Monday, December 28, 2009

13.1 Marathon: A reflection on wellness -- and chocolate cake

In my mind, I was already there – the cool morning air arresting my lungs, the anticipation thumping through my heart and anxious legs, and my head dizzy with last minute concerns.

“Did I drink enough water?” “Did I drink too much water?” “Do I have time to go to the bathroom again?”

My breath would quicken with each frantic thought, my beating pulse seemingly typing out a secret internal code to warn my body of what was about to happen to it.

13.1 miles.

13.1 miles.

13.1 miles.

The gun would fire, bursting through the adrenaline-saturated air at the start line, and I’d be off down the Venice boardwalk, pushed forward by instinct and muscle memory.

I had big plans for the inaugural Los Angeles 13.1 Marathon to take place Sunday, January 10th in Santa Monica/Venice/Culver City. It would be a way to recapture health and “wellness” after a season that has made it far too easy for me to justify the consumption of eggnog cupcakes and fudge nut bars. It would be symbolic of my commitment to taking care of my body – feeding my legs and heart and lungs first, and my stomach second.

And, to be perfectly honest with myself, a way to feel less guilty about taking an extra helping of my mom’s chocolate chip bundt cake on Christmas Day. With vanilla ice cream.

“I ran 10 miles yesterday,” I’d say. “These capable thighs are impenetrable to the fat grams on my plate!”

It was with this mindset that I decided to break my no-racing-ever-again streak for the second time since I retired my racing flats in college. At approximately 9 pm on Tuesday, November 24th, I told my mom that I was going to register for the 13.1 Marathon.

The following morning, my left knee started hurting.

I spent the next three weeks on the stationary bike at the gym – cursing the body that had failed me. My brief flirtations with running were short and painful – I was not the visage of a gliding gazelle moving swiftly through 8-mile runs. Instead, I was a hobbling hot mess, barely making it through 4-5 miles.

The pain finally abated this past week (just in time for my mom’s cake), but with less than two weeks before the gun goes off, it’s too late for me to get in proper racing shape. I’m a glutton for punishment (when I’m not a glutton for chocolate), but even I know that pushing myself to run 13.1 miles when I’m only just getting back to 6-milers is not healthy for me or my body.

Despite my frustrations, this past month showed me that “wellness” doesn’t necessarily need to come from races, punishingly long runs or stuffing my face with as much quinoa as humanly possible (though I do find that very enjoyable). Wellness comes from listening to my body – even when it tells me, “One slice of a cake is enough” or “Don’t push yourself too hard at the gym today.”

I just prefer when it tells me what I want to hear – specifically, that I am a healthy gazelle running swiftly along the Venice boardwalk on January 10th, who is deserving of as much chocolate as she wishes.

More information on registration and the course for both the 13.1 Marathon and 5K race on January 10th can be found here. Wellness sold separately.


sarah j. gim said...

You are a gazelle! You are!

Jenn said...

You can do it. It's good that you listen to your body. It knows you better than anyone out there.

I'm hoping to try the LA marathon this coming year. If I don't chicken out first. Eek! Maybe I need a slice of chocolate cake to give me some courage.

The Active Foodie said...

You are a running machine! Listening to you body is most important, so even if you don't make it to this race, there will always be another :)

Diana said...

Sarah - Do gazelles eat turkey sandwiches?

Jenn - Hah, I think chocolate cake is a great motivator. Just picture a giant slice waiting for you at the end of every run!

Sonja - Exactly! Hopefully this way, I'm ensuring that I'll be able to run even more races in my future!

Joshua Lurie said...

Glad to hear you're on the mend. If you're feeling up to it, give the 13.1 a shot. You can always walk if your knee starts to hurt.

Esi said...

I am still impressed you can run six miles when not in training. I am a running wimp! Hope your knee continues to get better!

KK said...

yay for running! but only when it is not miserable or damaging.

I honestly hope this doesn't sound snarky, but: a marathon is strictly 26.2 miles. . . 13.1 miles is called a half-marathon, not a 13.1 marathon. which doesn't make you any less heroic for running that far!

yutjangsah said...

Of course you're a champ - even if your time isn't what you want it to be, the only person you're racing against is yourself. Having run races when my knees have been shot, I know you can run through the pain but sometimes walking and light jogging and enjoying the moment is more important.

Diana said...

Josh - I'm sort of thinking I might try and do it... my competitive spirit is getting to me!

Esi - Well, I had been biking and such, so was still in good physical shape. Right now I'm just trying to build my running economy back up.

KK - Thanks for stopping by! I do know that a full marathon is 26.2 miles, but the name of the race is actually 13.1 Marathon. I guess that does sound a little confusing!

Thanks Sookie! I think I kind of want to go enjoy the moment -- even if that moment is a bit painful! :)

Gastronomer said...

You'd still kick my ass in your broken state.

I'll be routing for you on Sunday :-)