from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.

Monday, February 26, 2007

mile 16

I have always increased my mileage one mile at a time. If the most I had run before was eight miles, I increased to nine. After 14 (once) would come 15.

This is so slow. I feel as if for months I have been running in place. Furthermore, five loops around the Academy track is a perfect 16 miles.

The temperature was at freezing when I started. By the time I finished kids were running bare-chested. I still gave myself indiscriminate permission to walk, in deference to the groin-hip-sacrum area, where various parts of the mechanism still relate to each other as if they have been only recently fitted together. My splits were disheartening, so after two rounds I gave up on timing myself. I did not look at the watch anymore, but I saw the sun shifting, the shadows shrinking.

After three loops I had enough, but I had planned for five and done four the week before, so I felt obliged to engage on the fourth. After four loops I had more than enough, but there were still five on the schedule, and only one more to go. So I sighed and started crawling again.

16 miles. 3 h 18 minutes. In the simplistic vein I have adopted from the beginning to rationalize the incomprehensibility of these distances, I am telling myself: only ten more to go.

Seriously, that first day a year ago, when - panting and clueless - I finished my very first mile, that's what I told myself: only 25 more to go.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

retrospective - one year

One year ago today I stepped for the first time on a treadmill, fumbled with the buttons, and - flummoxed by the improbability of me being there - failed to make the thing work. Next day I tried again and ran my first mile.

In the meantime: I ran two 5Ks, not because I wanted to compete in a race, but because I thought it was cool to run on the 4th of July and for Thanksgiving. I ran two half-marathons, since the ability to run 13 miles did not seem to be enough in and of itself - I had to somehow make it official, mark my arrival at half-point.

I learned a lot about running, a given, since I knew nothing before and there is a lot to learn. I still feel like a novice. I still do not feel like a runner. I don't enjoy running yet, which puzzles me a bit. I thought it would be acquired taste. Perhaps - at 940 miles life-to-date - I have not acquired enough.

I expected to have learned a lot about myself, but nothing comes to mind. I have a slight suspicion that I am being obtuse on this point. I cannot come up with one single shred of novel understanding of myself. Of course, I was determined, I was persistent, I was perseverent. But I knew this beforehand. I've always known this about myself - I have tenacity. Going in, that's the only thing I knew.

I still do not quite know why I want to run a marathon. When I started to run though, I started because I could not find an answer to 'why not.' The only possible response that came to mind was that running a marathon was too damn hard. Somehow I could not accept that as a reason not to run. So I ran.

Tomorrow we also celebrate eleven years since, in true refugee fashion, with a suitcase and no other place to go, I knocked at my boyfriend's door late at night. When he opened it, puzzled, I asked: "Eeer... can I stay here fow a little while?"

Not exactly in my line of character. But it was February, and cold. What's a girl to do?

And to quote Paris Parfait's entry from February 14, "we've been together ever since."

Monday, February 19, 2007

temporary insanity

Only three weeks ago I was contemplating a soon-to-be half-marathon at sea level, and now I want a full marathon, before summer, at whatever altitude.

I must be out of my mind. I never ran more than 14 miles. I cannot do a "big run" anymore without 1000 walking breaks. I have no idea how to get to mile 26.

My boyfriend refuses to look at maps and make plans before, he says, "you are well again." He is right. My back is still tense, which is worrisome. At best I have - literally - outrun the pain.

The miles I ran in the whole last month could be squeezed into one week, but I am still proud of my output, running on the delicate line between worsening the pain and increasing weekly mileage:
8 (post AZ race)
10 (very bad backache)
12 (bad backache)
17 (moderate pain)
22 (slight pain).

So. I will run, according to my own devices, with a marathon in mind. For early summer. In a month I can re-assess where I stand and how I feel. And, hopefully, where I will race.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

planning, perhaps

I never ran with a specific race in mind. I never followed a training schedule. I just went out there and ran, with one thing on my mind: to run, to run farther, to ran faster.

I said I would run my marathon when I am ready. And since it was clear I would not be ready this spring, I thought I would run it in fall, perhaps the New Mexico Marathon Plus in September. Last year I did the half.

Lately through... I am getting impatient. I don't want to wait anymore. If I push hard I might be ready in May or June. I believe New Mexico is too hot to run a marathon in early summer, but I have learned something else in the meantime - one can travel to another place, run a race elsewhere, there are plenty of races to choose from. It took me some time to make this mental jump. Okay, so I am slow.

So now... my mind is roaming... could I push, how would I plan, where should I go? It's not that I want to travel to another city. It's not that I want to run my first marathon at a lower altitude, I'd rather do it here, in the desert I know. It's the restlessness in me, the need for space conquered, the hunger for miles.

Monday, February 12, 2007

pushing again

I woke up yesterday to the prattle of rain on the flat roof. First I was about to ask why it had to rain precisely when I planned a long run outside, but by the time I was outside I did not mind anymore. I ran through the light and intermittent drizzle, wishing it were denser – it was cool but not cold, the clouds were luminous, and it seemed exciting to run with the rain.

The Sunday prior, when I barely finished two loops around Academy, I told myself that next time I would do three, even with the backache, no matter how often I would have to walk, no matter how long it would take. And so I did. I never once interfered with my body when it decided to walk.

