I’m old. Not I-voted-for-Abraham-Lincoln old but I used to play LPs . . . and 45s . . . and 78s. And I remember being broke for an entire weekend on more than one occasion because I failed to get to the bank before it closed on Friday.
I began running nearly 30 years ago quite by happenstance. I had worked at the UCLA Medical Center during my college years – yes, Bill Walton was on the basketball team but he was a senior in my freshman year – and some nurses invited me to run the Westwood 5K with them. It sounded intriguing and I almost said yes but then I thought, “OMG (present-day, hip text lingo), what if I can’t run 3 miles without stopping?” I passed on the race but it nagged at me for a good week or so. I had been a swimmer and water polo player in high school and I had rowed for UCLA Crew during my sophomore year. I was also an avid backpacker at the time and I had been backpacking with some of these same people. Surely I was in better shape than they were!
A few days after the race I went down to a local high school, climbed the fence after dark and ran 25 laps on the track (in 48 minutes, no less). OMG, I could run! (LOL!) That was in November 1982 and I’ve been running ever since. I ran my first official 10K less than two weeks later and I ran 10Ks on the next two weekends after that. I also ran them in blue OP corduroy shorts, a red t-shirt and yellow Nikes but they seemed fashionable at the time. A couple months later, I had such bad shin splints I could barely walk but who knew in those days that you needed days off? I’ve learned a lot by trial and error.
The following Easter (1983), I showed up at my family’s house having run 17 miles from my place in Torrance with no food (or GU or Cliff Shots or Sports Beans) or water. Three months later, I ran my first marathon. It was the Palos Verdes Marathon (in the days when the Palos Verdes Marathon was actually run in Palos Verdes and not in San Pedro), and despite the hills and a base of less than 30 miles per week with no long runs, I finished in 3:39. I am an hour slower these days – there is simply no substitute for youth in training – but I am still running and Los Angeles will be my 68th marathon.
I will expound on Heather & TEN and my history with the Hirshberg Foundation in future blog entries but first, here is some of what I’ve learned in my many years of running.
- Think of long races as scavenger hunts. There are 26 markers hidden on a marathon course, 13 in a half marathon and 6 in a 10K, and in between each two markers is not a mile but rather an arbitrary chunk of time. Each chunk of time is different – a different length even – but if you just relax, keep moving and make the time pass, the markers will magically appear on their own. Find them all and you’re done.
- Don’t compare yourself to the runners around you or in front of you. Compare yourself to your friends and neighbors and the population at large. Most of them would be hard-pressed to run three miles, let alone 13.1 or 26.2, and you’ll be ten miles down the road before most of them are even out of bed.
- Listen to your body and take a break from time to time. Rest days are some of my most important training days (and some of my most enjoyable).
- No one sleeps well the night before a long race so make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before that. A nap the afternoon before your race will also get you off your feet, rest your legs and help compensate for the sleep you’ll miss that night.
- Lastly, race the way you train. If you typically have a beer or wine with dinner, it’s okay to do the same the night before your marathon. Moderation is they key unless of course you’re a raging alcoholic (or me).