Sunday, May 15, 2011

"I am super slow...I am a sprinter"

Those of you who know that I am five weeks out from my next, and 5th, marathon may think this is an odd place for a new beginning. And it is. But it’s a new beginning of sorts for me – I finished my first year of law school two days ago – and, well, when I got the idea for this…experiment…I couldn’t wait to start.

Experiment? Well, sort-of. I admit it’s hard for me to convince anyone that training for my 6th marathon is anything groundbreaking or new. But I assure you it is, because this time…wait for it…I’ve engaged the help of a coach. That’s right, a running coach. And by coach I mean super cool friend/amazing distance runner who I have somehow convinced to spend time developing a plan for me to follow and forcing me to follow it. More on that later.

Because here is the thing: Yes, I have run 4 marathons already…and yes, I am running my 5th in five weeks. But I have never really trained (i.e. followed a complete plan) for one. I have a deep feeling, part guilt, part ambition, telling me that I still have no idea what I might be capable of. I’ve never really gone outside my comfort zone because, well, I hate being uncomfortable. Hate it. Yes, I have worked hard at times…pulled out a few 20-milers and run a LOT of races of varying distance…but I have never pushed myself enough to know what this body of mine might be able to do.

This body of mine. I guess this is time for me to explain the title of this blog. I have a few other distance runner friends who use the fast-twitch caveat…but none with as much gusto as me. This is usually how the conversation goes:

You run marathons?

Me: Yes, (quickly adding) but I am super slow…I am a sprinter. I just find marathons fun but I am NOT a distance runner.

Oh, well that’s still really impressive.

Me: No, I am telling you…I run them really, really slow. Anyone can do it, but I am a sprinter, NOT a distance runner.

Now, I am not solely making excuses…this is, for the most part, true. I am a sprinter. Or at least I was. And I have no doubt that my body is filled with fast-twitch muscles through and through – that is, they are meant to provide lots of power and quickness but not much in the endurance department. So I am a sprinter…yup, I am a sprinter…and the last time I sprinted was…1999. See sophomore year of college. Gulp! Holy crap, really? That fact makes my “excuse” seem pretty lame. 1999. In 1999 most of my law school classmates were 11 or 12 years old, I could go through airport screening without taking off my shoes, I was still engaging thoughts about being pre-med, and I thought that Broadway actors were god-like. A different time indeed. It seems I either need a new/better excuse, or I need to get to work doing something I can truly be proud of.

Over the past few years I have gotten very interested in the sport of distance running as a whole – not just participating, but everything from reading every book I can find on running to watching marathons on TV. Lots of them. Even old ones where the results are known and the competitors have long since retired. I have far surpassed the running geeks I used to make fun of on the high school track team.

I love running and I love runners. And I want to actually feel like I am one of them. Because I don’t yet. Perhaps it is my own sense of self that is the issue…but I think the underlying problem is that I know, deep down, that I haven’t reached my potential or really even tried. So what am I looking for? I am not looking to run some particular time, or pace, or to qualify for Boston. Nothing like that. I am just looking to (a) complete a training cycle and (b) know that I did everything possible – that I followed the plan, that I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, and that on race day, I gave it my all. I haven’t done any of those things yet and I would like to try.

So here I am. I am blogging because, well, I want to be held accountable. I also see this as a bit of a journey and, yes, as sort of an experiment. I see myself as a blank slate. A naturally gifted athlete with a body so meant for sprinting that my performances in the 50 meter dash far exceeded those in the 100 meter dash – and the 200 meter dash was just way too far for me to be successful.

And I won’t be the only one participating in this blog. As I mentioned earlier, I have engaged someone to help me with this journey.

Meet Wendy Miller. Wendy is probably the toughest person I have ever known in terms of what she is willing to push through in order to achieve her goals. She is also an exceptionally gifted writer and it was her own blogging about her running that inspired this entire idea. You can check out her blog by clicking “Girl, Interrupted” or on the left side of this page. (Wendy has many other wonderful qualities/talents…more on those in the posts to come.)

I told Wendy I had this brainstorm – for her to develop a training plan and see what she was able to do with me. My only responsibility is to do exactly what she tells me to do. It’s all up to her to develop a plan…every aspect of it. I am hers to mold into someone I can finally feel comfortable calling a distance runner. Luckily for me, she took the bait.

So here we go! More details on this idea, our plan, my history as a runner, etc. as we go. I hope to also share some fun tidbits, photos, etc. about many people who have been part of my past as a runner.

Our goal race is the NYC Marathon in early November. Our baseline race will be Grandma’s Marathon, my 5th marathon overall, on June 18th.

And as for my fast-twitch muscles? It’s time for them to learn a new trade. No more excuses. No more clinging to my (distant) past as a sprinter. I hope to do a bit of research on the science of it all as well…but mostly I just want to see what my twitchy little buggers can do.

The new journey starts tomorrow. And my goal with this blog isn’t to gain followers...only to track my own progress and document some fun history as well. Oh, and I also like to write about show tunes…a lot. I feel I should admit that up front.


  1. I love it! Having a coach is going to do wonders for your NYC Marathon! I can't wait to follow along...
    Your words are so true. I am still stuck in the "I'm a swimmer" mode, circa... ummm... about 1999 as well! I've had a hard time getting that out of my mind: "swimmer's aren't built like runner's. I don't have the body to be a good runner", but what you wrote is making me realize there is NO excuse. I need to get out there and work hard and become that runner I KNOW is hiding in there somewhere. It's just taking quite a few years to find her. :)

  2. Go on girl! I can't wait to see what you achieve.