Saturday, March 26, 2011

4 Years of Motion

(Mile ~45 at the Vermont 50 - 2009)

I am not a runner.

Let me rephrase that.  I don't think that I was meant to be a runner, or born to be a runner.  I don't run fast, or efficiently.  I probably over-pronate...or under-pronate.  My stride is most definitely wrong and I likely don't breathe at the right times.  I still run in big bulky running shoes and not trendy "fingered" footwear.  I am a rather old fashioned runner, despite the latest crazes or what the latest "scientifically backed research" tells me I am doing wrong.  I'm not up on the latest technology and still wear old beat up shirts that I got free at some race.  I don't have some deep seeded passion for running that "I've known since I was s child" and there have been many times that I would have rather done something more fun than go on Tuesday afternoon 6-miler or a Saturday 18-mile long run.

There are some people though, that are runners.  They just are.  Some of those people, the most elite, can run 5 minute miles, finish marathons in 2 hours 15 minutes, finish the Leadville 100 in 17 hours, and have VO2max values over 75.  I am not one of those people, and pending some sort of insane change in my life dedications...probably could still never be.  I'm just not wired that way...the elite athlete way.  I like to think that I was more wired to be a true passion of motion.  Despite all of this though, I still run.

Over four years ago I set in motion what would become a new way of life for me.  I had succumbed to lifestyle of familiarity and comfort.  A lifestyle that didn't involve any real "motion".  I was stagnant on so many levels.   In 2007, I changed this in one fell swoop with what seemed a ridiculous and impossible goal: To hike the 2175 mile Appalachian Trail...all at once (a thru-hike).   After 3 and a half months of walking, I stood at the northern terminus sign with an incredulous look on my face, and a feeling inside that I hadn't come close to feeling in a very long time.   I vowed to not lose that feeling ever again.  I remembered having it when I was younger, but somewhere along the line...lost it.

When I started a new graduate school program that fall I went through the motions of classes and work and that feeling started to fade again.  That Christmas, I sat across a table from an old friend back in my home town.  We traded stories over a few beers and he told me how he was training for his first marathon.  I remember thinking that I ran cross country back in junior high school...maybe I could try to run a marathon.  It felt like it would be a tangible goal.  Something I could work towards while still in school, and perhaps regain some of that feeling that had started to wane again during the previous busy semester.

So I did....and I'm telling you this, because as cliche' as it sounds....if I can do it, so can anyone.  There are dozens of great marathon training programs out there.  Me...I used a slightly modified novice Hal Higdon program.  This type of program is an 18 week long build up routine with a few step-back weeks built in....and it really works.  I went from not having run in over 10 years, to completing a marathon in under 4 hours.  A lot of people have asked me how I trained, or what program I used...below is an example (this is the intermediate program that I'm doing right now, similar to the novice, only stepped up a bit).

     I sit here now some 4 years later and realized that since taking that first step on Springer Mountain back in 07, I haven't really stopped moving.  I haven't stopped trying to keep that feeling alive inside of me.  Training for and running races, hiking long distances, and wandering off to various places is one sure way that I know how to.  

The reason I bring all of this up, and have written it down, is because I was sorting through all of my running photos in iphoto today....and realized all of the different running memories I've begun to accrue. I remember when I graduated from college years ago, my parents got me a Dr. Seuss book..sort of half jokingly.  The book was "Oh the places you'll go".  I like to think that this was the first little message telling me to keep moving

After finally sorting all my pics, I found several that when I looked at them....I could remember the exact and specific emotion I was feeling the moment the picture was taken.   Like I said in previous posts on here, I write a lot of these entries so that I don't forget things.  

So as a reminder to myself, john, here is why you should always keep moving...

When you feel like you're losing that forward motion, re-read this post, and remember that feeling you had when...

