"Today I will run what you will not so that tomorrow I will run what you cannot."
- May: Flying Pig 10K. Time: 56:24 Pace: 9:06
- Aug: Little Miami Half Marathon. Time: 2:04:16 Pace: 9:29
- Sept: Air Force Marathon. Time: 4:29:55 Pace: 10:19
- Nov: MBC 5K. Time: 24:51 Pace: 8:01
The Shoes. As I wrote in the kick-off post, my running experiment started with the all too important assessment of the shoes. I started in minimalist shoes but as my mileage increased to roughly 25 miles per week I noticed more pain during my runs. I went to see an orthopedic doctor, a physical therapist, and a podiatrist to make the necessary adjustments. I started doing more leg strengthening exercises via different tension rubber bands and changed to a more rigid running shoe; as my podiatrist instructed (he's an ultra-marathoner), "your form goes to crap after 20 miles so you'll want to have a shoe that can support you, especially if you're a first timer." Net, the majority of my training was done on a pair of bright orange Saucony Progrid Guide 5s; very cushiony and a smooth ride. Towards the end, when I was running 40+ miles per week, I transitioned to a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12s; not as pillowy as the Saucony's but more medial arch support. My only recommendation when it comes to shoes, especially for first timers, is to visit multiple running stores and try different shoes; do the treadmill and camera thing that most of the top quality running stores offer. If you can afford it, see a podiatrist, a running podiatrist preferably, so you can rule out any crazy physiological issues you may have before you start piling on the mileage.
The Gear. Other really helpful equipment, once I surpassed the hour-long training runs, were:
- Camelback: I didn't like running with anything in my hands. I ran in the Classic; it had enough water for the long runs and a small pouch for the essentials while not being too bulky and bouncy.
- Patellar tendon stabilizers: helped on my left knee especially; I used Mueller straps (simple, effective).
- Reflection belt for those early morning runs when drivers haven't had their coffee.
- Garmin Forerunner 350: lightweight, easy to use, traveled well. I had to do training runs in Chicago & northern Wisconsin and the watch / GPS picked up the satellites relatively quickly.
- Music strap & iPhone. I use Rhapsody's music subscription service so I was able to download boatloads of music and create multiple training playlists. The New Balance strap & iPhone held up great in all weather conditions.
- Pepper spray. My long runs took me to some un-populated areas with lots of wildlife (including wild humans).
- Post running gear. Therabands (for ankle, knee, & hip stability exercises), ice packs, and a foam roller (I went through two!) for my IT bands.
The Race. I ran all the races I planned on racing except the Summit Fest 1/2 marathon, I opted instead to run the Little Miami 1/2 in late August. Little to my knowledge but that course (very fast, super flat) is known to be a great prep race for the Air Force marathon. Regarding The Race, my initial goal for the marathon was to finish; then, as I got closer to the race, I set a sub- 5hr goal. Then, on race day, around the 8 mile mark, I decided to stay with the 4 hr 30 min pace woman. Around the half-way point, there were ~15 people in our group and it started dwindling from there. By mile 18, the 4:30 group was down to 7-8 runners, by mile 22, there were four of us, and finally in the end only three (me included) crossed together. The woman in the pink shirt (pictured above) was amazing: she held the sign 90% of the time, kept the exact pace for 4 hrs 30 mins, and was chirpy / encouraging the entire time. As for me, I cross the finish line and thankfully nearly passed out. Why thankfully? I had nothing left, I didn't hold back and conserve energy; I picked the right stretch pace. I didn't train for 4:30 and I wasn't ready for 4:30 but I challenged myself: either I do it or pass out trying. I'm a masochist apparently.
- Walkers suck. I'm sorry to all those lovely people who walk daily for fitness and I know it's not all walkers, but seriously, move to side or the back of the starting line! In nearly all the races, with the exception of the Air Force marathon, there were dozens of self-righteous walkers who go the very front of the line and block all the competitive runners. Mind you I wasn't / am not a competitive runner, by a long shot, but even I had to do some side-to-side agility drills to get past all the walkers. The worst part about the whole thing was the grumbling and cuss words every time a runner would run past a walker, as if we were doing them some injustice by actually running in the race.
- Go potty early. I was fascinated to see nearly 50-75% of all the racers who lined up to use the portable restrooms 1-2 mins prior to the starting gun.
- Training times and racing times varied widely. My pace prior to the 10K was roughly 10 min / mile. For the 1/2 and full marathon, my average training pace time was 10:30 min / mile. Nothing quite duplicates the race environment like, well, an actual race.
- Water station people are amazing. I loved every one of them. Imagine having to cheer and give hydration for up to 7 hrs to sweaty, stinky runners and walkers?
- Sign up early. Not only do you have a target date (for motivational & training purposes) but you also save some coin.
For now, my running experiment is complete, I accomplished my goals. I learned a lot about what my mind & body can do when tested. I confirmed my do now ideal. I learned that my mind goes to some comical places when it has nowhere to go for 4 hours at a time - a useful tool for long road-trips as well.
Most importantly, I'm grateful that I was able to conduct this experiment.