Thursday, September 1, 2011

28 and Counting

How many marathons have you run? Most runners keep track of this number. It usually comes up in conversation when you discuss your running with runners and non-runners alike. It's hard to keep a count of the various half-marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks I've run. The same holds true for sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. However, I do keep a count of the 70.3s and the one Ironman event I've done.

It was easy to keep track of the number of marathons I ran when I could rattle them off in order and could tick them off on my fingers. As the number got larger, however, it got harder to keep count. After awhile, I kept an Excel spreadsheet with times and dates of my marathons. While the time trend-line is no longer getting shorter, I've had some great travel experiences over the years. Today, that number stands at 28. My wife thinks I should count the run portion of my Ironman in my marathon count, but I feel that's cheating. It wasn't a marathon; it was the run portion of an Ironman. In any event, I don't count it and the number stands at 28.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with deteriorating cartilage in the big toe of my left foot. As my doctor told me, I've got arthritis. It's probably genetically based , but exasperated by over-use by running. My doc gave me the additional good news that the arthritis would start to gravitate to other parts of my body. Sure enough, in the last few years the aches have spread to both feet and my knees. When I tore the medial meniscus of my right knee late last year, the writing was on the wall. Either I stop doing long endurance events, or I face a future of less functional leg and feet joints in my later years. Currently, I can still handle distance runs, but the Aleve after a long run is more necessary these days and sometimes less effective than in the past.

As I contemplate how many more marathons I want to risk, that total number looms large. As my son Alex points out, 26 would have been a cool number to have stopped at given the marathon is a 26 mile event. I've countered that if I'd done that, I would have missed running the Paris and London Marathons. Both of these I wouldn't have missed for both the travel adventure and the beauty of each of those courses. Thus, the number stands at 28.

I have several friends that have run 30 plus marathons before they gave up the distance. That seems like a cool number to have reached. It seems to say that one has had a long and complete history of running the marathon distance. Sure, there are runners that do all 50 States; some who've run 100 marathons. That clearly will not be me. I know my marathon days are numbered, but I feel I should be able to knock off two more to get to that next plateau of 30.

With this in mind, I registered for the Philadelphia Marathon on November 20th, 2011. I've run the Philly Distance Classic, a half marathon in September, which I liked a lot. The course for the first half of the marathon is that same course. I've always had the Philly Marathon on my radar as it was always promoted as a good race at which one could achieve a Boston Qualifier. While I no longer concern myself with qualifying for Boston, I still would like to include Philly in my list of marathons I've run. As my wife, Salome grew up in Delaware, we will use it to tour both Philadelphia and her former neighborhoods in Delaware with our son Alex. If any of my marathon buddies would like to join in, let me know. Registration is still open. The more the merrier I always say.

After that, who knows. Perhaps I'll extend my Miami Half Marathon registration in January to the full marathon event. It would be my 4th Miami Marathon, which is one of my favorite local races. Either that, or I could be tempted by my other marathon buddies to run a foreign marathon in Europe or Asia. But after hitting number 30, I'll probably start to focus on half marathons, 10 milers or 10K races with national reputations. One thing is for sure: I'm coming to towards the end of the line for my marathon career.

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