Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Beginning is Always the Hard Part

You may be asking, as I did, why the heck does this guy want to run a marathon, anyway?  It's a fair question.  I've never been into running before, in fact, I've never been all that much into exercise in any form.  I'll play tennis occasionally, but that's about it.  And when my weight was at its highest, well, forget about it.

But here's the thing.

As I've mentioned before, losing weight was a pretty daunting challenge, especially with the amount I had to get rid of.  And once I met my goal, it almost felt like something was missing (besides my enormous gut).  I needed a new focus, a new target, something that would build upon my newfound fitness level.  But what to choose?  As with most meaningful goals, I wanted to do something that seemed extremely difficult, but not ridiculously impossible.  For example, climbing Mt. Everest was completely out of the question.  I'm not a fan of bitter coldness, I don't particularly want to spend thousands of dollars on equipment and travel, and let's face it, I'd probably get killed. 

Crossing the line at the Hesperia Days 5K
So I thought about running.  I could start off with a mile, and gradually increase distance and/or speed.  It seemed like I could work at my own pace, set intermediate goals, and increase my fitness at the same time.  I talked to some people at work who were runners, and a couple of them said, "A half-marathon would be a pretty good goal.  A few months of training and you'd be ready."

Something about a half-marathon as a final goal just didn't sound right to me.  Almost like it was a half-assed commitment.  After all,  Nike's slogan isn't Just Do Some of It.  John F. Kennedy didn't challenge our astronauts to go half way to the moon.  No, if I was going to do this, it was going to be with one giant leap, not merely one small step (rest in peace, Mr. Armstrong).

Which is not to say that I was planning on running a marathon the very next weekend, however.

My mind made up, it was time to put together a course of action.  I did some research online, and the general consensus from the sites I visited ( is a good one) was that a beginner could properly train for a marathon in about four to six months.  Keep in mind that at no point did I have "winning a marathon" in mind, not even a particular finishing time.  All I knew was that most marathons have a time limit, and I had to beat that.  If I came in dead ass last, so be it, as long as I crossed the finish line before they shut the course down.  One website even had a suggested training schedule, including miles per week and how to break that down day by day.  So I adopted a plan that seemed to work with my lifestyle, and went for it.  The first week, it was three miles twice a week, five miles once a week, and then the long Sunday run (six miles).  The next week, the Sunday run increased to seven.  By the time February rolls around, the schedule will be five miles twice a week, eight miles once a week, and fifteen to twenty miles on Sunday.

Slogging through a 5K Mud Run
I started out by running 5K (3.1 miles).   The first few times, I couldn't even run the whole way, I ended up walking for stretches at a time.   By the third time out, though, I managed to eliminate the walking entirely.  From that point on, I determined that no matter how far I planned to run on a given day, I would run the entire distance.  No walking allowed (except to "refuel" with water, Gatorade, or delicious energy gels, which we'll talk more about some other time).

And a funny thing happened.  I'm a competitive guy, so eventually the whole "I can beat my last time" thing came up.  I figured out that I could probably run a 5K in under 30 minutes.  This isn't a particularly impressive mark, by the way.  The world record is fifteen minutes, and most experienced runners can clock in at around twenty.  But I'm trying to be realistic.  And so far, my personal record (or "PR" if you're a running geek) is 28:34.  My other targets are a 10K in under an hour (current PR is 58:20), and a half-marathon in about two hours and fifteen minutes.

As for the marathon, I seriously just want to finish it in one piece.  But I think between five and five and a half hours is realistic.

So far, I'm feeling pretty confident.  Last week I ran five miles on Tuesday, a 10K (6.2 miles) on Wednesday, eight miles on Friday, and fifteen on Sunday.  So now it's just a matter of building up leg strength, and stretching the limits so I can eventually get to the full 26.2 distance by May 5.

Next time, we'll talk about all sorts of really cool running gear, garb, and gadgets.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

A Change of Pace

Hello again, everybody (or whoever's left, anyway).

As you probably don't recall, since I haven't written anything here in about two months, I've been in the process of dropping weight and increasing my fitness.  As of this writing, mission is mostly accomplished.  I've dropped from 295 pounds to 190, and . . . get ready for this . . . have begun training to run in my first marathon.

I know.

Up until now, my only experience with marathons was the Marathon candy bar.  Remember those?  Twisty chocolate and caramel, good for increasing your blood sugar and ripping out fillings at the same time.  But now, we're talking about running 26.2 miles in under the race time limit of seven hours.  After the time expires, apparently, you're on your own to fight traffic and miss out on the post-race medal and free snacks.

Since this whole idea undoubtedly seems absurd to all of you (as it kind of does to me as well), I'm going to try to document the experience as either a glowing testimony to a man who accomplished something he believed to be impossible, or (more likely) as a posthumous warning to others about the dangers of embarking on a really stupid endeavor that's far beyond one's capacity.  Either way, I hope it'll be fun reading.  I'll try to provide updates every week or so, right up to the marathon date.

To fill you in on what you've missed, I am currently signed up for three official events which are as follows:

January 19, 2013: Ontario Mills 10K,  Ontario, California
March 10, 2013: San Diego Half Marathon,  San Diego, California
May 5, 2013:  Orange County Marathon,  Newport Beach, California

Just so you don't think I'm completely out of my mind (not that you'd be wrong, but go with me here), I am in fact training for these events.  Back in September, I began a running program that basically consists of four runs per week.  Three of these are relatively short runs (3-6 miles), and Sundays are reserved for a "long run."  The idea of the long run, according to various online resources, is to increase the distance by a mile or so every week until you get to 20 miles.  The idea here, I suppose, is that once you can run 20 miles, the last 6.2 in a marathon is a matter of will and survival.  Sounds great, doesn't it?

Three months into the program, I'm up to 15 miles for the long run, the most recent of which was yesterday morning.  It's getting easier, but I'm usually sore for a day or so afterward.

So thus begins my weekly (or so) journal of a former fat guy preparing to run a marathon.  This, of course, should not be seen as a "how-to" guide or anything remotely resembling advice on fitness or running (aside from research from more credible sources that I may add along the way).

And as a refresher, here's a reminder of the sorry state I was in less than a year ago, along with a more current shot:

January, 2012
October, 2012

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