Flashback Blog: Run Through the Pain (Training for the Marathon, Part II)
Originally published on the original kessel korner at blogs.starwars.com/kesseljunkie on Oct. 8, 2005
Let me tell you a story about training for the Marine Corps Marathon (again). It’s a tale of woe, of determination and of strength.
The back-story: On Monday, 3 October 2005, our boy goes in to get two moles removed and tested for cancer (we think it’s cool, just being cautious). Lots of blood. Eight stitches total. Pain.
Since the stitches can tear, the doctor tells me not to run for a few days. “But I’m training for the Marine Corps Marathon,” I say. “I have a 24-mile training run on Saturday, I can’t run without buildup.” Ah, but the stitches could tear.
I remained at a standstill – the wounds are taking their damn time closing, and it hurts to move at all for a few days, one of the spots being on the side of the neck where it joins to the shoulder, and the other on the back. It was tough enough sitting properly – not to mention typing, which as Web Manager is a fairly integral part of my job.
More back-story: the Washington DC area is essentially a swamp. We’re on dry land by the grace of God and the whim of the river. A popular tale is how the Washington Monument was initially sinking by .5 inches per year.
So Friday rolls around. It starts raining. A lot. The Washington DC area has been on a drought-like rainless streak since 28 August, and it looks like Mother Nature is going to work overtime to make it up in one day. On the drive home, the wife and I pass the trail starting point for our training run.
Needless to say, 14 hours of continuous rainfall on a parched area leads to flooding. As we passed the trail, there is one part near the start – visible from the road – notorious for flooding. It was ankle deep, at least.
“Oh my,” I exclaim. “How are going to get past that?” Wet feet are the enemy of the runner. It leads to blisters, chafing and a general discomfort that can really harm your mind-set (and your legs) on a long-distance run.
“We’ll run off the trail, closer to the road,” replies my lovely wife. I point out that it’s flooded all the way to the road. “Well, we’ll see,” is her response – the only truthful one either of us could give.
Earlier in the week, I was selected to lead a group of runners from our pace group on a different “split”. We do a run/walk method for the marathon – it helps you recover quicker, it’s easier on the body and it helps make sure you keep your wind. It’s a long-term method developed as part of the Jeff Galloway program. Our group usually does a split of 2 minutes running, 1 minute walking. I was to lead runners in a 3/1 split.
This, and the rain, played with my head all night. I couldn’t get to sleep. I finally hit the sack at 11. The air conditioner broke overnight. My wife woke me up at 2 a.m. (which made me very cranky) to see if there was anything I could do about it. Nope. She never fell asleep again. I awoke at 4:00.
We walked outside and immediately were greeted by a rain that was one part monsoon, one part “itty-bitty stinging rain” as Forrest Gump would say, and one part de-motivator. We talked about how if we had a gym membership, we would have done the treadmills for 24 miles, screw the rain. But, there’s no guarantee it won’t be like this on race day, so what the Hell – train for every eventuality. We were awake anyway.
We went to that point where we saw the flooded trail (Southbound, if you’re curious). The water was shin deep. Our group turned and headed North – the water was one factor, the fact that the rest of the trail would have been likely flooded worse to the South was another. We would have to run five miles, turn around, and repeat the process until we racked up the requesite miles.
My sub-group split off 1.75 miles into it. We were on-pace, undeterred by the weather, and even decided to go out a greater distance, so that we would only have to do the process twice. It was a great call.
We ran through puddles. We ran through mud. We ran by a homeless guy sleeping undernearth the 14th Street Bridge. We ran through torrential downpours, we ran through shin-deep spontaneous ponds(turns out they were unavoidable, and everywhere) . We ran under planes as they took off from National Airport. (side note – if ever you visit DC, go to Gravelly Point – you are literally directly beneath the planes as they just take off the runway – or just as they land, depending on how they adjust the patterns in the wind).
We stayed strong.
We whittled from five to four as one runner’s knees started to hurt 14 miles into it. We whittled to three as one had to drop from a bruised heel 17 miles into it (she wound up doing twenty total). We whittled to two as one decided to rejoin the original group 18 miles into it- which was running the 2/1 split.
From there forward, it was just me, my wife and our determination. I got cranky as a blister formed, burst, formed and repeated the process on the inside of my right arch. I suffer Sinus Tarsii syndrome, particular to the flat-footed and extremely painful – and the special inserts I wear were virtually worthless when they got as wet as they did.
But we pushed on. I raged at the pain and the weather, going all Sith with three miles to go – I drew on the strength from the anger (it works). Then, I realized I was dragging Stacey down with my attitude, and I focused on keeping us both going through smiles and love. I spoke encouragement to her, and she to me.
With 1.5 miles to go, it really started to hurt. It wa getting colder and cars were splashing the trail. We pushed on. I made up a “cadence” ( those rhythm songs you hear military guys chanting to keep in step):
When Lord Vader was 22
He was a better Jedi than me or you/
When Lord Vader was 23
He was a better Jedi than you or me/
When Lord Vader was 24
Lord Vader wasn’t a Jedi anymore/
When Lord Vader was 25
He was cut in half and stayed alive/
When Lord Vader was 26
He killed more Jedi just for kicks/
When Lord Vader was 27
He sent more Jedi straight to heaven
…And so forth. I’m sick and obsessed, but so are you, so have a laugh and realize it kept us going.
With 1 mile to go I started singing “My Baby Takes the Morning Train”. It cheered us both up. I started to sing some Doors tunes (since I know them in my sleep).
We finished strong, together and on schedule. We kept it together for 24 miles. One more long run in three weeks – the Marine Corps Marathon itself.