Saturday, March 5, 2011

PreRace Napa: Part #1. Run to Overcome

In the tenth grade, my Coach Al Pingel, taught us that the day to get your best rest was not necessarily the day before a race, but the day before the day before. Now that doesn't mean that going sleepless the night before is good, but one can get by with a little restlessness and such without overly suffering in the race. If that, then, is the first test of this weekend, I have passed.

On the Napa Valley Marathon's penultimate day I had a very good run, an uneventful flight (although one hour delayed - one of those "mystery" delays) and a nice time with Linda's family. So, the kicker would be how would I sleep? Normally when I travel, my first night is the worst. Four hours is considered to be an excellent night's rest. Last night, however, I was out like a light by 9:45 and up at 6:15. Yikes! What will I do with all of that rest?

The majority of my Frontier flight from Denver to San Francisco was spent watching "The Spirit of the Marathon," a movie that chronicles the efforts of  two elite athletes and four regular people as they prepare for and run the 2005 Chicago Marathon. It was released as one of those "event" movies that happen one night in theaters across the country and then sort of goes away. I enjoyed it so much, that I bought the DVD. I've probably watched the movie two dozen times. This time was different. But, I'll come back to that.

Just prior to landing I was chatting with the fellow next to me, who had been noticing the movie and had asked if I ran marathons. A conversation ensued. It turns out he was flying, with his son (roughly 5 years old) to attend a race in Tulare, CA named after his Father, Max Choboian, a civic leader who had died at the young age of 34. It was his first time back for the race. Also of note was the fact that Max Chobolan was the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos of the American Football League for seven games back in 1966. Sorry, I digress. Back to the movie....

This flight would be the first time I watched the Spirit of the Marathon prior to my own marathon. That seemed to make my viewing a bit more meaningful. Beyond that, however, my emotional reactions to the movie were a bit deeper, as is much of the movie. 

We all run and run marathons for different reasons. Some, as shown in the "Spirit" want to win. Then there are those that Frank Shorter calls, "other people for other reasons." That's me and most of the pack. Some want to qualify for Boston, some want to lose weight, some are trying to win a challenge (either with themselves or others), some have something to prove to themselves. Many simply (although there is nothing simple about it) want to become part of the 1/2 of one percent of the population that can say, "I ran 26.2 miles."

It dawned on me during my in flight entertainment my motivation. On the surface, I have simple motivations: I want to regain the marathon life. I want to show that I can still follow in the steps of Phidippides. By the end of the year, I would like to qualify for Boston (I have unfinished business there).

The year 2000 was a good running year. At the ripe old age of 48, I was able to run a marathon in 3:10, a half in 1:27 and a sub 40 10K. I logged 3300 miles and weighed just over 170. It was the culmination of several pretty good running years. In December of 2000, I took a job at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage as their Education Director. It was the perfect job blending two things I really love: teaching and real estate. I was good at it. So good, in fact, that it became my obsession. I worked 50-60 hours a week and at least another 10-20 at home developing and refining curriculum. I was a fun, focused time.

It was also a time where running took a backseat, first, to working and later to just about anything. I still ran, but most often it would be a token 3-5 mile run, inspired by guilt and some ingrained need to somehow remain connected to the running me. My weight ballooned slowly but surely. At one time, three years ago, I hit my high: 245. Don't get me wrong, by the way, this decline is not nor will not, ever be blamed on anyone but me. I take full responsibility.

Two years ago, that job went away and I have to tell you, it was BAD news. Linda and I convinced ourselves that my seminar business could easily carry us through but unfortunately, the same economy that caused the termination of my CB job has made it very tough on speakers and instructors everywhere. Basically, the last two years have sucked. We sold our dream house to downsize into a more affordable situation as well as our cars. The Porsche Boxter I own, which was eventually supposed to be a success symbol one day, is nearly half the payment of my Lexus 330RX and a daily reminder that I couldn't hang on to that vehicle. 

Now before you get all Boo Hooey on me, I want to say that I realize that we have it better than a lot of people in this world. I'm not wanting to sound like one of those pro-athletes that is holding out for $20 million instead of 15 because he has kids to feed. We are thankful everyday that we can hang in during the down times and still maintain a fairly nice life.

For me, however, the last two years has left me feeling like a complete and utter failure. The answer? Run. That's always been the answer. I got through my divorce running, the death of my parents and pretty much every other stray hubcap and obstacle that's rolled into my lane by running. So two years ago, I committed to running everyday with two goals in mind: running a marathon and remembering and reconnecting with the real me: the runner. 18 weeks ago: enter the Napa Valley Marathon, the first step in my "rebirth."

As stated earlier, people run marathons for a myriad of reasons. I run tomorrow to overcome. Yeah, I'd like to overcome the 26.2 miles from Calistoga to Napa. I will hit the line tomorrow at a svelte 209 (22 pounds in the 18 week training block). So some of the weight has been overcome. But more than that, I want to overcome how I've felt about and labeled myself the last two years. I want to be proud again and have my dear, sweet wife and wonderful sons be proud too. I'd like to look at this run as a launching pad to being able to stick my head out the car window and yell, a la George Costanza, "I'm back, baby!"

Meb Keflezighi's book on his running career and life is called "Run to Overcome." And while Meb and I overcome different obstacles and circumstances in this life, the title of his book works for me.

I've maintained throughout my preparation for this marathon that I don't care about the time and that is why. Overcoming and Finishing will be enough tomorrow.

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