When Trish and I were in college in Laramie, Wyoming she got hooked up with a rough crowd. A crowd that thought running a marathon seemed like a good idea. Your first marathon is always the toughest, and the idea that she was going to run 26 miles was completely new territory. We were both athletes in high school, and were aware that people ran these things all the time, but actually doing one yourself is a completely separate ordeal altogether.
How do you train for a marathon? A subscription to Runner’s World seemed mandatory. They publish “how-to 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, etc” articles throughout the year. Oh good, they have a training program for the marathon. The race selected was the Boulder Backroads Marathon. This was circa 2001, we are both from non-athletic families in small communities where you were a novelty if you’ve run a marathon and there existed no frame of reference for these things.
The idea that some races are harder than others, had never been discussed.
A marathon is a marathon and only crazy people run them. Turns out that the Boulder marathon is quite hilly. And a lot of it was on gravel, too. Nowadays, we have enough experience and frame of reference to know about what an average marathon finish time looks like, and if the average time is skewed north, as it was in Boulder, you know it was a harder race.
Trish has always been fit and has always cared about her health. She comes from a family who doesn’t, and it is admirable that she holds these things dear. Marathon training, and training in general, have evolved quickly as more and more people do them. 15 years ago, our friends at Runner’s World were all about the LSD. Long, slow, distance. Over the course of 16 or so weeks, Trish and her friend progressively ran longer, and longer and longer distances around Laramie. We’d have to plot out where to leave drinks and such.
Again, there is a learning curve to these things. We’re a little more adventurous with the training at this point. Bring money, hit a Minimart or something. Long runs are an adventure. When you aren’t training to win, you can have fun with training.
We didn’t know that in our early 20s. Marathon training was very, very serious. Long runs. Rest days. Some tempo work, sorta. But the long run on the weekend was the big one. You had to get that run in. I think the marathon program from Runner’s World included a long run of 20 miles or so. God, there are few things in life as boring as a 20 mile run, all by yourself, around town.
6 miles this way, 10 miles that way, etc, etc.
Now that we have GPS watches and the like, you can have a bit of an adventure with it. One time, during a TDY (temporary duty assignment) to an Air Force school in Montgomery, Alabama, I did a 20ish mile run around Memphis, Tennessee. The GPS watch was the only thing that got me back to my motel along the banks of the Mississippi. It literally had a setting that would point toward your starting point and give a distance to that point.
These watches didn’t exist when Trish was training for Boulder. Long runs had to be planned out and steps had to be taken for safety and nutrition. I was a powerlifter in those days, and there was no way on Earth that I could go with her, even if I worried about these attractive, young women while they were out running around the mean streets of Laramie, WY for hours on end. Obviously it was all ok, and most of my worry was misplaced.
The day of the race arrived and Trish was radically overprepared, compared to the level of preparation we’ll go into a similar race with in our late 30s. Hell, I’d run a marathon tomorrow if I needed to. I wouldn’t PR, but it would be ok. Not an event either of us are ever going to win, anyway. Eventually, you realize that maintaining a decent level of fitness and a healthy sense of adventure can be as good as it needs to be.
She had multiple long runs above 18 miles prior to Boulder. She was ready. I grabbed a buddy to crisscross the course with me throughout the day, waving and cheering at strategic points throughout the course.
If we are at this point in the course at about this time, we should be able to see them. Then, if we are at this point, we’ll see them again. Points and times were adjusted based on their progress before the final intersection was at the finish line, 26.2 miles later. We were there and ready.
I was very proud. This was an enormous accomplishment. Neither of us had ever run a marathon or anything longer than track practice in high school, really. She was beaten up, but she conquered the Boulder Backroads Marathon.
Now, an interesting feature of the race that year was that it was sponsored by Guinness. Like the thick, dark, heavenly Irish stout that just sounds AWESOME after running for 4 hours, right? Jared and I patiently hung out at the finish area until it became clear that none of the runners were going to touch the free Guinness. We didn’t run, the beer is not for us. We waited until it looked like we were the only ones interested before cautiously approaching the beer tent.
We drank. A lot.
None of the runners were drinking any of the free beer, stout is just a little too much following a marathon, so they were happy to have someone willing to help with the excess kegs on site. I don’t think we got too twisted, but we certainly weren’t sober, either.
That was the big one. That race. I like to pretend like I’m adventurous, but many of my great adventures are built on the accomplishments of others.
Trish showed me that marathons are possible.
My brother showed me that basic training was doable.
I see people do things and think, “if they can, I can at least try”.
I’ve built my own adventures over the years, too. Beginning with a Buick Park Avenue. After the accident, I set out to prove that I was alive and capable of all the things I used to do. As it happens, many of these new adventures ally much more closely with things Trish is interested in than that summer where Powerlifter Russ watched Trish run the first marathon in our relationship. I started running and biking.
Cardio Russ was born. After the Buick, I entered the Leadville 100 MTB, the Bighorn Trail Run 50k, The Governor’s Cup Marathon… 2007 was a busy year after the trauma of December 23, 2006. I think I was in a C-collar still and already entered in these events. My insanity leap-frogged Trish’s, and some of these were things in which she was unwilling to play along. As time has passed, she’s realized that I’m a prophet and she should always do what I tell her to.
Crossfit. Spartan. Tough Mudder. And on, and on.
She’s more capable than I am, really. I get by on the strength of the advantage which accompanies the inherently elevated testosterone levels afforded by my Y chromosome. But she’s tougher than I am. I know it.
15 years ago, Trish used a marathon prep program pulled from the pages of Runner’s World. Workouts were written down in a journal after they were accomplished. LSD. Boring.
Now, we do things that make the Backroads Boulder Marathon look like a casual afternoon with the kids. Nobody loses much sleep over long runs. We drink Kool Aid at the Crossfit gym. I make Trish do silly and bizarre things like running in a weighted vest.
I tell her that an obstacle race with the “couch to 10k” crowd will be a drop in the bucket if she is accustomed to doing a Dayne Dyer-authored Crossfit WOD in a weight vest. She’s discovered the difference between going and going HARD. If the standard for an event is that you put one foot in front of the other and you are used to doing that weighted and close to vomiting? Life gets a lot easier, doesn’t it?
It has been a couple years since Trish hung up running and the strider at the gym as her primary physical activities. She was the queen of the strider, though. That particular piece of gym equipment exists so overweight people can feel like they are doing something while saving the body all consussive impact. But Trish would just annihilate the thing. She’d murder it. For naught, because they are worthless, but she’d sure make it look impressive for an hour or so at a sitting.
I was watching her while we were running this week. Her legs have changed since she quit the treadmill/strider and started doing Crossfit. She didn’t used to have muscle tone between her thighs and calves. The slope and angle of her legs from hip to ankle was very continuous, without definition. It is hard to really describe. Now, she has thin, muscular thighs, a knee and thin, well defined calves.
I’m sure she could go destroy the strider if she were so inclined, but I think could go full Hulk on it and just throw the piece of shit across the gym. She needs power cleans, not the playthings of the obese and New Year’s Resolution crowd.
It all started with the marathon in Boulder. Between the two of us there have been mountain bike races, triathlons, road bike races, Crossfit comps, obstacle races, mud runs, marathons, half marathons, ultra marathons, 5ks, 10ks, turkey trots, Shamrock runs…
It all started because Trish decided to run a marathon.