Sunday, May 8, 2011

BSIM: The whole story

After giving birth to her son Quin in 2009, Olympic marathon runner Blake Russell is back training in Pacific Grove, hoping to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. Last week she took a break to cheer on her husband Jon in the Big Sur International Marathon. Jon, who was a pretty darn good college runner, writes about his experience.

There is a Saturday Night Live skit where Bill Murray, playing an out-of-shape Hercules, laments, “I’ve learned when unused, muscle turns to fat.” That scene played over and over in my head as the miles slowly ticked by during last week’s Big Sur International Marathon.

Blake and I exchanged our usual roles as I was the one racing and she was waiting at the finish line. The only real difference is Blake dedicates 30-40 hours a week to her training where as I dedicated — let’s just say less than that. I set out with the best of intentions. When my former college teammate called last fall to tell me he got shut out of Boston, I suggested he run Big Sur. He agreed on one condition — that I run it with him. Since it had been more than eight years since my last race, I figured it was a good excuse to get back in shape and agreed.

Fast forward six months — I had a new job, a very active 2-year-old son, and very little training. I knew I was no where near ready to run a marathon, but I had committed so I figured what the heck. I had no illusions.

This was going to hurt. I had put in a few weekend runs here and there, but nothing that could be considered real training.

My college teammate had prepared diligently and was well-prepared.

When we compared training plans, we quickly revised our plan to run together. We agreed to run together for the first half of the race at 3-hour, 30-minute pace. Once we passed the halfway point, he would speed up and I would — cough — maintain pace.

The first half went off without a hitch. We settled behind the 3:30 pace setter who did an amazing job. At about eight miles, I began to feel my lack of training, but I toughed it out until the turnaround.

We exchanged a quick fist bump and my former teammate took off. He finished in 3:13. I struggled through 18 miles before my body said enough was enough. My leg cramped and I could no longer run. I walked the rest of the way finishing in 4:35:15 . That was equally painful to my body and my ego.

That is not to say I had a bad time. In fact, I will actually have some fond memories. The weather was perfect, as was the race organization.

I took some time to appreciate the lighter side of the sport. There was the man who thought it would be a good idea to run in the wrong direction to retrieve a dropped Gu packet just after the start, despite the fact he had eight other packets strapped to his waist and there were 5,000 people charging at him (I guess he didn’t realize they give those packets out free along the course.) There was the man in the Elvis T-shirt heckling runners as they went by.

There was the volunteer begging anyone to take him up on his offer of free Vaseline.

I recaptured some of those feelings from the glory days, running with an old friend some 15 years after we last donned the same uniform in college. I realized how close the running community is in Monterey as every single runner I knew stopped to make sure I was OK as they passed me in the last few miles.

And when I finally did finish and Quin excitedly greeted me by exclaiming “Dada finish the race,” I was a lot more than OK.

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