Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Running update.

I don't write about running much any more, primarily because I haven't been serious about it for a few years. When I was in Rome I ran quite a lot but only raced three times in the two years that I lived there, so I did lose a lot of the psychological focus which I found so essential to racing well. I'm still struggling to get that back, especially with the other important developments that have transpired in my life in recent years.

I signed on for the Memphis Marathon a couple of weeks ago. It's been six years since my last long race in Richmond--where I was in the best shape of my life and hoping to run 3:05 or thereabouts, yet stumbled in with a disappointing 3:15. I came lumbering down the last hill nearly bent in half from fatigue and felt a lot of remorse, having run just a few seconds too fast for each of the first 17 miles. My poor old ma was pretty shaken up to see me in such cruddy shape.

While I don't think I'll come close to either of those times, I'm eager to see how things shake out, and I'm especially excited to see my old friends. I haven't been back to Memphis since 1998, I suppose, and I do miss the folks there---some of the best friends I have made in life. 

I started an 18 week training schedule last week and immediately found myself with a small setback. My right calf—nothing serious, and I do have many months to go before the race (it's December 4, so I guess I still have about 16-17 weeks to prepare). I suppose I'm lucky that it's only my second month of training, but it's maddeningly typical. Just as things begin to improve I invariably have to take a little break to heal from some muscular annoyance.

The orthopedist seems to think it began with my piriformis syndrome problem. The piriformis is a small muscle embedded deep behind the gluteus maximus. The muscle often becomes inflamed in runners and ultimately causes terrific pain when it presses on the sciatic nerve. . I have a tough time driving for even five minutes due to sciatica—a literal pain in the ass. But my piriformis problem seems to have waned over the past few days and it's been replaced by a nagging pain in my right calf when I run as little as 1/4 mile. I tried heading out tonight for a nine-miler at dusk, but had to turn back.

Rest and ice. Massage, I guess.

Anyway, back to my long distance, bipedal aspirations. I'm really chomping at the bit to race again. While I'm pretty humbled by my current running companions—a group of guys I run with on Thursday nights—I hope to be able to keep up with them soon. They're great rabbits for me to chase, and while I may not catch them anytime soon, I've got to give it a shot.

It's been a while since I allowed the compulsion to overwhelm me. While it may not sound like a lot to some people, I ran six marathons in two years and I got pretty ground down by the training. My body and mind went through noticeable changes. My brain, and my way of thinking, changed. I began to consider almost everything in terms of time and distance and—if nothing else—I finally became able to do simple math in my head (you hear that Mrs. Updyke, you draconian bitch of a first grade teacher?). Most importantly, I had precious little energy for studio work. I spoke with a colleague about this phenomenon, and she agreed that she finds it impossible to divide her attention between athletic and artistic endeavor. For me, it felt as if the same reservoir of energy was available to both, and running drank the well dry.

I'm of the belief that if you're going to run 26.2 miles you should have a good reason, and for me the reason was always to fully appreciate the limits of my body by running that distance as fast as I was able. All told I did fairly well during that stretch of adulthood, and I'm sorry I took something of a break from it because there's a lot of catching up to do. 

I'll get there.

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