Saturday, October 30, 2010

2500 Years

2500 years ago, Pheidippides ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens, Greece to announce the victory of the Athenians over the Persians.  History tells us that he promptly expired after delivering the news.  Humans enjoy commemorating major milestones through reenactment and hundreds of thousands run marathons each year around the world without even thinking about the original messenger's final act 2500 years ago. Of course, now we run an arbitrarily longer distance of 26.22 miles and only a handful of runners give up the ghost in the attempt.

There is a slightly less dramatic history behind my personal journey to follow the actual course of Pheidippides and it started in October 2009. I had just completed the Twin Cities Marathon and set a personal record by 5 minutes. I was thrilled with my accomplishment, and arguably deserved a break from training. However, the military championship marathon was being run in Washington DC in conjunction with the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October and the winners would head to Athens, Greece in October 2010 to compete for the USA in an international military marathon competition. This running of THE marathon would be in celebration of the 2500 anniversary.

As soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to run that race and try to earn my spot on the team. As it turned out, I had one of the most amazing races of my life at the Marine Corps Marathon and was glad I ran it based on the day's experience alone. I came in first military female, second overall female, catching and battling the leader in the last few miles of the race. I also set a masters course record in the process. Best of all, I would be headed to Marathon, Greece in one year.

Fast forward one year and I am on a flight headed to Athens, Greece (actually, I'm sitting in a dorm room the night before the race, and finally able to connect to the Internet to post this!) I have done very little training in the three weeks since Chicago in preparation. Last week, I ran about 40 miles culminating with a 16 miler on Saturday. This week, I am running between 3-5 miles each day with a few strides thrown in on a couple of days. My hypothesis for this train-through plan is that my fitness will carry over regardless of of how little I actually run, but running too much could lead to injury. So, I'm being conservative.

My goal for this adventure is to enjoy the race while doing my best to place as high as possible in the competition. This will require a conservative approach. The marathon course looks brutal with about 10+ miles of straight uphill and the last 6 down. So, starting out conservatively is essential if I want to finish strong. I don't have a time goal other than I'd like to run under 3:00. I could run a lot faster than that if I have a good day. Last year's adventure at the Marine Corps Marathon proved that to me.

I'd also like to finish the race still standing and able to walk. I have a few days of vacation tacked on to the back end of this trip with The Genius that I'd like to be able to enjoy wandering around Athens and the ancient island of Thira.

The future
I have spent these last few weeks reflecting on my running future. I am in a great place right now having achieved my life's running goal. As I mentioned in my last post, it's also a little unnerving for a planner like me. That's not to say that I don't have new goals already brewing in my brain. But my running goals are only part of my running future. I have been thinking more about how I want to experience the sport of running. Regular readers of my blog probably picked up on a sense of unease that began to trickle into my happy little running world mostly in the last 3-4 months. It really bothered me. I was starting to dread workouts, wasn't enjoying races and this extra anxiety was having a negative impact on my life. I had a gut feeling, that a change would be good for me mentally and physically.

I have a fine, reliable posse of girlies who I am lucky to meet up with somewhat regularly for easy runs. Prior to joining this group (called the Early Girlies because we run weekdays at 5:15), I did all of my running alone. For the most part, I do all of my hard training alone. Many of the girlies are also coached by Nicole Hunt, but we never seem to be on the same program and we don't run the same paces even if we do the same workouts. I have been longing for some time now to find a group to do my hard training runs with, but just haven't been able to make it work.

I have had great luck training with my on-line coach, Nicole Hunt. She is the most professional, wisest, level-headed and nicest person I have never met. People often find it odd that I have worked with someone so closely for over three years, only talked on the phone with her once and never met her in person. It takes a lot of personal motivation and good communication between coach and athlete to make a cyber coaching relationship work, and I have had all of that.

The running experience I crave right now includes training with a group of women and men that are around my same level and doing similar workouts. I want the benefit of having a more traditional coaching relationship where my coach is able to watch me run and can help adjust my workouts when needed. I also think that I need a new focus for my running. I have been a serial marathoner for 6 years now and I think I would enjoy training for shorter distances, maybe even changing up my routine.

I am a member of one of the best women's racing teams in the Country, the Impala Racing Team. Most of my teammates live and train in the SF Bay area. I live 90 miles away in Sacramento and have not had the ability to train with them regularly, or at all actually since I joined the team back in 2008. Several of these fast women train with coach Tom McGlynn of Focus 'n Fly and they perform some of their workouts together.

After talking with Tom, other runners who know him and some of the athletes he trains, I decided that training with his group was a great opportunity. I have been told by some of his athletes to brace myself for a big change in my program, and I am excited to see what that change will be. It has come to my attention that I have a reputation for having an aggressive training program. This is funny to me, because I don't really see it that way. I see the workouts and total volume that others put in and think they are much more difficult. I really don't label myself as anything when it comes to running beyond being a masters runner and now an OTQ. I don't see myself as only responding to high mileage training, mainly because I've not tried the alternative. I would love to explore other ways of training. I honestly believe there are multiple ways to become a fast runner, the best being the one that keeps you injury free and maintains your love for the sport.

Over the next few months, I'll be making a concerted effort to get to SF most weeks to train with my new coach and his athletes. This also means that I'll be able to spend more time running and getting to know my teammates, something I've wanted to do since I joined the team.

Of course, I won't leap into this new program for a bit so I can recover from my two marathons. The good news is that Coach Tom doesn't have a problem with me continuing my running blog as long as I don't do stupid stuff and attribute it to his coaching. That's not my style. I'm a mea culpa kind of gal.

Exciting times ahead, and you are welcome to come along for the ride!


  1. Glad to virtually BE along for your incredible ride! I wish you the very best of luck both tomorrow in your incredible 2,500th Anniversary run of THE Marathon, and with your new training plans.

  2. It's like finding out what happened to Elizabeth Bennet after she married Mr. Darcy and moved to a new place. I'm looking forward to the next chapters.

  3. The Athens marathon must be over by now, so I hope you had a good race and are recovering well in that crazy city. Can't wait to read about the next steps in your running journey.

  4. Just do smart stuff and attribute it to his coaching ;) This is an exciting change. I think you'll benefit from the group sessions (and have fun). Hope the travel isn't a problem. Also hope you ran well today in the shadow of Pheidippides and enjoyed catching up with Joanie.