Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Starting line

A word of introduction: I am a runner. Through graduate school, various jobs, through happy moments and sad, I have run. I run to heal and to celebrate. I also write and have, from time to time, published a piece. But much of the writing that I do is unpublished, shared with only close friends or with no one at all. I write as I run, to heal and to celebrate.

Recently, I lost my job, and, very soon afterward, my mother passed away. I am in the process of finding out how to both heal the pain of both losses and how to celebrate my mother's life and my own, my opportunities (which I hope I will use well).

One of these opportunities is that of working with a friend on a running-related book. Another is to return to the marathon, the scene of my DNF (did not finish) four years ago. It may seem as if this is too fragile a time to return to such a venture, but I have chosen this project because recently my coach, Mike Patterson, and his friend, Dave Thomas, teamed up to lead a marathon training program in which the fee for the program is donated in part to the Philadelphia Athletic Charities.

I have run with Mike's Peak Performance group for four and a half years, and I know him to be a fantastic coach and very decent, caring person. (He's, after all, had to put up with yours truly telling him after every workout, "I was just getting warmed up. Do we have to stop?") He also has an impressive running background, including a 2:16 personal best in the marathon, an Olympic Trials qualifier. Dave Thomas, like Mike, has a long string of successful races, with a marathon PR of 2:28. He has also participated in ultra-distance races, such as the London to Brighton and Comrades. Like Mike, Dave has a commitment not only to running but to his community. Mike has spoken of wanting to "give back" to his sport, coaching adult groups as well as kids, and volunteering with a Salvation Army after-school program. Dave has coached such groups as Team in Training as well as working with groups to organize events for charities.

My hope is to document here my progress and that of the marathon training group as well as of any Peak Performance runners who would like to join the conversation (to make this a "team blog," with both of my teams involved).

I am a "dual citizen," since Peak Performance, of which I've so long been a member and Team 26.2 run together on Tuesday evenings, and I hope that this will be a way to keep us together the rest of the week.

I want to make this space a place to exchange ideas, news, running or race reports; a place to offer and ask for encouragement; and a place to share the adventure.

On Tuesday, June 29, we had our first "merged group" workout. The new members, some of whom had not done speed workouts before, showed that inexperience doesn't mean lack of speed, as they flew past this runner. We ran 4 x 1/2 mile, resting in between. Groups started in inverse order of their speed, i.e., the slowest of us first (myself included...until Dave decided I should be in a slightly faster group). We were told not to use our watches, but old habits die hard. I happened to time my first three repeats, but the last will remain unrecorded.

I noticed that with new members, I was anxious to push myself a little more. I had previously run by myself, there not being a lot of folks in the group at my pace. So with the newcomers, I found myself not entirely at the back of the pack. Not that I'm competitive, of course! ;) Except I am.

I don't think of myself as terribly competitive outside of running. And yet I am slowly learning that workouts are ways to test myself, learn to pace better, not worry too much about who's ahead or behind. I like running hard. I'm strange that way. ;) I like pushing myself, then relaxing a bit, then pushing again. It's a rhythm, perhaps even expressed in musical terms: half with a quarter rest.

It's painful, searing to the lungs and legs, brings on the dry heaves, makes the runner wonder if s/he will make it to the finish. Yet within the breathless pain is breathless excitement, wondering if the lungs and legs will take us to the finish before not after we buckle. I miss it when I can't do it because of injury or illness.

Tomorrow, Thursday, I will meet with the Team 26.2 group for the long run (because of so many going out of town for the holiday weekend). Normally, the long runs start at 7 a.m. Sunday, so I will need to become not just a morning person but someone a Trappist monastery will recognize as a morning person.