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I am no hare. Rather, I have always identified with Aesop’s tortoise. I may not be the quickest runner on the track, but I am steady, and I won’t give up.
I have named various parts of the course I like to run. The first mile is the warm-up, a steady incline where I battle negativity and tiny rocks that stick to my muddy shoes. The next portion is the long, intermediate hill with the Pilgrim-shaped road sign at the top. After that comes a stretch of hills I call, “The Roller Coaster.” The roller coaster leads to a long, tree-lined incline. From this portion, you can take one of many side roads.
Tuesday, I opted for the steep hill past the compost heap. This hill leads to a flat stretch with a T-intersection, where I turn around to go home. I had gotten to the top of the hill past the compost heap, when I saw a runner coming from the left along the T-intersection. This gave me a perfect perspective for evaluating his running. He was a little bouncy at times, but not too bad. His arms seemed to be moving fine (no outrageous arm flailing), and he was fast.
He turned down the road towards me. We passed and exchanged “Guten morgens.” I reached the T-intersection then turned around to go home. Now, the runner’s white-capped head was bobbing away from me. A funny vision came to my mind: I saw myself passing him.
I’m not sure if it was the advice from The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, which says to pick a person in the marathon, and “tag along” behind, or if my competitive spirit was being awakened after years of slumber; but I decided even if I couldn’t actually pass the guy, I had to keep his head within view. To lose sight of his head was to lose the race.
The pace was a little quicker than I’m used to, but it wasn’t killing me. He ran past the compost heap, and then disappeared when he turned the bend onto the tree lined road.
Drat! Lost him!
I let gravity help me down the hill, and when I turned the bend, I saw him. He was near the cut-off to the roller coaster. Then something amazing happened: he slowed down and began to walk.
I couldn’t believe it. I kept wondering what was going through his mind. Had he only been sprinting while in my view? Had he expended too much effort? Or had he simply given up?
Don’t get me wrong, it is better to sprint and walk than to sit at home eating schnitzel. But I have a marathon oriented mind now. Why was he walking?
I had the urge to yell, “Keep going! You can do it!” but I didn’t know the words in German. And honestly, I don’t know if I have the gumption to do that on a training run.
I knew I would pass him when he started up the first hill of the roller coaster. He was still walking.
I plugged along as good tortoises do. When I caught up with him, he turned his head towards me and said, “This (hill) is hard, isn’t it?” I smiled and slowed down a little.
In The Complete Book of Running for Women, Claire Kowalchik says you should take every opportunity to identify yourself as a marathon runner. Telling people you are a marathon runner helps to reinforce this idea in your mind. So, thanks to a prior vocabulary lesson from my German-speaking friends, I was able to tell him, “I’m training for a marathon. Do you know the Königsschlösser Marathon in Füssen?”
His eyes widened. “Prima!” he exclaimed. He told me that was really great, and he wished me luck.
I picked up my pace and gave a friendly, “Ciao!” as I continued along the roller coaster.
Tuesday wasn’t just about passing another runner, though that was great. It helped me to understand that while Germans may be intense about everything they do, they are also very pleasant and supportive of other people in their particular “club.”
I’ve been nervous about having a certified flat course in Germany as my first marathon. Many runners may be doing this so they can qualify for more prestigious marathons. But I now feel that even if I finish last, the other runners won’t look down on me; rather, they will congratulate me for not giving up.
There’s something to be said for being the tortoise.
Stats: Miles: Monday 0, Tuesday 5.5
Wildlife: lots of snails, two jackrabbits, and one friendly runner/walker.
Weather: the clouds cleared as the sun rose. 47 degrees. Light wind (as always, it seems).
Overall feeling: I was extremely tired Tuesday morning, due to a poor night’s sleep. But the run seemed to wake me up. Certainly the competition in my mind helped me to focus. After the run, I felt like I could conquer the world.
Extra: I’ve dedicated more time to stretching, which is helping a lot. I also lifted “heavy” weights (for me) on Monday, and did fifty old-school sit-ups. William sat on my feet, which brought back distinct memories from the pre-crunch era.
There are things that matter and things that don’t. Government sponsored health care does not matter.
“Wait!” cry my Democrat friends, “Your aunt will no longer have to worry about bankrupting her parents in order to get chemo. That matters!”
“Wait!” cry my Republican friends, “Do you want America to become like Germany: with a fifty percent income tax to pay for often inferior medical care? That matters!”
I could answer these questions, and likely, alienate both my liberal and conservative friends. So I won’t give my opinion here. Let me clarify my relegation of government health care into the “Doesn’t Matter” category: This issue, and all it baggage, matters theoretically, but it’s not worth getting my sweatsocks in a twist.
