Monday, November 06, 2006

Lance, the marathon, memories and lessons

Cycling champion Lance Armstrong calls the ING New York City Marathon “the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done”

So goes the lead of the news story on the official ING New York City Marathon website. It quotes Lance further:

“Even after experiencing one of the hardest days of the Tour nothing has ever left me feeling this bad.”

“I think I bit off more than I could chew.”

“Before the race that was my goal, I wanted to break three hours. But if you asked me that with three miles to go, I wouldn’t have cared.”

“Honestly, at the end I was so tired, I couldn’t care. I don't know how these guys do it.”

Lance did break three hours, clocking 2:59:36. He has prepared well for his first marathon, I should say. Just as well as any serious runner should.

I forgot who it was that said this, but I remember the words quite well - "You have to have respect for the marathon."

I learned that long before I discovered blogging, in those early running days. I tried to do my first full marathon with a only a couple or so of 20k runs up my sleeve, believing that more than a year of running 10k's was enough to get me through. Was I wrong!

By the 25k mark, I was dying. My legs ached, I had no energy, I was walking more than I was running. Much as I hated doing it, I had to board the ambulance that picked up the runners that were ready to call it a day.

I repeated the same mistake several years after, in our hometown 20k race. Again, I ran it on only two weeks of serious running. I had been on the on-again, off-again cycle for about a month and a half, but I have all these running experiences behind me, I've run a couple of full marathons, so this wouldn't be so hard. Again, I was wrong.

I took the first half with a fast (by my standards) 45-minute clocking, and was in the top 15 over-all. Then, 2 kilometers into the second half, it struck. I started getting cold sweat and felt goosebumps behind my neck. My pace slowed down, and soon I was in run-walk mode. It was without doubt one of my worst race finishes, one I would rather forget. Yet, I remember, because it is by experiences like these that we learn to become better runners. Pretty much like life.

Yes, you need to respect the marathon. I have been on a bike long enough to know that it can drain you more than a 100-kilometer ride does. There's no freewheeling in running, there's no coasting in a marathon or even in a 10k. You don't move your feet, you stop. There are no wheels that will move you forward on momentum. You just have to keep running, and all that pounding on pavement, all that punishment to your legs and feet -not to mention your quads- will surely take its toll in time.

“I don't know how these guys do it.”

I read those words as being said in awe and amazement. And I find it quite a praise for runners, even for mere mortals -mid and back-of-the-pack plodders- like us.

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