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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tom Petty and the Heartbreak Hill

Tom Petty was my substitute coach today.

For a while now, I've been viewing Hal Higdon as my running coach. Of course, the man has never heard of me, and I'm sure he couldn't care less about how my training is progressing, but I found his 18-week marathon program online, and I've been following it, more or less, for the last nine weeks. Obviously, these last two weeks have not been up to par, and I've felt like I was letting Hal down. I've had this crushing feeling that a man I will likely never meet has been disappointed in me, and that is one of the many reasons I've been able to get myself out the door the last couple days.

In my imaginary little world, Hal isn't convinced that I'm back yet. He won't be until I complete a long run, and in the meantime, he's standing in the corner, observing, but saying nothing. As such, I'm left on my own to make sure that everything I'm doing is correct. Yesterday, I was entirely motivated by the money, and that fire was still fueled today, but I needed something more. I needed some music.

The subject of running with music is a surprisingly volatile topic among runners, I'm learning. While some people rely very heavily on it and never take a run without their iPod, others are violently opposed to the concept for any number of reasons. Some think it's ruining the companionship of the sport, others don't understand how you can break the connection with nature. Still others think it's cheating, and that if you can't run your pace without music pushing you, then you're not a real runner. Seriously, it gets mean.

Personally, I don't see any problem with running with music, and I'll do it from time to time, but it's getting much less frequent for me of late. I don't want to block out the excitement and noise of a race, so I won't wear one during an actual marathon. As such, I don't want to wear one in training and end up relying on it.

Today, however, I knew it was going to be a difficult run. What I learned last week is that the first run back is painful halfway through, but the second run is painful right away. Again, I forced myself to hold a slower pace, but it didn't keep the pain away. Almost instantly, my leg was yelling at me, though nowhere near as intensely as it had last week, so I kept on. At the bottom of my home hill, I lowered my arms, dropped my shoulders, shortened my stride, and focused on form for the remainder of the run. Any time my mind drifted toward the pain, I reminded myself to focus on form, and made my adjustments. Miles were flying by before I knew it.

I heard a lot of music throughout the run - you usually do - and most of it was fairly upbeat, but I just had the thing on shuffle, so I really didn't know what to expect next. Today's hero song came on with about 1.5 miles left to go:

"And it wasn't no way to carry on
It wasn't no way to live
But he could put up with it for a little while
He was workin' on something big"

Yes, Tom Petty! It was a song I didn't know very well, and to be honest, it was the greatest "running song" I heard today. The beat is a little slow, and it's not an adrenaline booster by any means, but for some reason, the lyrics just hit me right.

My run wasn't everything I wanted it to be. I wasn't going as fast as I would have liked, and of course I was hurting, but I could put up with it for a little while. I have a much bigger goal in mind, and it's one I intend to achieve. So I can put up with a little pain while my legs get stronger. My mind was racing with the lyrics as I moved out of running to other facets of my life. Sure, I'm not getting paid in my current show, but I'm getting my name out there, and my foot in some doors. Yeah, the tax man took me to town, but I'm fortunate to have a job that allows me the freedom to do what I love.

I can put up with a lot of crap in this world, because I know that tomorrow is going to be better. By the time I'd come to this grand conclusion, I was already heading back up Home Hill, with less than 3/4 of a mile to go. I pulled in my form, focused ahead, and pushed all the way home. It wasn't until halfway up the hill that I realized I hadn't felt any pain in over a mile. At that moment, "Into The Great Wide Open" came on, and I actually sang along with the words, "The sky was the limit."

Have I come out the other side? Probably not yet, but I did make some very good strides today. By focusing on the super minutia (where my hands are when I run) and the grand picture (of 50 marathons), I took out all that in-between stuff of tough days at work and not enough money and pains in shins, and I was able to carry on.

Because I'm working on something big.

Wednesday's Run:
82 Degrees, Cloudy
4.06 Miles
30 Minutes, 40 Seconds

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