Friday, November 14, 2008


The stuff I’ve been reading lately – the 2 books I mentioned Monday, as well as some Dr. George Sheehan – has talked a lot about the pain management side of running. This has me thinking back to my TCM performance. Afterwards I said I was pleased with my race. However, when I think about it from the pain management aspect, I can’t help but feel like I took the easy way out. With any marathon things are bound to get tougher towards the end – that’s a given. And while that was the case at TCM, thinking back, it seemed like I was dealing with discomfort, not pain. Even though I was passing 60 people during the last 10K, I can’t remember thinking about digging deep, making things hurt a little more, pushing myself to my limits, etc.

Here’s what Sheehan had to say in Running & Being about a similar performance;

You may have seen my name in the Shore Marathon results; “69th, George Sheehan, 3:18:32.” Not bad, you might think. Not a bad place, with 235 starters. Not bad for time, about midway between my best (3:02) and my worst (3:33) serious efforts. You might think that. And you would be wrong.

Because it was a marathon without tears, without pain, without distinction. It was a marathon that I am ashamed of, a marathon I would like to forget. It was a marathon that proves there is a point where prudence becomes timidity, where caution becomes cowardice, where respect becomes fear.

The 26.2-mile distance tends to make all runners prudent, cautious and respectful. “Anyone,” said the great Percy Cerutty, “can run twenty miles, but only a few can run the marathon.” That extra six miles changes the game from penny ante to table stakes. Your entire physical bankroll can dissolve in a matter of minutes.

The runner knows that no matter how he feels at any particular stage of the race, disaster may be waiting for him at the twenty-mile mark. This makes the marathon a chancy and risky business, where the initial pace can be all-decisive. Too slow and you have a poor time; too fast and you may not finish. So those even more timid sometimes use the first seven miles to warm up, and thus change the marathon into an ordinary twenty-mile road run.
Now I’m not going to go so far as to say I’m “ashamed” of running 3:05. But looking back, I wonder if I was too timid and turned the marathon into “an ordinary twenty-mile road run.”

Here are a couple of updated Team USA Minnesota journals; Chris Lundstrom, Meghan Armstrong, and Katie McGregor.

Quote of the day;

“Members of the endurance subculture grow so close to the subject they lose sight of the vastness of their achievement. Without thought or even the barest of acknowledgement, they pass through mental and physical boundaries on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the public stands in awe.” – Mike Plant, author of Iron Will


Evan Roberts said...

When you run lots of marathons you're not going to run them all in the same way. Sometimes you have to do it differently.

If I recall before TCM you were unsure about your fitness, thought you'd crash and burn etc etc. So, perhaps you left a couple of minutes out on the road. But watching from afar it seems you regained confidence in your abilities and love for the sport by executing well on the day. That sets you up well to take more risks next time round.

Anonymous said...

You've just convinced my I've got to get off my but and finally read Sheehan's stuff. About 6 months ago I ran my 3rd best time in a marathon. Friends and family were happy for me, but deep down inside of me I know that it was fear that kept me from running better. I think that after you run a few of these things you learn how to run them relatively painlessly. That quote points out that to run your best you have to be willing to go to that dark place inside yourself. I think after you've been there, it can be hard to go back.

Chad said...

Evan, yeah I don't need to be talked off the ledge or anything. While leaving a couple of minutes on the course wasn't that big of deal, what if it would have meant the difference between a sub-3 or a PR? I don't want to get into the habit of being overly cautious.

If nothing else, hopefully I little soul searching makes for a more interesting blog.

anon, I find that Sheehan's stuff is really over my head or it really hits home. There are pages I'll read where I don't know what the hell he's talking about and then all the sudden I'll come across something like I quoted with this post.

Running & Beyond is one of his earlier books. I remember really enjoying Did I Win? and Going the Distance too.

Anonymous said...

I believe this is why the long pace runs of over 15 miles during training and a hard 20 miler the day after a short race are beneficial. They are difficult and yield similar characteristics of the marathon. The true test for me is the last 3 miles which is just plain torture. You can train to 20, mimic to 23, but those last three eat deep into the reserves. I would tend to not train that deep into fatigue as one may compromise the true training.

I begin feeling fatigued at about halfway. The trip from there to 20 is a continual reminder to trust the training and remind myself that I have done this. Twenty to 23 takes complete focus. It is a difficult stretch and one has to find a way to not crack. This is why at 20 I always do a gut check and evaluate my finish stategy. I don't ever have much to recommend to people past 23 because it is pure pain management. Do the best you can and deal with the issues you are having. Cramping, blisters, heat, racing someone, wind, bad hammy, whatever it is you have to get point to point. I've been at 25.5 and wondered if I was ever going to get in. It is so easy to lose everything you have worked for over this stretch. If this makes sense, you have to actually crawl inside your brain and manage all the working components from there.


Anonymous said...

Great comments! I would like to know how many 20-23 milers, would you recommned during marathon training. I'm curious becuase I tanked my last marathon after mile 20...just couldn't run. Thanks

Chad said...

Double, more great comments. I'm going to start cutting them out and pasting them into a separate blog since you won't start one yourself.

Anon, if you're asking me how many 20-23 milers is appropriate, I think a lot of it depends on how experienced the runner is. Someone just running their first marathon will probably only run 1-2 20 milers. Whereas, I probably run anywhere from 4-6.

I guess 1) you have to know you can cover the distance and 2) you can't wear yourself out.

Anonymous said...

I'm no blogger. I have difficulty putting what is in my head appropriately on paper. Besides, it would severly cut into my 2 hours of Scrabble training I do about everyday. Which I'm about ready to pull back on because people take forever online to spell a simple word. Play the game. I'm all for doing the best you can, but make it somewhat tolerable for the guy on the other side of the board. Pretty similar to runners one deals with online. In fact if I changed about three of the words in the last few sentences you would swear I was talking about running.