Saturday, August 23, 2008

And Then There Were Two

Since I’m slow and fat, I am going to do what is expected of us slow and fat runners and bitch about the weather… but not that much and not right this second.

Man, I have a dozen and a half things to talk about today and being that my mind ain’t quite right just yet – 16 miles in heat and humidity will do that to a person – it's going to take a while. But I got nothing but time friends. Nothing but time.

Actually, I have around four hours or so before I actually have to motivate, but whatever. I suggest you settle in.


So before I tell ya’ll about running 16 miles in direct sunlight when it’s 80 some odd degrees outside and the humidity is around 80 percent, I need to revisit the previous topic. A little rehashing if you will. A few days ago, Lindy showed me this. Then last night as I was eating my dinner of champions (a Red Baron frozen pizza – no wonder I’m slow and fat), I read Roison’s post, which makes note of some of the particularly harsh comments on the Tribune blog, which were made by “fast” and “in shape” runners about the “new,” the “slow,” and the “fat.” As Roisin correctly points out, there’s a lot of hate out there. A lot of hate.

It really got me thinking, which is not something I like to do.

I mean, let’s get real folks. Why do these runners believe that it’s not OK for “people like me” to be out running a marathon? Sure, I’m not new anymore – I have four half marathons under my belt, a triathlon, countless shorter races, and one big fat DNF (I’ll let you guess which one) – but I’ve been there. I get it. I don’t necessarily think that people should get off the couch and decide that a marathon is the best idea for their inaugural race, but who am I to judge? I went from one 8K – that nearly killed me – to a half marathon – that nearly killed me. I get that sometimes if you can’t run faster, you run farther.

So, I’m not new. I've left size, actual numbers if you will, out of my blog for years. The truth is, I am overweight, which is not something to that’s fun to admit when one is nearly 5’6” and size 10. In my world, that doesn’t sound “fat.” But by every measure, I am. I know some of you (hopefully) are going to be all like, “Lou you are not fat; you are fabulous.” And I am. But seriously, this is reality.

You know what else I am? Slow. I’m not the slowest, but I am planning to run this marathon at 13 minute mile pace, which will (God willing) get me to the finish line in under six hours. Yes, I would love to be faster. But Boston is nowhere in sight, and there’s a good chance it never will be for me. And right now, it’s not about that. I put in my time; I put in my miles; I do my long runs; I know my limits. Why am I any less deserving than a seven minute miler?

Wait. There’s more.

When the whole Chicago Marathon debacle when down last year, and Meg and I were stopped at mile 16 and forced to forfeit our race, I really focused in on my experience running that marathon. The lack of supplies, the hellacious conditions, the heartbreak in knowing that the medal I have from the Chicago Marathon 2007 really doesn’t mean what it should. Yes, they gave all of us medals. Finished or not. And while I can sit here and make an argument that every single person deserved one, I can’t seem to bring myself to hang that medal up with the eight others I proudly display on my bookcase. Newsflash, those of us who DNF are harder on ourselves about it than any of these “fast” runners ever could be. Just FYI.

Two days ago, I showed MM the Tribune blog, and I realized that never before had I heard about what he experienced during the 2007 Chicago Marathon. I mean, he finished, end of story. Period.

Not so.

He said to me, “Lou, the reason you did not have water is because of me.” What? Huh? How is that possible? MM, please elaborate.

“I went through every single water station and took six to seven cups of water and dumped half of them over my head because I was so hot.”

Well, of course he did. And so did everyone else at the front of the pack. I mean, that’s what the race organizers said the runners were doing. So, I suppose this isn’t “new” information. Not necessarily. But then it dawned on me. Clarity. MM was hoping to run the marathon 3:45:00 before all the “oh shit it’s going to be nine million degrees” stuff happened. He’s fast. And he continues to get faster. He solidly runs under an 8 minute pace. He went to one group run with me and ended up leading the “faster” runners from the 7:30 group under pace during the second half of their 10 mile run.

No one would look at MM and suggest that he shouldn't be out there. He’s not a slow runner. He’s not a new runner. He’s not an out-of-shape runner. And despite that, he reacted to the weather and the conditions of that race exactly as I did. Even though I was minutes, eventually hours, behind him, our bodies wanted the same thing – to be cooled off and appropriately hydrated. He slowed down. Way down. He ran nearly an hour off his intended time. Which is approximately two minutes slower per mile. And guess what, that’s about how off-pace I was too.

