Finding Inspiration in an Elite Runner’s Failure

Photos by Aaron Lavinsky/azcentral sports
Photos by Aaron Lavinsky/azcentral sports

I finished my third full marathon two weeks ago. I set a personal record, too, with an asterisk that says *Hit wall at mile 22.5.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about Roosevelt Cook.

Cook finished second in the P.F. Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. It wasn’t because he couldn’t quite catch up to the winner. Rather, it was his race to win. He was leading the whole thing, comfortably, and then—BAM!—he crashed (bonked, hit the wall, etc.), allowing the eventual winner to pass him around mile 23.

I had a mental picture of Cook simply slowing up, until I saw a photo of him hunched over, hand on his hip and head hanging low. Full stop. An elite marathon runner stopped on the course?!

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Running Perk: Will Power Makes a Surprise Guest Appearance

Ever go into a grocery store hungry? Uh-huh. And what happened? All kinds of bad stuff levitate off the shelf and into your cart, right? Yeah, me too.

Today I went to the store, at the tail end of lunch hour. Hungry. Already this is bad news. Worse yet, I purposely visit the cookie aisle. Now I’m just asking for trouble. Picture me staring at a 7-foot-high, oh-so-beautiful bank of cookies. Now picture the Oreos, the grand poo bah of cookies (and empty calories), at nearly 50% off. This will not end well.

I see cookies and don’t think Hmm. Should I? Shouldn’t I? I think Mmm! How many?! Same goes for entire packages of cookies, for that matter.

So I’m looking at these cookies. These DISCOUNT cookies. These discount OREOS. But I don’t take the bait, even though I’m hungry and super-snacky. Not today. Just doesn’t feel right. Then it hits me:

Training for my first marathon has done wonders for my will power.

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Scale Obsession: Why Am I So Concerned About My Weight?

Two weeks ago I weighed in at 223 pounds, the most my scale has tipped in a while. (Granted, I purposely avoided measuring for months when I knew the result would not be good.) Last week I was 219 pounds. Yes! This week? 223 again. Drat!

Why am I so concerned about weight loss?

While my weight did a mini-yo-yo, I logged the first 75 miles of training for my first marathon. Mild leg discomfort aside, I am as strong and conditioned as I’ve been since 2010. I have a lot to feel good about. My body is slowly starting to transform from flabby to fit again, yet I can’t help hopping on the scale, hopeful for a few less pounds, and bent out of shape when I don’t hit the mark.

Continue reading “Scale Obsession: Why Am I So Concerned About My Weight?”

Approaching My First Half-Marathon

I had an elaborate dream the other night.

I showed up for the P.F. Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon super early, then proceeded to wait in various cafeteria lines, for food I think. (Not sure why we’re all eating cafeteria food right before a big race. Someone analyze that.) I used the time to run through things I might have forgotten at home. I remembered forgetting something crucial, although now I don’t remember what.

Now that the training is done for my first half-marathon this Sunday—I have more than 175 miles under my belt—all there is to do is wait. And worry, apparently.

My trek to this race began about six years ago, when my now brother-in-law flew in from the Seattle area to run. I remember waiting for him at the finish line in the shadow of Sun Devil Stadium and feeling so inspired to run the race. I’d talk a big game year after year, then promptly forget about it until it was too late to train properly.

This year was different. Thanks in part to my more organized calendar keeping, I was sure to plug in the key dates with reminders. Early registration deadline. Training. Race day.

If I was going to do this, I was going to do it to the best of my ability. No get-up-off-the-couch-and-run for me. I hooked up with a 10-week, three-day-a-week training program by Furman University (updated link and source).  It was fantastic—and went a little something like this:

Tuesday: A set of 400-meter (1/4-mile), 800-meter (1/2-mile) or 1,600-meter (1-mile) runs.
Wednesday: A run (ranging 2 to 8 miles) faster than my goal pace.
Saturday or Sunday: A run (ranging 6 to 12 miles) slower than my goal pace.

After running a couple weeks prior to my official training start, I decided I could do around 9-minute miles. Since a 9:02 pace puts me right at 2 hours for a half-marathon, I figured that was a good goal. And, based on my training, that’s totally doable, which I’m stoked about. I need to be careful, however, not to get greedy and push myself too hard and potentially burn out.

One thing I haven’t prepared for is the sea of humanity that will be racing with me. All my training has been in the quiet solitude of the streets and fields near my house. A friend told me he added a half-mile in distance at a recent half-marathon simply by “slaloming”—weaving around slower runners. I need to remind myself to be patient. Uh-oh. That may be a bigger challenge than running 13.1 miles.