Monday, March 19, 2007

I now know what a hamster feels like

When the BAA (Boston Athletic Association) originally planned the date for the Boston Marathon they clearly didn't take into consideration that training for the marathon would require running through some of the worst weather of the year. Runners who live in northern New England and who are first time Boston Marathoners may find it a cruel joke that in addition to finding time and energy to to run 35-50 miles a week they have to face the challenges of 3 months of winter weather that would make a polar bear think twice about going outside.

One might suggest that the Boston Marathon application come with a disclaimer that reads something like this:

In addition to paying your $200 entry fee for the privilege of running "the" Marathon, you are responsible for finding your way to the starting line in the remote town of Hopkington (where the roads will be closed in the wee hours of the morning), and determining how any extra clothes you wear to the start to stay warm in the hours you wait for the start will make it to the finish line in Boston (we recommend you leave them behind in Hopkington where they will be collected and given to those them need them).

You also recognize that running a marathon is a strenuous event and will require months of training at 30-50 miles/week (your mileage may vary), numerous 15-18 mile training runs (followed by ice baths), hundreds of pain relief tablets, several pairs of expensive running shoes (you can buy cheaper ones but budget for more pain relief tablets and add in some doctor visits). Given the requirement to train through the winter months, you may face running in some extreme weather conditions including snow, driving rain (sometimes frozen so that it stings when it hits your face), icy roads (it helps to train behind the sanding trucks), 50+ MPH winds (good practice for running in place), and sub-zero wind chills (be careful to chip the frost from eye-brows to avoid running into parked cars or street signs). Runners should also practice "safe running" including wearing bright clothes, headlamps if running in the dark, and reflective vests and flashers (although these will make better targets for the occasional beer cans from passing cars).

Despite all this, there will be 10,000+ runners at the staring line in Hopkington. And the amazing part is that most of them have already run a marathon to qualify for a race number in Boston and would not blink a frosted eye at the above description.

So what does this have to do with Hamsters? Last Saturday was my scheduled day for a long run. You may remember from my last blog that I'm running a bit behind in my training and there is little flexibility in the schedule, so every long run is critical. So early Saturday morning I wake to 8-10" of slushy snow, high winds, frozen rain and a forecast that it will turn to rain over the coming hours. My mom didn't raise no fool (although Pam would debate that at times) so off I headed to the YMCA to do my long run on a treadmill. 15 miles. Over two hours.

Long runs outside offer the pleasure of breathing the fresh air, experiencing the changing scenery, and exploring new neighborhoods. Treadmills have the unique benefit of allowing you to count the number of tiles in the wall in front of you, experience the coming and going of numerous recreational runners and to stare at a display that constantly reminds you of the slow progress you are making. A long run on a treadmill is clearly an un-natural act. Even the treadmills agree...they shut off automatically at an hour and you have to restart them to continue (this could be me Hamster Wheel Gone Wrong ).
I have a renewed sympathy for hamsters that are kept in a cage with just a hamster wheel. I pledge if I ever get another one I will buy it one of those habitrail habitats that can be reconfigured to keep it entertaining.

BTW...the above should in no way reflect negatively on the BAA. They do a great job organizing one of the most logistically challenging races in the world. It's one of the charms of the race that it is not like all the others.

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