Today I’m honored to be the subject of a Q&A session over at Running . . . Because I Can, the blog home of a guy whom I’m sure most of my readers already know. David and I have been friends since we were coworkers in 2002 – before either of us were runners. I’ve been following his blog since its early days, and he was a big inspiration for me when it came time to start my own blog and join Daily Mile earlier this year. David, who is also the co-founder of #runchat on Twitter, is a true ambassador for the sport.
Not only did I provide some personal trivia for David’s readers (read it here), I also broke some news. You see, my email inbox has been brimming with messages in the last week from readers wondering what I’m going to do next. Here are some examples: “Jeremy, you ran such a strong half-marathon to cap off a triumphant year of personal athletic success – what could possibly be next?” “Jeremy, it’s the leader of your fan club. It’s imperative that your followers know what your next race will be so we can mark our calendars and make travel arrangements to come watch the awesomeness in person.”
And because those emails are obviously not fabricated, I’ll go ahead and tell you – I’m planning to run the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach on March 18, 2012.
I have a little bit of history with the marathon. I collapsed at Mile 24 of my first attempt, and came back the next year to finish in 4:07. In both training cycles I fell victim to somewhat serious running injuries – ITBS in the first and shin issues in the second – that completely unraveled my training plans. I haven’t run another marathon since finishing that second race in 2007.
The injuries, the collapse, the poor training – it all stemmed from my status as a rookie distance runner. I believe that, unfortunately, many newer runners latch onto the marathon goal too early in their career, resulting in overtraining and injury – just like I did. It’s so easy for me to see, looking back from the perspective of a more experienced runner. I’ve read – and tend to believe – that it takes runners somewhere between 5 and 10 years of solid experience to develop peak athletic ability and endurance. I’m about to start my 8th year of regular running, and feel like a completely different athlete than I was 5 or even 2 years ago. I think I’m ready to tackle the distance again.
I’m very confident about this decision. I’ve had such a strong year of running (and triathloning) that I feel far better prepared to handle the longer distances than I was the last two times. I’ll never be in a better position to start marathon training, having just come off a 1:30 half-marathon last week. I feel like I owe it to myself to take advantage of my current fitness to see what I can do. I don’t want to look back and regret that I didn’t attempt the marathon when I was in the perfect position to do so after the strongest training year of my life. I’ll never be any younger.
On the other hand, I know that the marathon is a different animal. It’s an unforgiving distance that can compromise even the strongest runners. On race morning, no one has a golden ticket to the finish line. No one is immune from crazy weather, freak injuries, or just the unknown that comes with those last 6 miles. I’ve seen many people with perfect training seasons that flame out on race day, whether it be from pacing error or from some external factor.
Lots of people sign up for marathons without fanfare or 800-word blog posts. But the marathon is a big deal for me. And it’s also something that goes beyond me and my personal goals. I am acutely aware that I’m asking my family – particularly my wife, who was waiting at the finish line of that first race when she got the call that I had collapsed – to go through this one more time. It’s not just the long hours of training, it’s the huge specter of an outcome that could have consequences far beyond running. Even though I’m utterly confident that it won’t happen again – every medical test following that incident showed I was in perfect health, and I did run that second marathon without issue – there’s still that subconscious chill that rises up whenever I hear the word “marathon.”
In any case, my wife has given me her blessing and I’m excited to get started. I want to accomplish big things. I want to Go For It.
Training starts Monday, Nov. 28 – 16 weeks until race day.