Wednesday, March 7, 2012

THE RACE: Marine Corps Registration Opens Today at 3:00 pm EST

Six years ago I did something I never thought I'd do...I signed up for my first marathon - the Marine Corps Marathon.  After eight years of running, I'd finally decided to take the leap...

I'd picked MCM because my Grandpa - a Marine in WWII - had passed away the year before.  So I thought, what better way to salute my amazing Grandpa than by running 26.2 miles in "his" Marine Corps marathon...

My mom, her fiance, and several friends came out to support me the day of the marathon.  I remember that it was a particularly chilly October morning and I was layered up.  I'd even had special t-shirts made for my mom and me with my Grandpa's Marine Corps picture on the front.  My shirt said "Papa's Buddie Mike" because "Mike" had been his nickname for me since the day I popped out...

My Papa Norman's Marine Corps pic that I put on the front of my shirt...
It wasn't quite the experience I'd hoped it'd be...I was about 45 minutes slower than I'd wanted and I had horrible foot pain (caused by laces that were too tight) for the last half of the marathon.  But I finished...exhausted and in pain.  I limped my way to the UPS trucks where our gear bags were, which was about 1/2 mile away from the finish line - a part of the event that sucked almost more than the entire race.  There I found my family and friends waiting for me, proud that I'd even finished my very first marathon...

As I laid on a bench waiting for the car to come pick me up, I swore that I'd never do that again....

I was wrong. The following year I signed up again, hoping to redeem myself a little bit.  You know, for a Type A person, "just finishing" sometimes isn't enough...I wanted to do better.

The 2007 MCM was significantly worse in terms of pain.  I had developed what I later found out to be horrible IT band problems.  At about mile 6 when it started to feel like someone had beat me in my knees with baseball bats, I wasn't sure I was going to even finish.  Coupled with that were some GI issues, which forced me to veer off Rock Creek Parkway into the woods (along with about 50 other people) to take a dump...There's no pride in marathoning and you have to just let your inhibitions fly out the window.  I remember using a discarded t-shirt as my toilet paper (there was no way to forego a good wiping) and hoping that no one would come back to re-claim it...

For 3/4 of the marathon I was in dreadful pain.  By mile 22 I was actually in tears, walking a lot, and swearing I'd never do that damn race again...I finished, limped for 2 days, and put marathoning behind me...

Or so I thought...

Obviously doing an Ironman involves, what?  A marathon.  But surprisingly, I wasn't dreading this marathon as much as the other two.  I'd worked for about 10 months on re-vamping my running form, and I felt like I'd really improved.  I'd worked out my IT band issues too. 

Fortunately, my marathon pace for the Ironman was right in between my two times for the other marathons.  Typically, your marathon time in the Ironman is at least 30 or more minutes slower than your stand-alone marathon times, so that fact that my time was right on par with my other marathons, made me very happy.  And aside from just some general soreness from almost 15 hours of pounding, I actually felt better during my Ironman marathon than either of my first two marathons...

So with that minor victory, and encouraged by the fact that my Ironman marathon time was the same as my prior stand-alone marathon times, I decided a couple months ago that I wanted to once again try to redeem myself at the MCM...

Why?  Why do we put ourselves through this pain?  For each person, that's a different answer.  For me, it's not to show other people what I can do or make myself feel worthy.  It's to keep moving, keep improving, keep challenging myself.  Whether I finish another marathon or not has nothing to do with what kind of person I am or how amazing I am.  But it has everything to do with not feeling stagnant. 

When we stop moving, we die.  Gandhi said "continue to grow and evolve." You certainly don't have to do a marathon to keep moving.  But when you've gotten to point where you've done a ton of 1/2 marathons, don't you think it's time to give yourself another challenge?  If you've gotten fairly comfortable at whatever distances you're doing now, don't you think it's time to up the ante and push back into a bit of discomfort?  It's only through pain that we grow, remember? 

If that's not a good enough reason and you're having trouble finding a reason to push yourself to that next level - whatever that next level is - then do it for something bigger than you.  Do it for a charity that you love.  Do it for a loved one that you miss.  Do it to show your kids that their mom or dad will never just settle for what's comfortable.

I decided to do Marine Corps because I wanted to honor my Grandpa.  And honestly, both years, that's what kept me moving.  I remember him telling me the story of how he almost went AWOL one night during basic training, but decided that he needed to suck it up.  So I thougth that if my Grandpa can endure Marine Corps basic training and WWII, I certainly could handle a measly 26.2 miles in his honor. 

So in a few minutes, registration opens for the MCM.  And once again, I'm going to do something I swore I'd never do again...another marathon.  But this time, it's not just going to be for my Grandpa..It's going to be for me.  For me to see how much I've improved and continue to push myself.  For me to see if I can start thinking about how much I'd need to train to someday qualify for the Boston Marathon (and yes, I'm going to keep that hope alive, I don't care what anyone says).  I'm doing another MCM because if I don't keep pushing the limits, someday I'll start to slow down, only to eventually stop moving completely...

Are you going to hit the "register" button on a new goal this year that will keep you moving forward instead of being stagnant?


3 comments:

Jen said...

First, I hope you got in. I saw that it sold out in less than 3 hours.

Second - Yes, this will be the year I push outside of my comfort zone, but I haven't quite worked out the details yet.

This was a wonderful post and something I needed to read. Thanks.

Life Through Endurance said...

Hey, Jen...yep i got in, no problem. I'd also signed up for 10k on St. Pat's Day that give you automatic entry into MCM, just as a back-up. Thanks for reading as always! Good luck working on getting outside your comfort zone this year!! Can't wait to hear what you decide.

Anonymous said...

PAPA'S BUDDIE MIKE INDEED - I AM SO PROUD OF YOU - YOU ARE SUCH AN INSPIRATION!! LOVE YOU!!