Sunday, December 6, 2009

White Rock Marathon 2008: My First Marathon

With White Rock coming up one week from today, I thought it would be fun to relive WR08.  As I have written here, I started running in February 2008 with the intention of getting into shape and losing a little weight.  Running organized races didn't hold much appeal to me, but I got on a training schedule for a 10K (the Fort Worth Zoo Run) to keep myself disciplined.  I ran it, enjoyed it, and was hooked.  I still didn't think I could run a marathon, but after running a couple longer races (a 1/2 marathon and a 25K) I figured I might as well try a marathon.

So I set out to run White Rock, aiming to finish in under 4 hours.  I trained pretty hard, sticking with my Runner's World Smart Coach training calculator.  One of the training techniques I read about was Yasso 800s, a way to run intervals that helps predict your time for a marathon finish.  I went to the expo to pick up my number a couple days before the marathon, and there was this guy at a booth promoting his new book.  The name on the cover was Bart Yasso, so I asked him, are you the Yasso 800s Yasso?  Of course he was, and is, and we had a very nice conversation.  I bought a book, which he signed, and which I have thoroughly enjoyed.  We have exchanged a few e-mails since, and I wish he were my personal running coach.

Saturday night I got my clothes and shoes ready, pinned my number on my shirt, and pinned some of my favorite Sport Beans to my shorts.  On Sunday morning, I got up in plenty of time to drive to the American Airlines Center.  Knowing that the train, which stops a couple miles from my house, has a stop at the AAC, I checked the schedule to see about riding it over that day.  They don't run on Sunday so I decided to drive.  I got near the ramp to the AAC almost an hour before the start time.  And I sat in my car, totally stopped on the freeway, for an hour.  I could see the AAC.  I could almost see the starting line.  But there was no way I could get there.  I found out later that the train runs on Sundays for special events like the marathon.  I could have kicked myself.

I finally got off the freeway and found a parking spot a few blocks away from the AAC.  I had a warm up run from my car to a skid-o-can near the start (no line if you use it after the race starts) and crossed the starting line about 20 minutes late.  Of course that flustered me, and I spent a good hour running past very slow runners, dodging around little groups of ladies walking four abreast, squeezing through crowds of walkers, trotters, and strollers.  Part of me knew I was going too fast, but it really felt good to be the fastest one around.

Finally I caught up to some runners running more my pace.  Unfortunately, I ran past them, too, to the group that was running faster than I could run for long.  I reached the halfway point in about 1:50, halfway to a 3:40 finish.  At that point I was thinking I could maybe even run a negative split in the second half, and finish at 3:30 or even--gasp!--3:20!  The naive fantasies of a first-time marathoner who went out way too fast.

About that time, I saw my friend Brian, who was out with his family cheering on his brother-in-law.  He ran along with me for a minute, encouraging me to keep up my good pace.  Then it hit me--literally.  The wind coming off White Rock lake hit me in the face like the proverbial wall.  I know it seems like I'm exaggerating, but even the elite runners said they probably lost 5 minutes or more to the wind.  I struggled for most of the second half against that wind.  I quickly knew I wouldn't be running a 3:40, much less a 3:20.  A few miles from the end, I wondered if I could even meet my goal of 4:00.  Many of those I had passed a while back started passing me.  I got into survival mode, still wanting a good finish, but not caring too much about time, as long as I finished.  I finally crossed the line at 4:03.  Not a bad first marathon, but probably not as good as it could have been had I not started out too fast.

My goal since then has been to run a 3:20 marathon, the time I need to qualify for the Boston Marathon as a 40 year old.  I will be running with a pace team, in which an experienced marathoner will set the pace for the team to finish at or just under 3:20.  He'll have balloons or something so I can easily follow him.  I am not sure I have trained well enough for that, but I'll give it my best shot.  3:20 will be my #1 goal.  My #2 goal will be to beat my time at Cowtown in February, 3:51.  My #3 goal, which should maybe be my #1 goal, is to finish without injury.

No matter what my time is, I know it will be fun to be out there, and, as always, I am thankful to have two good legs and a relatively healthy body so I can run for hours and still enjoy it.

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