The Biliousness of The Long Distance Runner

459961623.jpgI decided not to run this weekend, despite the seven-miler dictated by my marathon training schedule. Yesterday, I opted for yard work, and today I’m writing this post. I am not rebelling against the tyranny of my training plan. Rather, I’m recovering from the 23-mile run I referred to in my last post. I wrote that I was sore from the run, but I understated my suffering. For example, I failed to mention that I barfed.

Training for a marathon requires long training runs, and the philosophy of marathon training to which I adhere says you should run the full distance in training before you run in the actual event. This is not the most common training regimen for marathons. It’s more typical to train up to 20 miles, but I couldn’t imagine adding six more miles – approximately an hour of running – during the event. No amount of adrenaline could sustain me that long. So, I suffer through 20-plus mile runs in training to build up the requisite mental toughness.

The last five of the 23 miles were excruciating, and I seriously considered quitting after 20 miles when I reached the entrance to my neighborhood. My wife had responded to my phone call for help and met me on the street with a bottle of water. I chugged it and thought deeply about how easy it would be to walk to my house and lay down, but I persevered. I had three miles to go to get back to where I had parked my truck, and I wanted to finish. Over those last three miles, I walked more than I ran. I was queasy as I crawled into the cab of my pickup and headed home, where I put the spareribs on the grill before getting in the shower.

With the water pouring over my head, washing away the salt, sweat, and stink, I considered what I should eat to help settle my stomach. Apparently, my body was not in the mood to eat anything. Instead, I threw up. In the shower. Lovely. It was mostly water. The only solids were the cheerios I ate before I started the run and the craisins I ate at mile 22.

A lot of people think running a marathon is a little crazy. When I tell them what’s involved in training for one, they are even more convinced I’m mentally ill. I imagine hearing that vomiting is a possibility raises the question: Why would anyone do this? In defense of marathons, I should point out that throwing up after a run is not normal for me. I’ve been running for more than 20 years, and this was the first time I felt the need to barf at the conclusion of a run. But, I admit, the whole marathon training process is a little nuts.

I was pondering that question this week, and I recalled a documentary called Why You Do This about an extreme metal band in which Mike, the singer of Car Bomb, explores the question, “Why do we play a genre of music that virtually no one wants to listen to?” I love finding connections between my hobbies, so I’ve been thinking about the links between metal and marathons.

First, I am a proponent of doing cool stuff, and I put extreme metal and marathons in the “cool” category based on the somewhat exclusive nature of both. Extreme metal is cool because you have to be passionate about it to even bother; you can’t be a casual performer or fan of it. In fact, it’s among the most physically demanding genres of music, not unlike the marathon. Running marathons is similarly exclusive. According to the interwebs, only half of one percent of the population has run a marathon. It’s a lot of work, and, odds are, you aren’t going to win the race. You have to be committed to the running itself. Here are a couple things to keep in mind if you’re going to commit to the marathon:

  1. Take it seriously – I was beginning to take double-digit miles for granted. My training had required many 10-plus mile runs, and I forgot that 23 miles is a long way. It might even be far enough to be considered going on vacation. In addition, I was thinking about getting the ribs on the grill by 1 p.m., so the run wasn’t my whole focus. I was thinking beyond the mile in front of me, which was a big mistake.
  1. Don’t change things too much – I’ve changed my long run routine by adding a cup of coffee before I go. The last time I trained for a marathon, I didn’t drink coffee – to which I am addicted – before long runs, and by the time I got home from a three to four hour jog, I had a screaming withdrawal headache. Since drinking a cup before I run has worked out so well, last Saturday I thought I’d try adding a bit of food to the mix. I never used to eat before a long run, so I tried a bowl of cheerios and milk in hopes it would stave off the hunger pains in the later miles. Based on how nauseated I felt during the last few miles and the evidence in the shower, making a big change to the routine didn’t work out well.
  1. Redefine success – As I said, I considered quitting after 20 miles, but I decided to finish at all costs, even if it meant walking. I felt good about that, even prideful. It was ugly, but I did it. If I hadn’t finished, I would have been annoyed at myself. Running a marathon isn’t about coming in first, unless you’re from Kenya. It’s not even about running; it’s about perseverance.

I won’t be running today, but I have been listening to some extreme metal while writing a blog post, and I’m going to grill later. If I can get through it all without throwing up, it’s going to be a good day.

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