Saturday, April 4, 2009

Brian's Blog: New Habits, Old Friends

Editor's Note: This is the first post of Brian's Blog, by a participant of the Missoula Marathon Running Training Class. Brian will update you on his training until the Missoula Marathon on July 12, 2009.

I’m new to this. Not to running, per se. In fact, some of my earliest memories involve running-- on playgrounds, in department stores, away from the larger boys in middle school. But I’m new to organized running, to running in a strategic fashion that involves calendars and clinics and routes that have actually been planned in advance.

Six or so years ago, I signed up for a 5K fun-run in Minneapolis, a race dedicated to the memory of a recently passed uncle who was a devoted marathon runner. The following year I made a trip to International Falls, Minnesota, to write a magazine article about a 10K that bills itself as the coldest race in the continental US. (It turns out there’s some controversy over that claim, but at -43 degrees on race day in 2005, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.) Thereafter, I started running sporadically and without any real goal. Until signing up for the training class last month, I’ve always thought of running like I think of going to the movies or playing Monopoly—it’s just something to do, and if you do it more than four or five times a month...well, that’s just kind of weird.

It wasn’t until the third time I signed up for a short run that I actually wore shoes. At my uncle’s memorial 5K, I had worn Teva sandals, because they were the only footwear I had that weren’t boots. In International Falls, I wore the boots, because there were twenty-five inches of snow on the ground. Last year, I threw out a beloved pair of four-year-old, second-hand Reeboks on the grounds that, according to my ex-wife, they were both used up and ferociously ugly (for the record, they were neither). I bought a pair of Teva sneakers on eBay because they looked like the sort of thing I could both run in and wear out to dinner. Now I’ve been told it’s a bad idea to wear one’s street shoes during an intensive running program.

Which I don’t get. Training for a marathon (or in my case, a half-marathon) is both profound and personally demanding. And for something like that, you want an old friend by your side, right? Not a new friend. Not some friend who just came out of a box and smells like leather treatment. Buying new running shoes while training for a marathon seems like inviting the new kid to your lunch table right as you’re discussing whether to publicize your crush on Lori McBrier from algebra class. I mean, look buddy, you seem real nice-- and sure, maybe you are a better fit for my gait cycle-- but this is an important conversation, and right now I need to be with people I can trust.

So I guess I’ve got some things to figure out over the next couple months as the training class gets more intensive. What I do know is that I’m really enjoying it, much more than I thought I would. I’m even running the recommended distances on our non-meet-up days, which I had just planned on lying about. I think I’ll tough it out with my old pals the Tevas for the time being, but who knows? If I can learn to love running five days a week, maybe I can be coerced into making some new friends.

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