“I can’t stand marathons and my pet peeve is people who spends hundreds of hours “training” to run long distances. What if people spent those hundreds of hours doing something good for humanity (like volunteering, working on social justice issues, etc)?”
So went, verbatim, a post I saw recently on someone’s Facebook page. An acquaintance had asked people what their unpopular opinion was on anything. Perhaps it was meant to be fun, in that some people said oh, I don’t like Beyonce or pumpkin spice lattes. This entry took a whole other spin. And jumped out at me immediately.
There was exactly one response to it: “Some people train for marathons literally to live. I have a loved on with cystic fibrosis (an incurable lung condition.) He runs 50-100 miles per week as part of his treatment to prolong his life so that he can be healthy enough to volunteer for and donate to his charity in addition to the other contributions he makes to the community. I understand what you are saying, but please know that there are endurance athletes out there who put those hours in for a much larger purpose than vanity and self-righteousness.”
This was a great response. A great start. Admittedly, I don’t know if there were others or people simply glossed over this one reply and enjoyed the others and/or added their own bits. I will also admit, that first entry made my blood boil. My heart race. My stomach tighten. For a whole lot of reasons.
First, of course there’s my own personal reasons.
Before that, can we talk about the use of quotes around the word training? That alone sent me pacing in my kitchen. Why use quotes around training? It felt demeaning, condescending or patronizing – which based on what this person wrote was probably the point. But still. Adding insult to injury I suppose.
And to say “I can’t stand” and “my pet peeve” is. That’s pretty strong in it’s emotion. To take that kind of stand, in a broad sweeping statement kind of way. The vitriol she must feel and project when coming across someone training their heart out or a race in her town, goodness. And to make such a generalization about a very large, and growing, group of people who find solace – for whatever reason – in running. It’s immediately an us versus them. And a one way is better than another way. What if there was room for both?
We aren’t all cut from the same cloth or grow up with the same experiences. Thank God. And that…….
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Today I’m going a few easy miles with Gretchen Schoenstein,who was told 10 years ago that she’d never run again.
Fast forward to today, and she recently finished her 10th race of 13.1 miles of 2016, and the 53rd of her career.
Gretchen’s First 13.1
Gretchen has had issues with auto-immune diseases for most of her life, and after a serious flare up she was told she really shouldn’t think of running in her future.
At the time, Gretchen wasn’t much of a runner so she didn’t mind that diagnosis very much.
However, after 4 years of living in fear of another flare up she decided she didn’t want to live life cautiously anymore.
Despite the objections of her doctors, Gretchen signed up for a half marathon.
She was only planning on running the one, but 53 races later and she’s still going strong.
Living and Running with Auto-Immune Disease
In the 6+ years that Gretchen has been running, she has had to be hyper focused on taking care of her body to try to prevent a flare up.
While flare ups can never be prevented 100%, she has learned how to be proactive in her training and with her lifestyle to keep the flare ups in check.
Between monitoring her diet, prioritizing cross training, incorporating yoga, acupuncture, and a whole host of other preventative measures she’s able to keep going one day at a time.
And while running was feared by her doctors 6 years ago, Gretchen thinks that running may have actually helped her body to be stronger and to limit the flare ups of her disorder.
Running at Night
Gretchen recently participated in a night race for the first time. And as it is with most runners, it was a different challenge for sure.
The Rock and Roll Las Vegas race, her 53rd race, was her first non-morning race.
Between the change in routine, being more tired later in the day, spending time on her feet throughout the day, and a whole host of other factors this wasn’t Gretchen’s greatest race.
I asked if she’d ever run a night race again, and she said she would but thinks she’d rather do it some place other than Vegas. Because, well, Vegas.
“It’s crossing those finish lines when times are tough, when you don’t even feel like trying, that’s a measure of your commitment and courage.” That’s the words my friend Joanna wrote to me when I shared with her how tough this last race was for me to find motivation to run it at all. I almost sub titled this post “broken hearted run” or “running at night is bizarre” but had to go with the Snoop theme…
And it’s helped ground how I will think about the 53rd half-marathon finish line I just crossed. The 10th of the year. How I was able to do that, I really can’t say right now. I ran 11 in 2011 and then no more than 8 since, usually 6 or 7. Somehow I gutted out 5 just since September 18. Things to remember and recall how strong my resilience, persistence, get-back-up-and-keep-going is.
Ran Vegas with a heavy heart and apparently that makes me run slower I guess? It wasn’t the finish time I hoped. Or even felt during the race I was going to end with. I mean, at one point I passed the 1:45 pacer so even though he was clearly struggling, I thought maybe? And in some ways, this being 5th in less than 2 months, I’m in the best shape of the year, and so I thought I’d finish with a strong time. But it was warm, and at night and had been in and out of casinos and lots of smoke for a couple days leading up. Plus I was wearing a Seahawks tank top so that should have made me run fast? Not so much.
