December 29, 2011 13 Comments
Since this is my first annual recap but my third year as a distance runner, I want to go back a bit and reflect on how my running has progressed over the years. In order to do so, I will provide a brief recap of the years 2009 and 2010 with a few stats that reflect what the year was like. So, though I took my first steps in an actual training regimen in 2008, I will start with 2009, which is beyond a doubt where it all began.
States Completed (1): Illinois
Half Marathons Run: 3
Fastest Finishing Time: 1:47:58 (13.1 Chicago Marathon)
Average Finishing Time: 1:49:32
Marathons Run: 1
Fastest Finishing Time: 4:03:21 (Bank of America Chicago Marathon)
When I ran my first half marathon in May of 2009, I had no intentions of going crazy. I was tired, winded and in desperate need of replenishment. My legs hurt, my face was salty and my lungs felt like they were on the verge of collapse. Later that year, I would run two more half marathons and my first marathon, all in the great city of Chicago. At the time, it felt like the culmination of a long process, one that ended with a respectable 4:03 finish in the bustling streets of the Windy City.
However, it was only the beginning of something much more exciting. Something snapped in my head and my nascent hobby for distance running became an integral part of my lifestyle. With this greater passion, I set out to run ten half marathons to commemorate the year 2010 and decided to do seven of those outside Illinois.
States Completed (7): Florida, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Massachusetts, California, Arizona
Half Marathons Run: 11
Fastest Finishing Time: 1:32:06 (Tucson Half Marathon* – all downhill, not my official PR)
Average Finishing Time: 1:43:02
Marathons Run: 1
Fastest Finishing Time: 4:05:22 (Bank of America Chicago Marathon)
2010 was an incredible year for me. I decided to focus intently on the half marathon distance, running only five short-distance races to keep things exciting. I pushed myself harder and faster than I thought possible, breaking 1:40 for the first time in Disneyland. Overall, I was thrilled with my progress – my average finishing time was almost five minutes faster than the previous year’s PR. I also stepped outside of my comfort zone a few times, running warm weather half marathons in spite of my low heat tolerance.
But along the way, I got to spend time with a lot of friends from Chicago, college and even high school. It made me realize that these races are a great excuse to reconnect with people that I don’t normally talk to on a regular basis. In more than one case, I even managed to convince them to run the race as well, which requires more than the average amount of convincing.
I loved the experience of seeing new cities and catching up with old friends so much that my ambitions naturally expanded. At the end of the year, I came up with the much bigger idea of running at least a half marathon in all fifty states. And lucky for me, I had a head start with seven already under my belt.
I also set a time limit: to cross the finish line of the last state before my 40th birthday on November 5, 2022. That meant that I’d have to do around 3.6 states a year to reach my goal right on time. After making that calculation I thought, that’s doable. Once I commit to this, I’ll be able to do 3, maybe 4 states every year and not go hungry trying. A reasonable person with limited means like me would budget accordingly, prioritize and pick the most sensible states and stick to it.
But any avid runner knows that just visiting a race website is enough to plant a very persuasive seed. Simply knowing a race is out there in a new state, with new splits, bibs, and medals is enough to get the ball rolling. So it was with that impulsive drive that I began scheduling the great challenges of 2011.
States Completed (9): Texas, Georgia, Colorado, Ohio, Michigan, Connecticut, South Carolina, Mississippi, New York
Countries Completed (1): Costa Rica
Half Marathons Run: 9
Fastest Finishing Time: 1:37:18 (Holiday Half Marathon, PR)
Average Finishing Time: 1:43:57
Marathons Run: 4
Fastest Finishing Time: 3:40:59 (Traverse City State Bank Bayshore Marathon, PR)
Average Finishing Time: 4:00:56
This was a great year for my racing career and one of many firsts. I broke four hours at the marathon for the first time in Michigan, ran my first trail race in South Carolina, experienced for the first time a race above 5,000 feet in Colorado, ran my first international race in Costa Rica and learned the pains of running three marathons in nine weeks.
But more importantly, I got to experience the following for the first time: the varied tastes of Texas’ wine country, the inauguration of Costa Rica’s new fútbol stadium, the feeling of shooting a semi-automatic shotgun, the delectable morsels and thrilling rides of the Disney Food & Wine Expo, the diverse characters of all five of New York City’s boroughs, the empty slopes of Beaver Creek’s spring ski season, what it feels like to run in pitch darkness (more than once), and many, many delicious burgers. None of these would have been possible without the hospitality and generosity of my friends and family. I’m extremely glad to have found an activity that lets me explore the country, stay healthy and rekindle friendships with amazing people.
So now that the year is ending, I look forward to 2012 with great excitement. It is going to be another year that goes above and beyond the 3.6-state minimum required to reach my goal on time, almost guaranteed by my new mini-goal: to be halfway done before getting married in late September. As of this writing, I have signed up for three new states and have picked out races in the remaining five. Though it will certainly be packed with enough running to keep me on my toes (figuratively and literally), I will definitely need to exercise prudence to avoid going overboard. For one, escalation always comes with increased risk of injury. But more importantly, every race I plan is a weekend away from home, which is not only a potentially costly expense, but time away from my close friends and loved ones in Chicago.
So I guess that means I have to start converting all of my friends into fervent runners. It seems that’s my only option.
Onwards to the New Year, with expectations high and shoes laced.