"If at first you don't suceed, you can always become an ultramarathoner" Bruce Fordyce
Apologies to Alyssa - but, that one was too funny to pass up. Fordyce is one of the most decorated ultramarathoners - having won the famous Comrades Marathon (90 km) 8 years in a row.
It made me think about how one becomes a distance runner in general. I was cut from my middle school baseball team in 7th grade - a friend of mine convinced me to run on the track team. Baseball was my favorite sport to watch - the Detroit Tigers won the World Series when I was seven years old - at that age it leaves an impression. But, I couldn't hit a baseball - that seventh grade year was when reality finally hit me.
I played soccer throughout grade school - I think I was actually pretty good - but, I wasn't into it enough to stand out. In basketball I just barely made the "A" team my 8th grade year - I also played volleyball and wrestled my 8th grade year. I was marginally good in all those sports except for wrestling - where I sucked. But, in 8th grade I ended up winning the mile in the Ann Arbor city wide meet in 5:08. That success pretty much sealed what I would do in high school and college.
In college I found that I needed to go all the way up to running 10k on the track (26 laps) before I could win anything. The odd thing about post-collegiate running is that the marathon is king - and it's not my race. Using my 10k time from college I should be able to run about 16 minutes faster than my PR in the marathon. Even if I had started training for the marathon right after college at 22 years old - I don't think I could have run that fast. My body just isn't made for it. So, what am I doing training this hard for something that's not really "my thing"?
For one - the major marathons are incredible events. People from all walks of life want to be a part of them - people will scream their heads of for hours on end for complete strangers. It can be transformative for people who never thought of themselves as athletes and yet find the way to finish one. As a runner, you are used to racing in front of family and friends - but, the New York or Boston marathon gives you the chance to be a part of a major sporting event. You can find 10k's or half-marathons with thousands of people - but, it's not the same.
After a few more marathons I'll probably focus more on 5k's to half-marathon's because that's where I could probably be the most successful. But, while I'm still at an age that I can run a decent marathon - I want to see what I can do. I'll never run a 5k or 10k faster than what I did in college - but, I can easily PR in the marathon. The question is how much?