In It For the Long Haul

I rarely have felt fully prepared for a lot of the big milestones and challenges in my life. Whether it was the transition from school and stepping into “real” life when I graduated college, or giving a best man’s speech at a wedding, or completing a marathon, there was always a moment of pause and hesitancy right before that moment happened wondering how it will go. (I’m still feeling out this whole real life after school thing. I’m not sold on it just yet.)

What I do know, however, is that I work my way through it all on a daily basis.

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What Time Reveals

There is truly no replacement for the wisdom and insights that come with getting older and life experiences we collect with time. My marathon training, much like last year, continues to provide lessons about exercise and life.

Every weekend since early August, I have a long run to complete. Since the beginning of this race’s training and the abbreviated schedule, they’ve all been at least 10 miles long. This past weekend’s should have been a 20 miler, but a number of factors kept me from finishing that distance (I did just shy of 18.) The main reasons for less than stellar outings, outside of heat, have been sleep and diet.

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Discovering Depth in Discipline: Marathon Insights

Above: Photo gallery of Missoula and the state of Montana
It took four months of training and Saturdays where I didn’t sleep in until noon and many other nights during the week skipping out on TV, laying on the couch, or hanging out with friends over a beer or other tasty beverage. It all led up to one Sunday morning in Montana and a 26.2 mile route ahead of me. The Missoula Marathon had finally arrived. But there was so much more than just those 5+ hours to share.

I could write about the time in Montana before, during, and after the race. I could share about Troy, the guy at “The Hub” who told us about so many great things to do around  the area; about Doug, the guy who took us via boat and led our expedition across Flathead Lake over to Wild Horse Island and dropped knowledge and factoids like sick beats; and then there were the various events and friendly faces around Missoula that made our time there magical.

It’s already been three weeks since the race and there’s still elements of the total experience that I’m unpacking in my mind. I can share what I’ve learned about running and myself so far:

Training stretches you beyond your limits (almost) without you noticing. It’s hard to believe that before March of this year, the longest I had ever run was 5 miles and that by July I considered that a “short” mid-week run. The small incremental jumps in distance in each week trained my body to take on a little more, mostly in chunks it could handle.

Training is MUCH better with others. I don’t know if I could have done this without others, especially for the weekly long runs. Even without many words, the encouragement of having a friend or two by your side does wonders for your ability to continue going.

Big goals require a lot more change in your life than you plan for.  By far the biggest noticeable adjustment for me was not sleeping in on Saturdays. For anyone who knows me, Saturday morning is not a time you assume I’m awake or available for anything. Waking up as early as 5AM once to get my training run in took me way outside my comfort zone.

The body and mind is capable of far more than we normally give it credit for.  Growing up and living with asthma, running long distances never seemed to be something attainable to me. In the last few years I seem to have mostly grown out of it, however, and it allowed me to complete a marathon.

With this achievement under my belt, I look ahead to what else I can do. Perhaps it will be another marathon to push for a faster time, or to improve and increase my writing abilities, or to actually learn how to fix more stuff around the house. At the expense of sounding cheesy, “if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” (Marty McFly, Back to the Future).

me at Missoula Marathon

Running Into Discipline

Earlier this year, a friend and I started talking about the realities of running in a marathon this year. My initial reaction was “are you serious?” He said, “you’ve run the Shamrock Shuffle. You can definitely train yourself to run a marathon.” So after some consideration and entering my credit card info on the registration page, I signed up to run the Missoula Marathon on July 13th, 2014. Yes, this race is in Montana.

Why this year? Isn’t it too much at once?

That’s a great question. On the brink of a new year with a promotion at work that brings new demands and other responsibilities outside of the day job, adding on a training schedule between now and July seems like a ridiculous idea and a sure fire bet for burnout.  And on paper, it very well could be. A full time job that often takes me beyond the 40 hour work week, a proposed 4 day a week marathon training schedule, me wanting to read more books, write more here on this blog, watching TV shows that everyone’s talking about, AND spending time with people: is it all possible? Can it all be done by one man? Can I be all things?

Maybe, but with a large dose of discipline.

While I naturally love to have a flexible schedule and be open to the random opportunities life has to offer at any given moment, the fact is that won’t work for getting myself ready for a 26.2 mile run. I’m not a fan of living by a strict calendar when I’m outside of work. I love the space I leave for myself to think, mentally wander, and just “be.” However, the body and mind don’t magically become capable of big achievements without some serious work.

And change.

Yes, it’s going to mean things like swapping out Netflix for a 4 mile run after work on Tuesdays followed up by reading a couple chapters of a new book. It will mean forcing myself to call it quitting time from work before 8PM so I can spend time reflecting on whatever’s on my mind and writing about it here. It will mean trading in my precious Saturday mornings in bed for a double digit endurance run. And it will also probably mean (trying to) eat better so I have the energy I’ll need to do all of this and not pass out.

I can’t expect my life to ever be any different if nothing about it stays the same. I suspect I will learn useful life lessons while I train for this marathon, many of which plenty of marathoners before me already have learned, but I hope my personal perspectives and reflections will be of some interest to you over the coming months.

Now excuse me while I avoid all that tries vehemently to distract me from everything I’d like to do this year.