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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Should I Run Disney?

I'm facing a huge choice:  Do I want to run the Disney Marathon or not?  I have months still to decide, but there will come a point where I need to be certain if I am running a marathon in January, 2010 or if I'm running a half marathon.

I didn't really think that when I ran the Disney Marathon in 2008 that it would be my last marathon.  I had been anticipating another full marathon season for 2009 - a fall marathon (Richmond, Philly or San Antonio) and then Disney in January '10.  The plan was to use my 2008-9 season to do half marathons, to gain confidence and speed at a shorter distance, and to give myself a chance to lose some weight.  In fact, my initial plan was to run the Goofy Challenge (the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday) in 2010, but I've since decided that doing so would be miserable, and perhaps suicidal.

In 2008, I had a pretty great running year.  I had some terrific long runs, I lost some weight, and I stayed motivated for the vast majority of the year.  Things were going so well that in October I decided that I could potentially ramp up to do the full Disney Marathon instead of the Disney Half (the one in 2009).  I chose to wait until after the Baltimore half to make my final decision.  Then, Baltimore was a miserable, horrible race.  I hated that race.  I hated everything about it, and it brought back vivid memories of how miserable a hot race can be.  My confidence in both running in the heat and in running distances over 13.1 miles was shaken.  I haven't gone much over 13 miles since.

The 2009 Disney Half was a success.  I had a great time and the weather was very nice.  I had so much fun, that I really didn't know if I wanted to do the Disney Marathon in 2010.  If the half marathon rocked so much, why would I want to put myself through that?  As I stood and watched the runners (4:45 through 5:15 or so) passing me at mile 24, I knew what they were in for, and I didn't want to be them.  Why run 26.2 when 13.1 is so nice??

The answer is that I've never had a good marathon. 

That simple fact is both what keeps me from signing up and what makes me want to sign up.  I mean, I've had marathons that I was proud to finish.  My 6:24 at Disney 2007 was only a minute slower than my 2006 Marine Corps time, and yet it was 25 degrees warmer.  I'm proud of it, but I still don't like sharing my time with people (especially runners... sometimes non-runners find a 6+ hour time impressive).  If I could just complete a marathon in under 6 hours, I would have a time to brag about.  I would have a time I could be happy with.  I would never have to do another marathon, or at least I'd never have to do one where I was struggling for time.  I could run all future marathons for fun!

So, if I want that sub-6 so bad, why am I not racing to sign up for it?  Because I'm afraid.  I'm afraid of putting myself through all of that misery, all of that training, all of that BS and then failing.  What if I get another 6+ time?  Do I want to feel that pain in my feet again (because my arthritis in my feet doesn't bug me unless I run over 18-20 miles)?  Do I really want to feel like death, like I could just roll over on the grass and shut my eyes and never wake up (incidentally, I felt that way at the Baltimore Half, too)?  Imagine putting yourself through hell, only to fail.  Imagine running 26.2 miles, only to cross the finish and start to cry because you didn't get the time you want.  Because you failed.  Sure, people preach that it's awesome to at least have tried finish a marathon, and it's a success to just finish one.  That preaching only goes so far.  There comes a point where just finishing isn't good enough anymore.  You just can't turn around and run another marathon the next weekend.  I would need at least 6 weeks in between, and even then there is no guarantee that I'd be able to get the time that I want.  

I don't really know what to do.  As it stands, I have many friends who have already signed up for the Goofy Challenge in 2010.  Todd is among them.  I have a bunch of folks who will run with me and help me get over that finish line before the clock strikes 6.  Still, I have to use my own legs to train and get there.  I am the one that has to do the work.  And, I'll eventually need to decide.  I mean, how am I going to feel marathon weekend when everyone else is running 39.3 and I'm only doing 13.1?


Lyss said...

Keeping in mind that I'm very biased, having gone through my shin/ankle injury and changing my workout routine... You should do some soul-searching and decide if running these marathons are bringing you happiness or disppointment. We are all so hard on ourselves already. You definitely should be proud to have completed the marathons you've run - at any pace!!

