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Note #24: In training (2008.9.14)

More substantial Liminality content is on the way, but while you’re waiting for that I thought I’d write a quick note about what’s new. I had originally intended to write a little rant about some aspect of language usage today, but then I started thinking about it and realized that it might not be as interesting as I thought it would be—or, at least, that it would be a lot more interesting if I actually did some research and wrote a thoughtful entry on the subject instead. I may or may not end up doing that, but I am going to forgo the rant.

Instead, I want to talk about running, for that’s what Hyunjin and I have been doing for the past week and a half. No, we’re not on the lam, we’re training for the upcoming Hi Seoul marathon on October 12. Before you start being impressed, I must admit that we’re not going to be running the full marathon. We’re not even going to be running a half marathon. Instead, we thought we’d start out easy and sign up for the shortest distance, the 10k run. So, on the 3rd of September we began running around the little dirt pitch in the middle of the university (it’s visible in my skewed panoramic photo of the campus).

On our first day I ran one kilometer, and I thought I was going to die. My heart was beating so loudly that every beat drowned out all other sounds, creating the auditory equivalent of a strobe light. I also felt like I was going to throw up, and every muscle in my legs screamed with pain. And despite all that, I only barely managed to finish in under six minutes, at 5:50. I cannot even begin to tell you how discouraging this was. I could barely survive a run of one kilometer—how was I going to run ten?

After only about a week of training, though, I managed to run five times that distance this past Thursday. My heart and head were not pounding, my muscles didn’t hurt, and my heart rate was actually lower afterward than it had been after that first kilometer a week earlier. I even managed a faster time, running the five kilometers in 28:23, for an average of 5:41 per kilometer.

After two days off, we woke up early this morning to run again. We usually run at night, and today was the first day we’ve run with the sun shining on us. I thought it might be tougher, being a little hotter, but it wasn’t that bad at all—which is a good sign, since we’re going to have to run the 10k during the day. I decided to push myself a little harder this time and managed to chop 2:21 of my Thursday time for 5k. My time was 26:02, for an average of 5:12 per kilometer. Not only is this the fastest pace I’ve run for any distance, but I actually ran the last kilometer in 4:55. It was the first time that I managed to run a kilometer in under five minutes, and I was pretty pleased that it came at the end—this meant that I was speeding up rather than slowing down, and still had energy left.

Of course, we need to put things into perspective. The gold medal winner for the 5000m men’s race at this year’s Olympics ran the distance in 12:57.82—which is more than twice as fast as my pace this morning. The winner of the marathon—a distance over eight times greater than what I ran—averaged almost exactly three minutes per kilometer. To put that another way, he ran approximately 422 hundred-meter dashes in a row, averaging just under 18 seconds for each dash.

OK, so that’s the perspective. But comparing myself to Olympic athletes is kind of like comparing a water pistol to a minigun. The important thing is that I don’t think I have ever run a kilometer in under five minutes in my entire life. I know for a fact that I haven’t run five kilometers in under a half hour. I also know that I have never run ten kilometers in under an hour. I know this because when I was in sixth grade everyone did the yearly lake run, which was a 10k race around Lake Mahopac, and that is the only time I have ever run ten kilometers. I don’t remember my time, but I know I didn’t make it in under an hour, because only the track athletes managed that feat. So, at the age of thirty-five, I am getting ready to do something I have never done before (that is, run 10k in under an hour), and it feels pretty good.

Ten kilometers is just the start, though. I try not to look too far ahead—one day at a time, as they say—but next year I’d like to try the half marathon, which is slightly over twice the distance we’ll be running in October. My ultimate goal is to run a full marathon, ideally the Boston Marathon (since it’s the only marathon in the States where you have to qualify). But that is indeed getting ahead of myself. For now, I will keep training for the 10k, which I will be running four weeks from today. Wish me luck.

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