Couple more things:
I’m a dork but I couldn’t help but think at least this race had a good omen since 5+3 = 8, one of my lucky numbers.
I have a whole new respect and understanding for athletes who have games in the afternoon or at night. To get up at a fairly normal time (as opposed to 4am to eat) was nice and odd. But then to have a normal morning, still knowing you have to prep and get race-ready later in the day… I tried to do a similar routine to my morning races but it didn’t work out quite the way I wanted. Felt suddenly frantic at the end and not well prepared. And mentally to stay with it through the day wasn’t easy and frankly, wasn’t into it. By the time mid day came around, I really didn’t want to run. I train a…….
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Calling this an experiment gone way better than expected. Still more than a little fried physically and mentally but feeling pretty good about it all. And LA did not disappoint in terms of s cast of characters!
First, having this race in the middle of LA’s ComiCon and right around Halloween makes for a pretty entertaining course. I saw lots of superheroes, people dressed as tacos and pizza, chickens and Big Bird, a mom runner dressed as a cop and her spectator husband and kids dressed as prisoners, a guy running with a Yoda backpack (somehow that worked), Thing 1 and 2, a number for Where’s Waldo (including an itty bitty little boy spectator, he and his dad dressed both as WW – so cute!) and a couple of zombie stations at mile 6 and 8. I do not like zombies and let’s just say they’re glad they didn’t try to mess with me like they did with a few other runners. There’s a few things I can’t unsee: the guy in only a leopard print bikini bottom and the other guy in a loin cloth, running, with nothing underneath. Yep. Or the barefoot Elvis runner who was also Cap’n Jack Sparrow. Say what? And my particular favorite – the grim reaper. He ran past me and I didn’t see him again so there’s that. And of course, my favorite for the race itself – and I only saw one of each of these: a Forest Gump and Richard Simmons. Both perfect costumes.
Happily I saw my Chris-sign early in a Penske truck in mile 1. Then mile 2, I saw a sign that my amazing friends from Ottawa who’d I’d just spent a couple incredible days with were there too – I took a left where I’ve run before and saw for the first time a giant concrete FROG! 😉 This one I’m still trying to wrap my head around: at mile 3 there was a band, the enlisted Navy band. In uniform. Playing “Cake by the Ocean” Which just seemed odd in their jazzy version of it.
Really impressed with the police presence everywhere – friendly, helpful (including with downed runners), supportive – and saw lots of runners heading to them to give a high five.
Anyone else ever thought of the Expo as adult trick-or-treating?
Favorite sign this race? “When you can no longer run with your legs, run with your heart!” I get that. Was pleasantly surprised that I had relaxed legs for a lot of the race, but still felt like…….
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Did you think I would stop running? 🙂
Must admit – this was one of the hardest races I’ve run. Ugliest in multiple ways. Both the parts I ran and the parts I walked. I mean, I definitely wondered about what my motivation would be now that the 50th is just barely in the rearview mirror. Fearful that it was gone, what is my reason, where do I find new purpose. Was happy to find it still relatively easy to get up early and get into my routine and eventually get excited. And then nerves set in. A lot of them. My stomach was wrecked, my heart pounding and my limbs shaking. I wasn’t cold, but everything was trembling.
The race started and I looked forward to shaking it out and settling into the run. Surprised at not being overly sore from Brooklyn just one week prior and enjoying being out on the course. I will say, aside from the altitude, Rock n Roll Denver is one of the prettiest courses in the series. A well planned course for runners.
But then the wheels really fell off. In fact, I don’t remember much of the race. I began wheezing around mile 5 and it turned into a desperate gasp for air (the first of four or five attacks), thank you to the girls at the water station who gently patted my back as I held onto my knees and leaned over trying to not let it turn into an anxiety attack. I got back into running and immediately felt the weakness in my legs, that I rarely if ever feel. Like the muscles and blood pumping through them leaked out and disappeared somewhere. As I came around the corner and looked up the hill, I opted to walk. It wasn’t an option really. It was necessary. I normally love hills because I power past a lot of people when running, but something told me to pull up and not push.
Don’t recall much between that and the next few miles, other than starting to allow myself to take it one mile at a time, not think of the whole race cause this was going to be slow and slogging. And at the beginning of every mile, I walked. And started to notice something that scared me. I was becoming the wobbly runner that bobs and weaves along the side that I see at nearly every race. The one who is steps away from falling down. The disoriented person without a clue of where they are……..
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