The hierarchy of things that matter, currently goes like this: God, home, marathon.
That’s it people. The other stuff is not worth my time, my will, or especially, my emotion.
There are things that matter and things that don’t. In The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, Tanjala Cole suggests when you encounter negative thoughts while you’re out on the trail, tell yourself, “It doesn’t matter.” I tested this on Friday.
I managed to get out the door while the farmers were still milking cows and cleaning stalls. The first 1.5 miles has traditionally been the toughest part of the entire run. It is spent battling negative thoughts, like Wonder Woman deflecting bullets with her golden bracelets.
This reflective vest is making me sweaty.
The wind is blowing in my face.
These shoes are too small.
Can you do anything about it now?
Then it doesn’t matter.
I weigh too much to run how I want.
You’re doing it anyway.
It’s going to rain.
Your skin is waterproof
Do deer get angry and charge at you like moose?
My run continued in this manner until I reached my first long, steep hill. On top of this particular hill, there is a road sign, which, from the bottom, looks like the silhouette of Pilgrim before he lays down his burden. As I met Pilgrim, I realized I had been concentrating so much on deflecting negative thoughts, I had forgotten about my breathing. I had lapsed into a 2-2 breathing pattern and was running a quicker pace than normal. To my surprise, I felt fine.
I maintained the 2-2 pattern for the entire run. About a mile from the finish line, I realized I had forgotten to use my inhaler.
And it just didn’t matter.
Terrain: Normally, I get disoriented on the winding country roads. This time, the landscape suddenly switched into focus. I was running part of a trail from last summer. I had only to cut across the hill, and I could be home in half a mile. Last summer, by the time I reached that part of the trail, I was done for. But now I could run it the long way and feel great. It gave me a real sense of accomplishment.
Wildlife: the deer were so close, I felt the ground tremble as they crossed the road in front of me. And, in case you’re wondering, they don’t charge at you.
Weather: clouds all around but sunny in the middle (like being in the eye of a storm), 54 degrees.
My body complained as I got out of bed on Wednesday. I felt old—just old: there’s no better way to describe it. If this is an alien concept to you, give it some time.
Intellectually, I knew I had to run, but my body took some convincing. I had half a cup of coffee and an apple and contemplated the bright morning sky. The tractors were not yet barreling down the roads—it was a perfect time to run. I ate a bowl of rice.
I got dressed and stood at my window for a while. Then, I tied my shoes. While the kids were still yawning over their oatmeal, I re-tied my shoes in a more sporty manner. I set my watch to heart rate mode and began to play with the dog.
I suddenly realized this run could either be done the easy way or the hard way. I could talk myself into a great run, or I would run and be miserable (like my ‘Borg’ run from last week). Quitting was not an option. I made it out to the driveway; and with my face in the sunshine, I made the choice to be fake happy.
Chapter Four of The Non-Runners’ Marathon Trainer deals with behavior and attitude. Basically, if you lie to yourself enough, your body will eventually believe it. This does not apply to thinking yourself thin by eating only ice cream. However, mindset is absolutely vital in marathoning.
The first mile was spent warming up my muscles and squelching negative thoughts. Whenever I thought I was too old, too tired, too fragile, I pretended to be a champion runner. I LOVED running. I could run all day! Old only applies to shoes with more than 400 miles on them! I WAS happy! Right? Right? Miraculously, somewhere between mile 1 and my first steep hill, the fake happy became authentic. And I saw deer on the ridgeline.
As I approached, they simultaneously turned their heads to admire my smooth gait. This may sound like the plot from Balto 2, but I felt somehow connected to these animals. We tread across the same patchwork quilt countryside. Plus, deer are strong and graceful–things I aspire to be. I felt validated in my choice to get out and run.
Naturally, the deer sprinted off when I approached, but I kept the vision of them with me during the run. Whenever I wanted to stop and “just check my heart rate,” I would ask myself if there was a physical reason to stop: Was my metatarsal fractured? Was I going into cardiogenic shock? Was I syncopal? If the answer was “no,” I kept running.
I focused on the movement of my arms and legs, maintaining a smooth cadence, and rhythmic breathing. I know I didn’t look it, but I felt as swift and powerful as the deer gliding across the hills.
Miles: 5 Wednesday
180 Thursday—in the car, 0 running.
Weather: Wednesday: Sunny in the low 50s. Perfect!
Wildlife: 13 deer, 2 jackrabbits, hundreds of birds, 1 tractor, and 1 old lady with her Nordic walking sticks (same lady as Tuesday—she smiled at me this time).
Overall feeling: empowered.