Some of my friends think that my plan to run a marathon is crazy. Maybe they’re right, but not for the reasons they think. To me, the crazy thing is doing Cycle Oregon just one month before the run. To meet this goal, I need help. I need a coach. Fortunately, Mac’s wife, Dr. Pam, is able and willing to offer her help. She’s Coach Pam to me now.
Coach Pam sent me e-mail earlier this week:
You need to check out the Portland Marathon training clinic. Don’t purchase the training program, but note the free run schedule at the bottom — these are awesome and I strongly urge you to go as often as possible. Note that they start this weekend, but you only have to go 4 miles. They have a lot of leisurely-paced groups, so don’t be intimidated. Note that if you don’t start now the runs will quickly get ahead of where you may be at.
I was skeptical. I had intended to adhere pretty closely to the advice in The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, and it doesn’t have you begin training until 16 weeks before the race. (Today is 26 weeks before the race.) But Coach Pam — and everyone else I talk to — has been encouraging me to start sooner rather than later. I decided to give it a shot.
I’ve been running once or twice a week during my Body for Life aerobic sessions. These runs are only twenty minute at a time, however, and focus on intensity intervals. I run about two miles per session. Today’s training clinic run was scheduled for four miles. Could I make it that far?
I almost didn’t get a chance to find out. Last night I began to come down with a cold. I woke with a nasty sore throat and a runny nose. I felt like staying in bed. I forced myself out of bed, however, and drove downtown to the meeting spot.
I felt out of place right away. Most of the people seemed to be experienced runners, clothed in fancy reflective running gear. They were lean and taut. I am not. But as each pace group departed for its run, the crowd began to look more and more like me until all that remained were other beginners, all dressed in beginner’s gear. “I can do this,” I thought.
We began running. Slowly. It seemed we were almost shuffling in place. “Maybe I’m in the wrong group,” I thought. We made our way to Waterfront Park, and then headed north along the seawall.
The slow pace was awkward. My feet hurt a little. My nose was running. I didn’t like the way my keys jangled in my pocket. I was lost in an internal world of self-analysis, full of whiny complaints, when the young woman at my side struck up a conversation. “Have you been running long?” she asked.
“I haven’t,” I said. “I’ve only just started running. How about you?”
She told me that she had begun running during the winter, and had been gradually building up her distances. She ran five miles in under an hour last week. “What do you do for a living?” she asked, and I told her about my web sites. I asked about her job, and learned that she’s a lawyer working with farm workers in Eastern Oregon. She’s moving to Portland in a few weeks, however, and will soon be working with farm workers in Hillsboro. She told me that she recently returned from The Netherlands. I mentioned our trip to London and Ireland last summer. She and I both expressed admiration for New York City. She asked me about my philosophy on credit cards.
Before I knew it, the run was over. We’d completed the four miles in exactly an hour. That’s a slow pace, I know, but it felt good. “We only went at 80%,” our group leader told us. “That’s intentional,” she said. “We want to keep it fun.”
It was fun. “I guess I’ll see you again in two weeks,” said the young woman I’d been chatting with.
“I guess so,” I said. As an afterthought I added, “My name is J.D., by the way.”
“My name is Mavel,” she said.
Though I’m a chatty guy with people I know, I’m uncomfortable in groups, especially groups where I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m glad Mavel struck up a conversation. It helped to pass the time, and it made the run seem like fun instead of a chore. I’ve never really understood the value of exercising with a partner before, but after just 60 minutes today it’s perfectly clear.
I’ll be back for the rest of the marathon training runs, every Saturday morning at 8 a.m.
Addendum: My friend Leo completed his second marathon last weekend. Way to go, Leo!