Friday, July 6, 2012

Why I won't train for a marathon

It's that time of the year again...

Everyone is training for some kind of race.


Half marathon... Full marathon... Ultra marathon... 5k...10k... 16k... The Fall Classic... The Fall Colours... The Army Run... The Run for the Cure... The Terry Fox Run... Name the distance and the event, and I know at least 10 people getting ready for it.

And they are all asking me the same question.


"Why aren't you training for something? You're a runner!"

It's true. I run. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Rain, snow or shine. With or without daylight. Frigid, temperate or hot and humid. Here at home or away on vacation. I have an iPhone app to keep track of every kilometer and every route. I post about my runs on Facebook. I read running blogs. I spend enormous amounts of time and money in Bushtukah, and get weirdly excited when I hear that they have a sale on. Indeed, the fullest drawer in my closet is the one that holds all of the various layers of running wear that a Canuck girl needs to practice her sport year round in this varied climate. And that says a lot for someone like me who is a seasoned shopper of all sorts of apparel and accessories...

Yet I have never trained for or run a race. In fact, I've never even been tempted to do it. Well, except for that one time I went out to see some friends run the Winterman half marathon, and I got all inspired and shit. But that lasted about fifteen minutes, long enough to see how stiff and sore they became as soon as they stopped running. No, I'm the kind of girl that likes to sit on the sidelines and cheer people on as they cross that race-day finish line, but I don't ever want to wear a number on my back.

My hardcore running friends - the ones that train for these races - kind of don't get it. I hear a lot of this: "We could totally train together!" Or this: "If you can run 12k on a Wednesday morning, you can run a half marathon!" Or my personal favourite, this: "Look, you are already running 25k a week anyway. What's another 20k!"

The truth of the matter is that I hate the idea of racing.

Mainly, I hate it because it has become too mainstream. Everyone is doing it these days. Everyone. And not just the people who love to run. People who hate running, have always hated running, and will always hate running, but who have just got the idea stuck in their heads that everyone is doing it, and if my co-worker Tom can run a marathon, well then dammit, so can I! If I took an informal poll, I would not be surprised to find that "running a marathon" is on a whole bunch of bucket lists.

Now don't get me wrong. I think everyone should challenge themselves. Hell, I'm the girl that took up bodybuilding. Which I can say, with an abundance of confidence, is the most physically and mentally draining (not to mention psychotic) sport out there. So I get it. But why does everyone have to pick running as the challenge-du-jour? The non-conformist in me can't take it!

And then there is the fact that I am, by my very nature, a fiercely independent person. I don't need the energy of a crowd to propel me forward. I need my headphones and my iPhone app reminding me that I am seconds away from beating my own PB - set last Monday morning at 5:45am - to motivate me. Other people just kind of get in my way, and ultimately, on my nerves...

And I need alone time. Which is what running is all about for me. It's time to think through crunchy work or personal life problems. It's time to blow off some steam after a bad week at work. It's time to clear my mind and concentrate on nothing other than the feeling of a strong breeze on my face. And for me to truly enjoy all of these things, I have to be alone.

Well, not quite alone.

The Beast, of course, runs with me these days. Running, after all, is why I chose such a high energy breed. Because while I don't want human companionship with me when I'm out there pounding the pavement, even I can admit that it's nice to have four-legged company. And a little protection on cold, dark mornings.

And therein lies the real reason that I will not train for a race. Because of the Beast. Odd as that may sound to my running friends.

Here's the thing. The Beast has gotten used to our 3-x-a-week run dates. Dare I even say that he likes our run dates. Running is, after all, a much funner pace than boring old walking. More importantly, he needs these runs. I am firmly convinced that one of the main reasons that Hubby and I have turned most of his behavioural issues around is because of all of the physical and mental exercise that we give him, and running is a huge part of that. It calms and soothes him.

Now if I started training for a race, the Beast could run with me for a time, but eventually, I'd have to start leaving him behind. Like when we start creeping up to distances beyond 10-12km. Which means he'd start losing out on his run time with me. And frankly, I'd start losing out on my run time with him. Which at times is the happiest part of my day.

And then there is the increased likelihood of injury. The more kilometers that I run each week, the more likely it is that I injure myself. This isn't hypochondria talking. This is experience. I am one messed up and injury prone lady. From my hip flexers, to my groin, to my hamstrings, to my IT bands, to my calves, to my Achilles... My lower-body is more than a little messed up. I don't want to mess it up more. Because messing it up more means that I have to take time off running. And taking time off running means that the Beast has to take time off of running. And neither of us is ever happy about that.

The fact is that I want to be able to run when I am 40, 45, 50, 55... So I don't want to burn my body out now by training for race after race after race. And Fergus doesn't want me to either. Because he wants to be running by my side for as long as his joints will allow it.

I know this to be true. You would too if you saw the smile that breaks out on his handsome little face whenever he sees me tie up my running shoes and strap on my water belt. Or if you heard his excited panting as he patiently sits by the door and waits for me to get going on our run. Or if, midway through a run, you saw how he looks up at me with his big brown eyes full of love, waiting to see where our adventure will take us and just genuinely happy to be out with his Mom.

I didn't fully appreciate just how much Fergus loves to run with me until yesterday. After spending two weeks at the border's while Hubby and I were on vacation, Mr. Beast was literally exploding with excitement when I was getting ready to take him out for our first post-holiday jaunt. Like a Mexican jumping bean, he was incapable of sitting still while I put his leash on. When we got outside, he nearly pulled me over as he took off at top speed down the street, ready to feel the breeze on his face. As we approached the Arboretum, he started to bark excitedly, practically drooling as I let him off his leash to run free through his favourite place on earth. And when we got home, he drained his water dish and contentedly flopped over onto his side on the cool, ceramic floor, basking in a post-run glow.

Who am I to take that away from him?

More importantly, why would I want to take that away from myself?