Saturday, August 7, 2010

I'm on my 6th pair......

As even my most casual facebook friends know (thanks to my
dailymile postings), running has become a huge part of my life. I was a terrible cross-country runner for the first year or so of high school, an even worse hurdler, and then I didn't run again for many years. However in 2006, during probably the most difficult year of my life, I picked up running again. I'm a bit of a lazy bum, and definitely a wimp in terms of physical activity so I decided that I needed a goal if I was going to stick with running so I decided to train for and run the 2006 Chicago Marathon.

The most important step in preparing for my first marathon was getting fitted properly for running shoes at the Piper's Alley Fleet Feet. Most of the employees there do a great job of watching you run, and then deciding if you need neutral vs stability vs motion control shoes to prevent injury. Since I had lots of problems with IT band syndrome (causing knee pain), this was particularly important for me. My first pair of running shoes were a pair of Asics Gel Cumulus. There is a big sign in Fleet Feet that reminds everyone not to choose running shoes based on the color, and I didn't, but it didn't hurt that they were my favorite color, purple!

On my first run, I made it 0.5 miles without stopping. That's it. I slowly but surely added on mileage each week and 20 weeks later ran my first Chicago Marathon! Each week, I was running longer than I ever had before. First 3 miles, then 5, then 9, then 10. 10 miles, double digits, was a huge landmark for me. Then 11, 13, 15. I couldn't believe that I actually ran 15 entire miles! Then 18, finally 20. The longer the runs, the more difficult, the more seemingly insurmountable the task but I kept going. I told myself that if I could run a marathon I could do anything which, to be honest, I feel like is true!

While I trained in my purple Asics, I actually ran the race in my 2nd pair of shoes, pink Asics this time. Running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles, so for the average runner running 25 miles a week, new shoes are required every 20 weeks. I definitely wear my shoes longer than I should. Especially the pair on the right! I kept wearing them despite a hole that developed during a trip to Patagonia in South America.

Running my first Chicago Marathon was such an incredible feeling. It was a few years ago, and I've run 4 other marathons since, but I definitely remember a few key moments like they were yesterday. The start was pretty incredible. Over 30,000 people lined up waiting for the gun to go off. For about 40% of us this would be our first marathon. When you are slow like I am (middle of the pack), it takes 20 minutes or so to cross the start line since about 15,000 other people have to cross it first. The excitement during that 20 minutes is palpable. People are nervous, excited, stressed- everyone is bouncing around either to keep warm, to keep from peeing (it was pretty cold that year) or just to expend pent up energy. Everyone cheers as they cross the start line, and then off we go North on Columbus in a wall of cheers from the fabulous Chicago spectators.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Chicago Marathon has the largest number of and most enthusiastic spectators of any running race. I hear the spectators at New York and Boston are pretty good too, but let's face it, Chicago is a sports town through and through. I've run the Marathon in 40 degree rainy weather and in 90 degree humid weather- our spectators are deterred by nothing! I've been handed donuts, beer, water. I've been given high fives, pats on the backs, loud yells--> the enthusiasm of the Chicago spectators makes the race worth it every year.

Even more important than the 1.5 million general spectators (really, 1.5 million- AMAZING!) are my personal spectators. My family has been so supportive of my marathon running. I'm not fast and probably never will be. I'll probably qualify for Boston one day and that will be the fastest I'll ever get. But that doesn't stop my family from coming out to support me. Any way you look at it, 26.2 miles is a long way and looking forward to seeing my family and friends at certain points on the course is hugely motivating.

The pictures on this blog are all from my first Chicago Marathon. That was a cold year for spectators, but my Mom, Dad and Grandma were such troopers. Not to mention Adam who made his office home base and organized all the logistics of trying to spectate at such a huge race!

That first year, my family was posted at Mile 15 and then again at Mile 17. Those are some rough miles in any marathon, and in Chicago they happen to correspond to areas with fewer spectators, so it was great to have them there. My goal in that first marathon was just to have fun, and fun I had! With fun as the goal I was able to stop and take pictures along the course.

I was on a runner's high for about two weeks after that first marathon. I was so proud of myself for finishing! And was so amazed that it was actually fun! And thus I continued running.

I've now run through 5 pairs of running shoes. I had my initial Asics phase, then switched to Brooks Ravenna's for a bit. Over the past year, I've increased both my weekly mileage and my speed, almost unintentionally.

I guess I must be starting to be a "real" runner because I'm now on to my 6th pair of running shoes. I switched brands again- this time to Saucony ProGrid Guides- which makes me a bit nervous since I made such improvements in my running with my 3 pairs of Brooks. I have high hopes for these shoes. I'm officially starting my attempt to run a marathon in all 50 states. I also am hoping to improve my marathon PR by over 20 minutes (goal=sub 4:15) at the 10/10/10 Chicago Marathon. As Adam keeps reminding me, if I don't like this pair of shoes, I can just buy another pair but for some reason, breaking in a new brand of running shoes seems risky- what if I get injured? What if they slow me down? Ridiculous, I know. I guess I should just get out there and run in them- they look so silly all bright white and unused, don't they?

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