The last time I didn’t spend the summer marathon training was 2011. At the time, I was underemployed, waking up all July long to drag myself to Staten Island, and just basically trying and failing to date. That was my whole entire life that summer: try to get dates and watch nothing really work out.
That fall, I was convinced to give the marathon a shot the following year, and then you all know how the next 7 years went.
Last November, literally during the middle of the NYC marathon, my legs cramped hard because of a muscle imbalance and a weak core, and I decided right then and there that I needed a year off, hoping that would magically erase the damage I had built up in my body.
Well, that’s not really how bodies work. My core is still weak - I think due to an old, old, old back injury, itself due to not taking care of myself in college, and lately due to not focusing on core muscles like I did for the sake of vanity back in 2014-2016 - and so I still have some aches and pains. If I were actually running in a few weeks, I’d probably still start with too much effort and run myself into a wall by mile 20.
Ultimately, I was planning to take a single summer off and get back to it next year. BUT THEN… it turned out we are having a child, so I don’t think next summer will be the best time for 20 mile training runs (though I won’t stop running; I can’t be losing all my fitness and then have the energy to take care of a child). So I think winter 2021 will be my tenth marathon, with less pressure though still lofty goals to motivate myself.
But my lord, as much work as marathon training is, it’s weird not to have that as a guiding star to orient oneself. I’ve been doing this every single summer and fall, and although I took it to some unhealthy places, the way I developed as a person and a runner in that time is pretty remarkable. I was still Party Boy Not Dealing With His Stuff before this all started, and I come out of the marathon-every-year era an impending father and an eventual holder of a doctorate, and also a person much healthier inside and out. Running wasn’t the only reason for my changes (surely a certain spouse comes to mind, as well as friends, family, and professionals), but it has been a throughline, and because I’m a big weirdo, it was the marathon and its immensity that first convinced me to take running seriously. So not being a part of it this year has been very strange, and frankly pretty boring.
I thought, once I ran a few races, running would be the top priority in my life forever, and while that was never realistic, it’s still interesting to note this transition into running just being some thing I do for fun that I enjoy and am still very good at. I don’t need to live and breathe the sport, nor will I ever discard it. There’s still nothing like race day, and I expect to have one comeback top year at some point in the future.
This year has been odd, and next year will be odd but I won’t notice what with the parenting and all. So in a way I’m glad I had this one summer where I get to just think about how far I’ve come with running’s help, and for once, I don’t have to go to Staten Island and DO THAT to myself. It’ll be weird to just cheer, but it’ll be nice, too.