I Was Superman

As a runner, I was Superman.  But, that was a while ago.

When I started running marathons, I thought I was invincible.

The more I ran, the stronger I felt.  This made me run more.  As I added miles, my performances improved in turn.

I was strong.  I was powerful.  I was fast. 

It was great.

And I… well, I was Superman.

***

I ran my first marathon, the New York City Marathon, in 2002.  It was a magical and wonderful, inspirational and motivational experience.  That race changed me.  Before that race, I never thought I could run that far, and once I did, I knew I had to do it again.

And again.

I fell madly in love with marathons.  I’m still in love with the race.  In October, I’ll run my 20th marathon.

For that first marathon, I logged 368.50 miles in 16 weeks of training.  In short, I followed a modest plan.  I built slowly and it worked.  I finished with a respectable time – 4:20:47.

The next year, 2003, I ran NYC again.  I upped my training mileage to 432 miles.  With more training miles, and a stronger base, I finished a little faster – 4:11:44.  I was on to something.

I kept raising my training mileage, and running faster and faster marathons.

I first broke four hours (3:55:51) in Baltimore in 2004. 

By 2006, at Disney World, I ran 3:34:34. 

I had a plan, and it worked.  More miles equaled better results.

Along with the higher mileage also came a new passion for speed work.  I stared running intervals and other speed exercises.  Yasso 800’s became part of life.  So did an exercise I invented – Semmer 400’s. 

I was a maniac.  When I ran, I ran hard.  My easy days were hard.  My hard days were harder.  I pushed…hard.  Everything about my running was hard.

And I loved it. 

***

As I ran and as I found personal success, I made some new friends.  I won’t say that these friends changed my life, that’s too trite; too cliché.  But, these friends are still with me today.

You know their names.  If you’re a runner, or you have a passion in which you invest your time, many of these are your friends too:

Determination

Satisfaction

Pride

Confidence

Joy

(There are others…)

***

In preparation for the Chicago Marathon, also in 2006, I ran 642 training miles in my 16 weeks of training.  I averaged over 40 miles every single week.  And those were strong miles.  Hard miles.  I worked.  I pushed.  I gave it my all.

The result was my quickest marathon yet –  3:25:16.

I was Superman.

***

I have to add that I was also a running rebel.  Or, at least I saw myself as such.  I didn’t believe or follow most of the maxims.

I ate what I wanted.

I didn’t stretch.

I never iced.

I didn’t warm-up.  I didn’t cool down.

I didn’t believe in recovery days.

When I felt pain, I told myself that I had to work harder.  “Run through the pain,” I’d say.  I was stronger than pain.

If I had pain that wouldn’t go away, I’d visit my chiropractor to “fix” me.  I would only visit, though, if I was badly hurting.

I’d run the marathon distance, sometimes multiple times, in my training.  Sometimes, I’d do this on my treadmill. 

I felt I could do anything.

As I got faster and stronger, I believed that I’d soon run quickly enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I was getting close!

And I, I was Superman.

***

But, maybe like Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, my confidence and my success ultimately betrayed me.

I crashed physically and mentally during a marathon in the Poconos.  I was ahead of Boston pace for the first fifteen miles of the Run for the Red Marathon, and then, instantly, I had nothing left in the tank.  I hit the wall.  Hard.  I had nothing left to give physically or mentally.  I gave up.

Yes, of course, I finished the race, but it was a long final eleven miles of walking and hating myself for most of it. 

I finished that race well past four hours.  It was a disaster.  It was my first running failure. 

***

Then I started to meet some new companions, ones I had hoped to never come in contact with.  I am convinced, now, in retrospect, that I unintentionally invited each of these to visit me time and time again.

Many runners know these guys all too well:

Torn Achilles

Plantar Fasciitis

Torn Soleus

Stress Fracture

Bone Bruise

(I have not yet met Iliotibial Band Syndrome, and I do not intend to.)

***

I kept completing marathons, but as I aged, and as I worked through and around various pains, and injuries, my times were getting slower and slower.

I haven’t finished under four hours since 2009.

Injuries became a constant part of my marathon training. 

I ran the New York City Marathon in 2013 with a slight stress fracture in my foot.  I finished, which gave me great pride, but, I finally realized I was no longer the runner I used to be. 

Then, last year, I had yet another Achilles tear which negatively impacted my training.  I finished the Lehigh Valley Marathon, but at 4:32:11, it was my worst time yet.

I got to the point where I was trying to find ways to just finish races.  I wasn’t looking to run well.  I wasn’t looking to compete, even against myself.  I was just looking to finish.

I realized that I wasn’t Superman any more…

***

It was as I was training for that 2015 Lehigh Valley Marathon that I finally decided to get smart. 

I’m in my late 40’s.  My body was breaking down, more and more often.  Something had to change.  Either I was going to run smarter or I wouldn’t be running marathons much longer.  In fact, with the constant injuries, I might not have even been running at all much longer.

I made many modifications to my running program and my overall health and fitness:

I started stretching

I begin most runs with warm-ups and finish most with cool downs that including walking.

I started to eat better.

I decided to try compression socks and realized (for me at least) that they work well. 

Speed work became part of my training, not the total essence of all my training.

I reduced my overall weekly mileage for non-training periods, but have been focused to make sure that I have a run of at least ten miles every week to maintain a strong base as I head into the next Marathon training cycle.

I visit my chiropractor much more regularly for maintenance.

These changes have worked.

***

I am no longer the fast runner I was ten years ago.  As I’ve slowed down, I think I’ve gotten smarter.  I listen to my body.  I give myself days off from running.  I cross-train on my bike more than I used to.  I lift weights more regularly. 

In a little over a month, I’ll start my 16-week training program for the Mohawk/Hudson Marathon. 

My base is strong.   I’m running mostly 25 miles a week.  If I have a big week (40 miles), I cut back the next week.  It’s about balance.  (That’s a new word for me in regard to my running.)

Speed work comes on occasion.  Yasso 800’s come to visit, but I don’t do them every week.  I will soon begin to alternate the Yasso’s with my own Semmer 400’s, but I’m not going to look to kill them. 

When I run hard, I run hard, but smart.  Most of my runs, though, are of the slower variety.

And I now know that’s fine.  It’s smart and I’m staying healthy.

Imagine that.

***

And then I realized today, as I covered 13.1 miles in a training run in a (very) modest 2 hours and 10 minutes…

That as I continue to push myself

As I log these miles…

And run marathons…

That I still am

SUPERMAN.

 

 

 

 

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