Goodbye, Fat-Scott. Hello, Marathon?


So, with this posting, I am happy to announce that I have successfully completed my first 5k, and it feels awesome to complete this milestone.  

Honestly, over the last few months, I was debating whether running a 5k was a good idea, with the marathon target in mind.  This will certainly not come as a surprise, but I am not someone built for speed.    At 6’1” and 200 plus pounds, coupled with two extremely precariously built knees, I was not designed to sprint.

At the same time, I have discovered along the way, that my sheer stubbornness along with my ability to shut down my brain for extended periods of time (the longest of which was my first bout of college – but that’s a different post), make me better suited to tackle mileage rather than pace.    I may not be fast, but I am sure that I can, with training, tackle some pretty hefty distances. I feared that focusing on a 5k, would shift my attention to speed, and in the end leave me with some new gimp, hurt, or sprain.  

When I first started running, a year and a half ago, I had 53 more pounds of belly, and couldn’t make it from my front door to my mailbox without retching. During those first few weeks of running, my goal became a 5k.   There was something magical about the 5k, that had me believing that once I officially completed I could call myself a runner.  Before that moment, I was merely a fat guy trying to exercise, as these before and after pics attest:

BEFORE:

(Fat Scott, at “Cheeseburger-Cheeseburger” after consuming 1½, 20 ounce cheeseburgers…  Note chins, chubby face, and belly (despite my best attempts at gut-suck))

 AFTER:

 (Skinnier Scott, Pre Run…)

Overtime, completing the 5k took less and less importance.   As my mileage started to creep up to 30-40 miles a week, and I was running at least a run a week of greater than half marathon distance, the goal of a 5k slipped off the radar.  Yet, when I saw the poster for the Run, Walk, and Roll 5k to benefit my neighbor, I figured I had to run it.

(Please check out Kelley’s Cause at http://kelleyscause.com)

Funny thing was, that once the week started, I found myself getting more and more stressed out.   I am still not quite sure why as running three miles is considered an easy night of running for me.   Sadly, there was a part of me, deep down that keep screaming out; “Scott you will screw up”.   That little voice said you won’t finish, and you fail dramatically and very publically.

I started to wonder, what if I don’t finish?

What if I was really fooling myself with all this running stuff?

What if I really screw up?

The night before the race, I woke a couple of times,…until finally….I said to myself, Scott get a grip.  I told myself that there would be no way that I would not finish that race.     That seemed to work to ease 80% of the anxiety, but that remaining 20% was still rather loud.

So on the morning of the race, I awoke early and was eager to lace up my shoes.     As I lined up for the start, I took a deep breath and I reminded myself that I would finish, and I wouldn’t screw up.   

So in an instant, 100 people started running….  And low and behold…what did I do??    I SCREWED UP.

I started too fast.   I got lost in the adrenaline and started at about 2 minutes per mile below my  regular start pace.    As I hit the one mile mark, and what I thought was going to be a rather unthreatening hill, the full impact of my horrific start smacked me right in the chest.

My breathing was out of control, and because of it, my muscles were screaming.   I felt the pace slow, and I kicked myself for such a foolish rookie mistake.   Open up any Runner’s World magazine, and the first piece of advice,…don’t get lost in the adrelanine and start too quickly.    I started too quickly and now that monster of doubt started to creep in.

Due once again to that stubbornness I mentioned earlier, I thought I could simply slow my pace to something more normal, control my breathing, and not give to much up to those behind me.    At 1.5miles,  I was a almost 4 minutes better than my P.R., and I was dying.

In the way of a bit of back story, my running has become something entirely unexpected for me.   Running has become devotional time.    Running, over the last year and a half, has become a regular time for not only clearing my brain of the static of an incredibly hectic lifestyle, but also for prayer and contemplation.    When I run, I have been known to craft sermons, mentally work through the theological dilemma of the day, and even enter into quite lengthy conversations with God.

When I find myself facing a wall on a longer run, I find myself tuning out of the world around me and entering into a new, more spiritual place, where I forget about the aches and pains, and focus on communion.     Over time, I have learned to employ some mental tools that seem, without fail, to get me to that very place. In between gasps for oxygen, I have often found myself reciting scripture, singing hymns, or delivering the Lord’s Prayer with such vigor that I would make a Zealot cry.

As I was gasping air on Saturday,…  I remembered.    My favorite running verse immediately came to mind.   I said it out loud.    I said it out loud again.    I said it a half dozen times.     It is Hebrews 12:

Let us put aside all that entangles, and run, with endurance, the race before us.

I have heard it said that the perfect pace for running is one that can be maintained when you can do so while keeping a conversation.   I learned the truth of this advice, as I recited Hebrews while running down Park Avenue. As I slowed my pace, my breathing returned to normal, and things opened up.

(Note:  Saturday also saw a very effective running truth quickly morph to a great theological one and perhaps a sermon in the making;   The perfect pace for any race (be it a run, or for the race of life in general) is one that can only be maintained while keeping in conversation with the Big Guy.) 

I finished 38th, smack dab in the middle of the pack, and I walked three inches off the ground for the remainder of the weekend. 

I also realized a couple of things along the way that will pay dividends for my Marathon/Half Marathon challenge in September, or that, at the least will come in handy for future races.

  • Control the adrenaline at the start of the race.   Starting off too quick will kill.  Although I felt like Scott Jurek at the start, I soon ended up feeling like old Scott at mile one.
  • Close my mouth when crossing the finish line.   I looked like a gasping largemouth bass in running shoes.
  • Pay more attention, and be more deliberate in my stretching – In an absent minded stretch, I heard a pop in my right knee.   Although it didn’t stop my run, has since swollen up and has kept me from running over the last few days.
  • Sometimes a 5k is not 3.1miles, but 3.1-ish.   Concerned about the time, another runner reran it, and found it to be 3.5 per Garmin.   I have clocked it at 3.4 via MapMyRun.    When I saw my time I was disturbed, but have become  less so after realizing the delta.
  • Sometimes there are better boosters than vitamins.  Sophie at the mid point in the race cheering for Dad, (She stood outside our house, which was at mile 1.7), was more of a boost than any supplement ever could be.

Happily, with Saturday’s run I say goodbye to Fat-Scott, Cheeseburger-Cheeseburger, and my 5k Goal.   

Now,…   In the immortal words of Shakespeare:

“Let thy knee cease its swell, and bringeth forth the 26th”

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1 Comment

  1. You are an inspiration Scott!

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