Being a person who is excessively hard on myself, I understand how it feels to judge yourself constantly and compare yourself to others. It's hard to resist. My advice to you is to CONSIDER running middle distance, like I am, for a while. What is the harm in allowing your body to heal, while getting better and better at these shorter distances?

You say you worry how you'll feel when you're "just" running 13.1 miles. Well, what if it's the best 13.1 you've ever run??? What if it was just a good run that you felt healthy for all the way through? You'll be able to enjoy yourself after the race too. I do think that being able to strength train your legs, because you're not running full distance, can help with your speed and injury prevention. I wouldn't be doing the strength training for my legs if I were running the longer distance.

The way I look at it, I'll increase to 26.2 races when halfs are too easy for me. Are halfs easy for you? I told you I was biased. My 2 cents!

Kim said...

I have been doing shorter distance and have taken a year off from doing Marathons - if I do Disney it will be 2 years from my last marathon. So, there is a break in there. I think it's safe to say that if I pass up doing marathons this season, I'm very very unlikely to do another marathon after 2010. I think there will be a lot of circumstances that would prevent me from doing so, but I'm just saying that I can see this race being my last long-distance. That's the thing too - because I believe that it's this year or I'm not doing one, I am not sure that I want my worst time, 6:42, to be my last marathon time. Who knows though.

I have a terrific opportunity here where a lot of my good friends are doing the Goofy Challenge and therefore are willing to support me and run with me and help me through this without regard to their own times (because doing 39.3 is enough). This opportunity does not come along every day - it is every man for himself out there! To have Jack, Todd & Kristy all out there with me would be an incredible blessing.

The thing is, my body isn't going to heal. The arthritis that is in my feet is only going to get worse. I've lost significant range of motion in the joint in my big toe on both feet - this prevents me from running normally and causes about 90% of my other running issues - slow speed, blisters, pain at long distance. I wasn't even aware that I had it until the doctor told me and showed me the X-Ray. Seeing other people bend their toes back, it became clear that I really am a mess down there. Sadly, the only way to fully correct the problem is to break the joint and reset that bone so that it is in the correct position...... and I'm not so thrilled about that particular surgery (I'd lose the ability to walk for who knows how long - 8 weeks or more?). It will reach a point where long distance will be unreachable for me. I don't know when that will be, but in the meantime wearing orthotics will hopefully slow its progress. I've been cleared to run marathons for now...

I agree with you on the healthy all the way through thing, which is my major sticking point. The 2008 Disney half was a good race, and I wouldn't mind doing a lot more races just like that one. I'm not giving up middle distance or becoming an exclusive long distance runner - I'm just talking about doing one more marathon before I retire from marathon running. Of course, if it is a great race or if I somehow overcome my other BS, maybe I'll run one in the future, but right now I don't see that happening.

And I don't mean to somehow be insensitive to those that are middle distance and have never run a full marathon. When immersed constantly with people who run sub-5 marathons or qualify for Boston, or manage to run 4 marathons in a season, it can be quite easy for me to forget that even 13.1 is a big deal. However, the fact of the matter is that I HAVE run 26.2 before, and I feel like I can't enjoy it because I'm slow.... Take a look at this - especially the first comment. There are people out there who totally disregard what I did (four times) as even having completed the race!! I'm not looking to qualify for Boston, I'm not looking to do something dramatic, I just want to be able to run a race in the amount of time that Jeff Galloway and every other race prediction tool out there says I should be able to run.

Also -- half marathons will never be too easy. That's never going to happen, at least for me. I was cocky this year and Baltimore taught me that I can have a horrible race, even at middle distance. And middle distance will always be there for me.

Lyss said...

Then it sounds to me as though you have decided :) I really see your point about the arthritis. Didn't know about that... I had the perspective that there is time to work up to a better marathon finish, but with the arthritis getting worse, it seems you should take the opportunity while you can!

I just hate to see you be so hard on yourself. You should be proud of your accomplishments, and of the fact that you have inspired and motivated all the people around you. :)

Kim said...

Nah, I'm not certain yet, but I think I am going to move forward assuming that I am going to run the full marathon. I still have months to decide, but there are things I have to do first. That's more for another post.

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