be more things like saying "I only have to run five miles" and then realizing that somehow five miles became ONLY and that is still astonishing to me.

Thanks for the kind words.