Saturday, January 26, 2013

Why? Because I love it.

Recently two articles and a discussion with friends have made me think about the reasons for running. In one article and the conversation with friends, the topic was about running too much. And the strain it puts on relationships. The idea of what constitutes too much varies among individuals of course, but how many Marathons are enough? How many Ultras are too many? Why run multiple Ultras? Is one 100 miler enough? If not, why not? Again, the answer to that question is unique to each individual. The main point was that the body can only take so much pounding. Some will be able to pound their bodies more than others but I believe we all have a finite number of times our joints can take a beating. I don't want to get to the point where I cannot walk in comfort. It is very difficult to slow down though. But it's a must. Especially as we grow older. An Ultra or two a year are what's in store for me now. And probably, not over 50 miles anymore. Of course there will be shorter distance races too! A 10K, a half and full Marathon thrown in here and there.
Why? That's the second article. Why do we run. I enjoy pushing my body. It makes me feel alive. As does being outdoors. Running, I've seen, and felt being a part of,  numerous beautiful sunrises, grassy fields, farms, mountains, hills, forests, deserts, cloudless sunny skies, rain forming clouds, animals, birds, sunsets, bright full moons and moonless star filled skies. And I want to see and feel more. I love the camaraderie and competition that running brings too. I've made many good friends over the years I've been running. And running into some friends I haven't seen for some time is always refreshing. This happens often at races as it did at today's half Marathon in Bulverde,TX.
The day started cool and wet with a slight breeze. Picking up my packet a friend came over to say hi. Another friend I made a few months ago called out my name. I saw and was hanging out with some old friends when in walks Michele. It had been years since I've seen her at a race. We go back about 7 years to a small group of trail runners we ran with.
As this was my first time running this course, Joe gave me some good advice prior to the start, "save something for the end, it gets real hilly at about mile 10."
The race started with a downhill on the slick rural road. Soon my friend Daniel pulled away and I tried to keep repeating Joe's words in my head. The mist in the air at times became heavy but never materialized into a drizzle. At mile 4 we began up a long gradual incline. I could still see Daniel about half a mile ahead. If I can only keep him in sight I'll be ok. Then I thought "Why? Run your own race Tony!" The hills were rolling along farm houses and crop fields. We passed a farm with horses, donkeys, chickens, and cows. Nice! See!, that's the reason I like running.
At mile 8 the real hills began. My pace slowed and I thought about walking one. I waited until I crested it though and only paused to take 4 or 5 steps then resumed running (with Joe's words coming back to haunt me). I was to do this only one more time as I crested the hill at mile 11. I swallowed a gel and took two cups of water from the aid station. While I walked leaving the aid station a girl passed me. As soon as she was about 10 yards ahead I took off after her and fed off her energy until about mile twelve when I passed her on a downhill. I don't think she liked it. Her breathing was harder and she tried desperately to catch me. I was running comfortably and kept an even pace. There's the competition aspect. And honestly, I was eyeing any one who looked to be about my age too. I wanted to place in my age group. Approaching mile 13 fatigue was setting in. I slowed and was passed by that same girl. I tried my best to smile on that last uphill to the finish line. Post race I hung out with Daniel and the fellas. Daniel finished exactly two minutes ahead of me and missed 3rd place in his age group by less than a minute. It was a fun time and I placed second in my age group (50-54) with a time of 1:48:50. Yes, I like the competition also.

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