February 2, 2023

An Update On Running

This post was prompted by the great return-to-independent-publishing movement that has been echoing throughout my internet circles. While I've kept this blog online for years now, it feels nice to refresh it and to share something that's been important to me, especially over the past year.

I have never been a strong—or even very consistant—runner. I hated it in high school and only took it up in university as a way of relieving the stress of homework and tests. The city where I went to school (Windsor, Canada) had a long park along the riverfront which it made it quite easy to get into. I made quick improvements, as young bodies are apt to, and enjoyed the process and the solidute. I started to like it enough that in 2006, I ran in a 5k event in Toronto, just for myself.

The author in 2006, post-5k race.
My brother snapped this blurry photo of me, the only evidence of the race.

My time was something around 25 minutes. Nothing stellar, especially for my age group, but it felt like a big accomplishment at the time. Not too long before, having to run the mile in high school was one of my nightmares.

I kept up the running after I moved to San Francisco, but it was pretty on and off. I ran the wonderful and manic Bay to Breakers event a couple times, but there were month- or even year-long stretches I would go without running. I didn't really start training again until I moved to Portland and decided to run the half marathon distance in the Portland Marathon in 2017. I had already done 3.2 miles and 7 miles, why not try the next one up? It took a lot of training, especially in bad weather, but eventually I got there.

The author running in a half marathon event at the Portland Marathon in 2017.
Thanks to my friend Heather for snapping this photo. She finished way, way ahead of me.

Thanks to technology, I know exactly how I did: 2:28, or about 11:00/mi. Again, nothing special as far as numbers go, but it was pretty tough and I was proud to do it. I took a long break from running afterwards. Not because of any specific injury, though I did feel pretty beat up. It was more that I had completed a big goal I had set out for myself, and I didn't feel the need to continue training.

Now, as I march towards the age of 40, my body has been sending me a very clear message: "Use it or lose it, pal." It's never great to feel sore a day after doing something that isn't very demanding, or even worse, nothing at all. I figure that If I'm going to experience pain, it might as well be pain of my own choosing, and pain that results in lesser unplanned pain.

I started running again more consistently in 2022. With my frequent trips back to San Francisco I've been able to mix in cycling as well, as a way of giving my feet and shins an occasional break. I've lost a bit of weight and my endurance is starting to creep back up. The pace of change is radically slower from when I was younger, and while expected, is a bit of a reality check. I've been using "Maffetone"-style training, which focuses on long distances done at very slow speeds, to get my heartrate back to where it needs to be. Its been very useful, as it lets me feel good about putting in a lot of miles without feeling wrecked the following day.

I'd like to run the full marathon distance someday. Maybe this year, maybe next. I still need a lot of training, but it's the obvious next step in my running journey.

Sometimes, late at night, I'll go to YouTube and search for "My first marathon" videos. The YouTube algorithm is dogshit for this, and surfaces mostly asinine matches, but I've found that by sorting by view count and going down a few pages, you can find sincere videos with only a few hundred (or fewer) views. I find these videos incredibly moving: Regular people documenting their tough training days, their mid-race pains. People crossing the finish line with tears in their eyes, family or friends surrounding them afterwards, celebrating the accomplishment of running a relatively absurd distance for no particular reason other than to challenge oneself.

The idea of doing this myself is still foggy. For one, my ability to actually do it isn't yet confirmed. For two, there's logistics: I'm finding it hard to choose a location or time. San Francisco would be a natural choice, but it's in July—too soon—and starts at 5:30am—too early! Same goes for Los Angeles. Seattle's Marathon is in Late November, which I worry would be annoyingly cold. Boston? Way too competitive. New York... can I even get in?

Training without a specific event or even goal in mind doesn't bother me. One thing I've learned through getting older is that the platitude "It's not about the destination, it's about the journey" is honestly pretty accurate. All accomplishments fade with time and being able to enjoy the process of getting there is what matters. I've noticed a corollary to all this, though: The destination may not be the most important thing, but it still helps to have a direction in mind.

The author, out on a run, stopping for a photo with the bridge in cold Portland weather.
Yours Truly, February 2023

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