I finished in 31:05 (10 min/mile pace), with a field placement of 176 / 283 (62%). Not terrible. But Ziggy, who has barely been running at all, beat me! He finished in 29:59 (9:40 pace), with a field placement of 156 / 283 (55%). I'm proud of him, but grr.
Meanwhile, I'm realizing that since my long runs have increased beyond about 16 miles, I really haven't been enjoying them that much anymore.
I knew it would be a struggle taking on runs much longer than three hours, but I've really reached a point of diminishing returns. I have no need to run any longer than an hour for fitness; it's strictly training for performance at this stage. And I feel that I've let myself be unduly swayed by ultra-endurance athletes, both amateur and professional, in deciding to train for a full marathon.
The marathon race length was originally based on the legend of an ancient Greek messenger who ran about 25 miles to deliver a battle victory message, then collapsed and died, which is kind of how I felt after running that far. It was extended to its modern distance of 26.2 miles at the 1908 London Olympic Marathon so that the royal family could see the finish from the comfort of their Royal Box. Quite an arbitrary distance in my opinion, not a nice round number like 10K. (OK, I guess that's also arbitrary when it comes down to it...)
I had first wanted to run a marathon back in 2000, a few months after running my first half-marathon, but I hurt my knee, couldn't run for several weeks, and dropped out. That was the only time I've had a running-related injury that lasted longer than a few days. I've gotten much smarter about training since then, and am very sensitive to any pain that might lead to injury, as opposed to soreness and fatigue that I can push through safely.
In any case, I abandoned the idea of running a full marathon after that, content to stick with half-marathon and shorter distances. But then the chance to run with my idol Dean Karnazes changed my mind. How many sports allow rank amateurs like me to compete in the same events as professionals? Even though he will have run home to Marin and showered by the time I finish, I couldn't pass up the chance.
But now I'm regretting this decision. I'm a slow runner. Not only am I not Dean Karnazes (who some actually consider to be slow by elite ultrarunner standards) I'm really not at a level where I think I should be to run a 26.2 mile race. While I think it's great that more sedentary people have been encouraged to go out and run, I think it's not so great that the marathon has been held out as the standard all runners should aim for, or as a "bucket list" item to complete. I don't think distance running is nearly as dangerous as the media reports that occasionally surface make it out to be, but it is taxing on the body, and you have to prepare for it properly. People who try to go from couch to marathon in six months or less are just asking to be injured in my opinion.
I'm not doing that (I was already up to 14 miles by last October), but I'm putting a lot of stress on my body run/walking for 3-6 hours at a stretch, even if it's only once every three weeks. (In the interim weeks my long runs have topped out at nine miles, which is about the farthest I can go without walking breaks.) Plus, after the longest runs (20+ miles) I've usually been so tired afterwards that I've needed to spend the remainder of that day and the following day resting.
As exhausting as these long runs have become, I am glad that I extended my run to Stern Grove because I really like that route. Even if I never train for another full marathon, I'd like to keep that route in the mix, and just take the bus home at some point along the return leg. I'm usually good for at least 14 miles as long as I do the 5/1 run/walk intervals and keep to a slow pace. That's a lot farther than I could have gone comfortably even a year ago (though I did do a half marathon in 2009, I slacked off after that), so I should at least give myself credit for that.
Jeff Galloway, whose book and run/walk method helped me complete my first half-marathon, wrote that after your first marathon you should wait at least a week before deciding a) to sign up for another one, or b) to never run another marathon again. Right now I'm learning very heavily toward b), but I'm going to take his advice and wait.
Regardless, I've got my bib number and wave assignment (wave 8, the last one, starting at 6:30 a.m.), and I will be at that starting line on June 16. Twenty-nine days to go till the marathon.