To the fast runners out there, I ask you... Seeing that my body reacts to severe weather conditions the same way a faster, fitter, more seasoned runner’s body reacts, how is there a case that I -- or other slower, fatter, newer runners -- was ill-prepared for the conditions? And, why on earth does it matter if I’m behind you? Just because it's going to take me longer to finish? Just because I could stand to drop 10 pounds? That, my friends, doesn’t make any fucking sense.

And seriously, if I’m not out there bringing up the rear, who are you – you bitter, hot shot, “fast,” runners who don’t think you should have to share the road – going to be better than? How else are you going to be in the top half or the top twenty percent or whatever number it is that makes you feel like you’re entitled to spout off about the rest of us who are out there just trying to reach our goals? No one. Why? Because you’re not a freaking elite athlete. You may be good, but you’re never going to be that good. In the scheme of Kenya, you’re actually pretty mediocre. So deal with it. Climb your mountains. PR under 3:00:00; qualify for Boston, whatever makes you tick. But let me climb mine in the meantime.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is, Shut the Fuck Up.

That said, "those" runners are probably (I hope!) a small percentage of all runners, slow and fast and in between. They are also probably the same people who don't want to see slower, fatter people in the gym or certain bars or in their general line of sight or whatever. They are, if nothing else, losing the race to be a decent human being. MM is not one of those people. When MM found out that I was a runner he was thrilled to meet someone with the same desire and discipline to go out there and race. He wasn't all, "Wow. That's great you are trying to run at your size." He didn't see me as a "big" or "out of shape" runner, he just saw me as a fellow runner. If not a little slower...


Today the CARA 12 minutes or bust group led and populated solely by yours truly, had a 16 mile run at 6am. I gotta tell you, it was hot. It was humid. It got a little ugly out there, and everyone looked like they were suffering. There I go again, being all fat and slow and bitching about the weather.

But wait. I wasn’t alone. The woman I caught up with during last week’s run said she’d like to stick with me, if that’s all right.

Well sure it is. I mean, I had mentally prepared myself to run alone and on some level was almost looking forward to the solitude, but it’s hard to turn down company when you’re starring a four hour run square in the face.

It actually worked out pretty well. Her running experience, including getting stopped at mile 16 of last year’s ill-fated marathon, is eerily similar to my own. I was super chatty the first half of the run which made it go by quickly. We were stopping at every water station, we were keeping hydrated, but we knew, turning back, that getting home was going to tough.

You know what the tough did?

They walked a few extra minutes after every water station. They rationalized that they only needed to get to the next source of water and they never looked ahead further than that. They turned up their iPods. The “tough” created mantras like, “What would Lindy do?” and “What would RBR do?” and “What would Iron Misty do?” Those runners would keep going, so that’s what we did.

It was a hard run. But it was also a battle well fought, and honestly, I would in no way consider this a bad run. In fact, like last week’s run, I am amazed that I made it through, but unlike last week’s run, I still felt pretty strong toward the end. Tired, yes. Hot as hell, yes. But my legs were not as spent as they were the week prior. I guess the biggest “win” during this 16 miles was the feeling that my head is finally in the right space. With only six (HOLY HELL!) weeks of training left, I fee like I’ve finally wrapped my mind around all of this and I’ve grown and accepted truths and I’ve torn myself down and rebuilt and I’m stronger for it. I am ready to tackle 18 miles in two weeks. I’m all, “Bring it on,” and shit.

So yeah. It’s all good (do the kids today still say that?).

One anecdote from today's long run. Now, forgive me, I'm not trying to overdrive my point... but... as my companion and I were trucking along the path, a group of runner's passed us. You've seen them... a pack of runners, all male, practically sprinting, six across, not a shirt among them. Now, granted, they are often nice to look at, but on this particular day, I recognized one of them as they passed. Hey, I said to my companion, see the guy with the tattoos on his shoulder blades? She did. That guy, I continued, can't swim one lap of a 25 meter pool. That guy was in my beginner swim class, and he was totally nice and I'm not calling him out in any way. He was a veteran marathoner, a Boston-qualifier, etc., ad naseum. But he couldn't swim to save his life... uh... literally. And this guy, this incredibly athletic, lean dude was signed up for his first triathlon. Now people, do you think any of us slow, fat triathletes would look at him and say, "Hey buddy, if you can't swim, get out of the lake!"