I always feel it would be best if the running were over, preferably now, so I do not know if yesterday’s walking breaks were due to subsequent indulgence, or oxygen deprivation, or pain. The pain has shrunk in strength and scope but lingers – a dull sheath packed around my sacrum, like an alternate center of gravity. It’s been three weeks now, and I do not even remember anymore how it is, to run without pain.

But I went three times around Academy, just shy of ten miles, in a bit over two hours, and my mileage is again greater than the week before, when it was greater then the week prior, and so on. I am not only hanging on, I am advancing again.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

longer legs

When I pulled a groin tendon last fall, and it eventually dawned on my to do something about it, I looked up injuries in "Marathon for Dummies." The closest I came to the groin were hip stretches - I was supoosed to lie on my side and do leg raises with 1 pound of something attached to my ankle.

My boyfriend walked in on me one morning while I was on my left side, balancing the telephone book on my right leg. I was not doing a great job. He surveyed the scene for a while, and then announced quietly: "You need ankle weights."

I had never heard the term before, but he is an American and knows stuff. The Saturday after, he accompanied me grumbling to a sports store, where to my surprise they indeed sold something called ankle weights. I skipped the one-pounders on the spot, and went for the 2.5 lbs per foot version.

Since then I have been using them regularly during the after-run stretch session, doing hip stretches with perfunctory delight, happy to forgo the telephone book. They come in very handy. You fasten that Velcro strip around your ankle, and they stay in place. Voila!

It has occured to me lately I do not dedicate enough time to my running quest. While I run every scheduled day (if I am not hopelessly disabled), and run as many miles I had intended, and never shirk, and always do at least a minimal amount of stretching, I fail to allocate time for all the ancillary activities: extensive stretching, strength exercises, random icing, Pilates, yoga, upper body fortification, whatever. I obsess about running, but I am still much too busy otherwise

It has occured to me recently to use the ankle weights as a kind of passive training tool. Walking around with them has to elicit the muscles somehow, and in the long run make a difference. It's a logical idea, and I am puzzled I have not found it extolled anywhere. Perhaps, it's just me, imagining.

In the meantime, I am doing laundry, cooking dinner, watering the plants, with 2.5 lbs attached to each ankle, as if I were a convict in chains. The downward pull has a reassuring effect. I feel it straightens me out. Although it just falls short of making my legs longer, such a pity....

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bill Strickland update

There isn't much to say. This project progressed even less than my running.

I wrote to the mayor. I contacted a senator, and the congressional representative of New Mexico, and a few other people. What I need is contacts in the business community, and I did not get one single lead.

Did I actually expect help from politicians? Hmmm, okay, so I cultivate hope as much as I can. Guess I will have to do some research and make forays in the business community myself.

The field representative for education at senator Bingaman's office made an interesting point. He said my chances for success are slim - which of course I knew. But he added that even if no one will be interested in building this school, even if there will never be a Bill Strickland school in Albuquerque, what I am doing is raising awareness. Putting the idea out there. Spreading the word.

Although he did not offer me anything in his official capacity, he was, as a person, very taken by the project. I could see it in his eyes. When I left he was sad he could not help me - even sadder than me.

Okay, so I am going to embrace my role of spreading the word. And target someone else.

Monday, February 05, 2007

staying in place

It feels as if this backache will never go away. It's been two weeks now, and it is part of me like a second backbone, superimposed on the orginal.

I have been running with... daintiness. Yesterday I set out for a small "big run." I meant to do it on the treadmill, since I thought that would be less rough on my system than the outdoor course. But the morning was too resplendant with light to stay confined on a gray rubber band.

I wish one day I will get to the point where running feels... liberating, not like a chore.

I took so many walking breaks that I was embarassed for my running gear - what an indignity to have to perambulate draped over someone as tentative as me... Running, jogging, walking, crawling, I took my weekly mileage to over 12 miles. It's more than last week. It's about as much as I should run in a day.

But at least I fought to stay in place instead of sliding backward again, from the vecinity of mile 13 down to nowhere.

It's not only the running. January brought other assorted setbacks, and I resigned myself to taking it easy and being patient until 2007 understands that it is supposed to be a fabulous year.

Friday, February 02, 2007


I got another massage. Did I say that I work for a salon & spa? I don't get them quite for free, but the price I pay is a good approximation of nothing. I don't take even close to reasonable advantage of it. It's a shameful waste of the possibility on any normal day.

Since my back, stiff as an armor, is far from normalcy, I went for it again.

The massage therapist is a fitness fanatic and did a thorough job. Afterwards I felt as if I had been beaten with a meat tenderizer. Him and the chiropractor had contradictory explanations as to what is going on in my body, but I decided not to be a stickler for details. I don't mind the pain, as long as I can run through it. And I did.

I don't see the backache as a running injury, since it has bothered me intermittently for the last decade or so. But I believe its resurgence, and its vehemence, and persistence, are somehow related to running. As opposed to the pulled tendon back in autumn, I don't feel guilty, as if I failed myself somehow.

I feel it's a good thing. I see this episode - or imagine it - as a clearing process, as if an intimate mechanism that went wrong long time ago gets straightened out now. As if an old imbalance, maladjustment, tension is loosened, flushed out, eliminated.