Finishing that first marathon you trained so hard under 4 hours
(Pocono Marathon - 08)

Knowing you were going to finish that first 50 miler
(VT 50 - 2008)

Actually finishing your first 50 miler
(VT 50 - 2008)

Starting your first "repeat appearance" at a race
(Pocono Marathon - 2009)

Knowing you were about to start a beautiful and insanely 
muddy course that was actually a "training run" for the VT 100!
(Finger Lakes Fifties - 2009)

Making it to mile 76 in my first 100 miler and getting
to run with my first Pacer
(Vermont 100 - 2009)

Not believing that you just finished your first 100...and in under 24 hours
(Vermont 100 - 2009)

Running in the one race that I wanted to be a part of 
more than any other single race...and feeling ecstatic.  Especially
after being told by doctors only a few weeks before the 
race that your foot was probably broken.
(Leadville 100 - 2009)

Actually finishing the Leadville this day the one running
achievement I still can't believe.
(Leadville 100 - 2009)

Running and finishing the Rochester Marathon 20 years after dad did.
(Rochester Marathon - 2009)

Knowing you were there for another playing a part in 
helping a first-time 100-miler cross the finish line
(Pacing at the Oil Creek 100 - 2009)

And of course, do not forget...
Stepping off of that plane for the first time in West Antarctica
(WAIS Divide - 2008)

Finishing the your first Alpine Thru-Hike
(Colorado Trail - 2008)

Finishing the Impossible
(Pacific Crest Trail - 2010)

And of course....lastly....
How it all began
(Appalachian Trail Completion- Aug 15th, 2007)


Carri Fegyveresi Westbrook said...

You rock!!!! You are my idol. I wish I had the motivation that you did - you should be very proud of all the stuff you have accomplished in the last few years.

Sara Montgomery said...

Cool list of things to look back on. I smiled at the finger lakes mud caption...Ah the muddy memories. Sometimes it is amazing to look back on things and in retrospect be in awe about pulling them off.

Oh and 'not a runner'...whatever!! ;)

Boris T said...

Very cool list of accomplishments, I think you are a runner indeed. We all are, just many refuse to see it.

Eliza Ralph-Murphy said...

Run John Run!!: )
I was going to write something poignant but I was suddenly reminded of Forest Gump. Love that movie.

You are lucky to have a sister like that, be nice to her you dorkus.

OK here is the poignant part- When I tell myself that I am not a runner it is the same as telling everyone who is behind me in a race that they arn't runners either. You usually finish pretty well in your races so are saying that the people behind you aren't runners either. You BASTARD!! Just kidding; ) But really we all do it. Tell ourselves we aren't worthy of the title. Quickly to wrap up I went snowshoing with Sara last year and she turned to me and said, "Don't do what I do I am just a hack". This after she had snowshoed her way to victory in the 3 day 135km K-Rock Ultra. Snowshoe Sara Snowshoe!!

Lakewood said... you make feel bad :-(

I guess what I meant was more that I'm not what I would consider a "textbook runner" or a "natural runner" like others who just have a natural affinity to it (or are genetically predisposed to it)....but, I am one who runs. If that makes any sense. I didn't mean to imply anything about those in front or behind me in races.

...and yes sara is an animal :-) I couldn't imagine snowshoeing that far. But maybe that's my problem. I need to start imagining more.


oh..and I put quotes around "runner", as it seems more appropriate that way ;)

Sara Montgomery said...

EJ, The woman who came 2nd in my race at R&I ran a 18:30ish 5k a few months before. She would have deee-stroyed me epically over that distance. I didn't mean to dis myself saying hack, it's just that what I do isn't optimal for focusing on speed over 5k. I wish it was, 5k's are cool. I'm glad I hit a couple of decent ones before I switched focus, now it seems an impossible pace for me. Did you know my first 5k was 29-something? We both carved a LOT off our times, I think that is great.

Eliza Ralph-Murphy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
UltraChris said...

amazing, john. i got choked-up just reading this. it's good to remember and great that you have such awesome accomplishments to remember. keep it up, man; you're inspiring!

Wendy said...

Yay! Great post.