Food for thought. Ummm... food...

One final note and then I’ll end this blog to end all other blogs… I am shocked and touched by the outpouring of generosity from my friends and family. I never expected one email asking for donations to help PAWS Chicago would get me so close to my goal, but I am only about $50 shy of $600. I am also thrilled that so many of you sent me photos of your adorable pets, many of whom are rescues. PAWS is a fantastic organization, and more deserving pets will find homes because of your gifts. In addition, I do believe people also give to support the runner, and I’m happy that there’s so many of you out there who believe in me and my ability to run ridiculously far.

I’ll be dedicating a post to all this business when I reach my goal, but I wanted to say a formal, preliminary HUGE THANK YOU to those who have given.

Because this blog is totally formal and shit.


Roisin said...

That was truly inspired. And I'm so glad I just read it because I've been feeling terrible since I got home. Well said! We have every right to be out there, and are working just as hard, if not harder, than a great deal of those "fast, skinny" people.


Kendra said...

You know, the group I train with doesn't have any of that going on. I think because its all volunteers. Not a single pace leader gets paid to go out there with us and help us drag our bigger butts around the lake. They do it because they love it, and I really think that is one of the many reasons I've stuck it out so long. That and I'm afraid if I stop Lou will fly down to Dallas and kick my ass.

I know when I finally get to the half marathon, some of those runners could lap me twice before I ever finish. But running is really all about me, and if they want to bitch about me being out there they can. I'll just turn up my (illegal) iPod and smile.

Justin said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the race organizers screwed up. The more we runners snipe at each other, the less we can expect from future marathons.

As long as the slow runners line up in back, they're not hurting the elites & elite-wannabes. And as long as race organizers take contingency plans seriously, we're all better off.

Congrats on the 16 miler. I wimped out, doing mine tomorrow.

MMG said...

first, i don't think you are fat. second, even if you were, fat and and fit are not mutually exclusive which you make so totally obvious with the fact that you are an amazing distance runner/tri-athelete. running ONE marathon is on so many people's life "to do" lists (mine included)--a goal that's often not met. i consider your four marathons pretty inspirational.

oh yeah, and that anecdote about the guy who couldn't swim is what i'm going to think about next time i run and feel all down on myself for being "slow."

Lindy said...

I am soooo glad to know I'm not the only one still stewing and figuring out how to mentally deal with all that crap. I've been angry all week.

What an inspiring read, Lou. If I weren't so tired, having slept about 5 hours last night, and working non stop to help put on a fabulous baby shower for my sister-in-law, (and I just got home at 10pm) I might have something more creative or inspiring to write back with.

For now, I will say: Go Lou! Go Lou! Go Lou!

heidikins said...

I know I've told you this before, but that isn't gonna stop me from telling you again: You are my running icon. I won't even be Kenyan or race in Boston, I need something more achievable...and in my mind, that's you. You're just gonna have to live with it.


erika said...

Another terrific and inspirational post, Lou. When I was out there this weekend under those horrible conditions, and I was half-running-half-limping along those last couple of miles, I let those comments by the elitist ass-heads get into my head and I was seriously doubting my abilities to tackle something as difficult as a marathon. I was thinking that I did not belong out there. But thanks to you and the other 98% of the real runners who are encouraging, inspiring, and continue to do your thing without giving a shit as to what those jerks have to say, I know that I'm going to get through this and be just fine. Run on and keep blogging!

Jaime said...

great post. not that people should just go out there and run the marathon without training but I love that the Chicago marathon has people of all shapes and sizes.

RBR said...

Point 1: You are by NO MEANS fat. I have seen the photographic evidence, you are smokin' hot.

Point 2: Your man is smokin' hot. Ok, not really a point related to this but I felt it needed to be said, cuz he is! But we all know, smokin' hot men date smokin' hot women. (See how I turned that around? Now I don't look like a creepy old lady lusting after your 20-something man)

Point 3: You rock! Again, not really related, but true.

As for your editorial on Mr. Dickhead LA Runner's comment:

Beautifully said. Truly, fucking, beautifully said.

Because a formal blog such has yours, needs readers that leave classy comments.