Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Spirit is willing but the Flesh is....

...well...Old. Just when I thought I might make it through the training without injury, BANG!...a problem. You start to question it age, or worn out parts, a skeletal deformity, or over training, the way I slept on it last night or maybe just that snow shoveling I did last weekend. Given the flesh is not helping out, I resorted to the Spirit and I'm reading Chi Running. Desperate measures for desperate times.

I refuse to believe it is age (check out marathoner Ernie at age 94. ). One my heroes is Dave McGillivray, a neighbor in North Andover and the director of the Boston Marathon. Dave is about my age and each year when he is done managing this 20,000 runner, 9 city event with the logistics of a major military ground offensive, he drives out to Hopkington and runs the Boston Marathon...mostly alone. By then most of the cheering crowds are gone, the roads are reopened to traffic and by the time he finishes he will have run most of it in the dark. But what impresses me most about Dave is not that he has completed the Boston Marathon every year since he was 17 (although who wouldn't be impressed by that feat) , or the fact that every year on his birthday he runs his age in miles (I'm in awe...that was over 50 miles the last couple of years). What impresses me most is what he has done to turn his love of running and sports into a way to give back to those that need help. This year through Dave's directorship the Boston Marathon will provide numbers to thousands of sloggers like me to raise money to help people in need. In round numbers they will raise over $6 million. The Boston Marathon is not only THE premier marathon, it is a fountain of good will and hope.

But I digress. So if it is not age it has to have something to do with the way I train. Shoes, stride, speed, intensity...maybe all the above. As runners we obsess over these things when we get injured, especially when we have an impending goal...oh, like say the Boston Marathon. Someone once suggested to me...well, if you are injured, just don't's just a race. In a runner's court of law, a response of death by trampling would be consider justifiable homicide.

In truth, training for a marathon can be more mentally agonizing than the race itself. While training you have months of worrying about finding time to run, eating the right things, drinking enough, drinking too much (water and alcohol) and paranoid about training enough, training too much, did I train on enough hills, getting hurt, get the idea. Every muscle ache, every painful twinge sets off a worry about a crippling injury that may keep you from the race. But on race day it's all about the finish line. Once the gun goes off there is no tomorrow, it's all about the next 26.2 miles and the future be damned. I've know runners who broke bones mid way and finished, I've seen runners crawl across the finish line with a smile on their face knowing the next day they won't be able to stand without crutches. Insane? Maybe. There's a question about one's sanity in just being out there...after that it's just degrees (see my earlier blog) .

So I will concede that my problems are not with getting older but rather with the pursuit of youth. For those of you that followed my blog last year this theme may sound familiar to the one titled "Youth is great, too bad it's wasted on the young". I reread it today and was amazed to find how insightfully I had laid out the three lessons I had learned on how NOT to train for a marathon, most of which I have broken this year. Blame it on early stage alzheimers. There's that age thing again.

BTW...if you are interested in a great read on distance events and giving back to the community, check out Dave McGillivray's book "The Last Pick". Inspiring reading. And of course if the Spirit moves you, the link to help me support Lazarus house is


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