During the last few miles of a marathon, or any particularly long and grueling run, wisdom says to pick something up ahead in the distance to focus on. Theoretically, by staring fixedly at something ahead of you, you will forget physical discomfort and just will yourself forward to glory. Notwithstanding the spectators nervously muttering amongst themselves about the runner going by with an unblinking, slightly vacuous gaze.
The reasoning, and certainly the efficacy, of that method is debatable, but the practice can apply beyond any one given run. Heck, it applies beyond running, period, but that’s a topic for another week.
I just registered for Albuquerque’s Day of the Tread Half Marathon, which will take place on Sunday, October 16. I’m honestly and truly excited about it. This honestly and truly and I guess unfortunately doesn’t happen with every race I run. The excitement stems from several sources:
1) I’ve never run this race before. I like trying new things.
2) This is the first “big” race I’ve run since my December 2010 marathon (yes, “big” is entirely subjective). Ok, there was the trail half-marathon a couple months ago, but as the Day of the Tread Half is a road race, I don’t anticipate having to worry about my body spontaneously exploding from all the, er, character I’m building.
3) The Day of the Tread, as one might surmise from its name, started out strictly for cyclists, with running events joining the line-up only in the last several years. So there will be a bunch of cyclists out there doing their bike thing. I discussed in a previous blog my desire to maintain friendly feelings towards the two-wheeling folk, so hopefully that proximity will help fuel the warm-fuzzies. Either that or I’ll end up causing a rider(s) severe bodily injury, but I’m willing to gamble.
To get back to my original point, I signed up for this race not really because of all the reasons above – they’re just cool fringe benefits. I signed up for it because, as I think many seasoned runners will affirm, day-to-day runs are great and all, but sooner or later you start feeling…restless. In need of something up ahead to focus on.
After my December marathon, I needed a break from racing and a break from the grand concept of Training For One Race. I took the break, running I think a total of three races between then and now. Recently, pretty much just because I felt like it, I’ve stepped up my distances. I feel fairly fit. Not anything goofy like “I can go out and run 50 miles tomorrow!!” but the fit that leads you to start looking around furtively, to think “Hmm…am I actually going to find something to use this fitness on?”
I think at a certain point, whatever kind of training you’re doing, mental reluctance gives way and the fitness starts speaking for itself. It starts to pipe up and make demands. It says “What are you hiding me for? Are you satisfied with reaping nothing but the health benefits of an exercise regimen? Test me! Step out a little!”
It makes a difference, picking that focal point in the future. It makes the drudgery of summer afternoon runs a little less drudge-y. It makes me feel slightly (slightly!) less nutty for the recent spate of 18 or 19-mile weekends. And — I’ve saved the best part of this race for last — it gives me just over two months to come up with an aerodynamic, un-encumbering, fabulous Halloween costume to race in.