“AND THE BEAT GOES ON”
(Sonny and Cher, not Britney. I’m 71.)
It started in 1979, got shelved in 1984, rekindled in 2010, caught fire while training for the 2011 Monumental Marathon, has been side-tracked briefly due to injuries or health, following each recovery growing in both hope and fulfillment, through better days and not so good days, through random effort and focused coaching, and it continues to be an adventure that allows me to actively praise the blessings I have received while gaining new insight into both the frailty of the body and the joy of steadfastness of the spirit.
Watch Steve’s Monumental Story
After the 2014 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, I wrote about the joys and challenges of running against the toughest competition you will ever face – yourself. Perhaps you improve. You may face illness or injury. In any case, you get older. That ‘toughest competitor’ shows up at every training run, at every race.
In January following the marathon, my brother sent me an article on “The effects of de-training”. The summary basically said:
If you are taking some time away from your training, realize that you will lose a significant portion of your fitness, and you will lose it fairly quickly, though losses will taper off, you can retain a portion of your initial fitness levels for a long time.
That was a year and a half ago. He sent it following my lymph node biopsy surgery, which turned out negative but still required some recovery time.
“You looked guilty. I convicted you. The evidence did not hold up!”, the Doctor had said a week later. Monthly, then quarterly, we searched for the missing clue. Eventually, I was unceremoniously dismissed.
By that June, I was hitting stride again, and with the benefits of training with Matt Ebersole at Personal Best Training, I was able to trim a minute off of my mile PR at the 2015 Monumental Mile. The summer went well, adding a 5-mile PR and three successive 5K PR’s.
Then the gremlins set in. Joint and muscle issues started to cut into the quality of the workouts. Just weeks before the ’15 Monumental Marathon I was in a holding pattern. In 2014, I had eagerly upgraded to the marathon. Now the marathon was not even a consideration. How about the half? My potential any given day was a little unpredictable, and I had been coasting for a month.
Race day came. I went out with a pace group I hoped to be able to hang with. The first few miles were hard. I pulled ahead a little and my splits remained consistent at +/- 0:05 (plus a couple of water stops). Ahead of target mid-way, I was banking mental time each mile. It was still hard. I remember thinking to myself, “It is SUPPOSED to be hard!” Around the 11-mile mark, the mind math said I could stumble in and make my time. When it was all over, it was a PR by more than 2:00, and a negative split by :01.
The thrill again was short lived. General malaise led to a visit to the doctor and a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. Intense exercise with this condition is a major heart risk. Not to worry for long, as it soon flipped and went hypo. Now instead of being dangerous to exercise, I didn’t have the energy. In hindsight the occasional soreness in my heel was the beginning of what was to become chronic tendinitis.
Since the ’15 Monumental, I sprained my foot at the Sam Costa quarter marathon on the way to an age group first and a PR. I ran the Carmel 5K with a cold and logged my worst time ever. By May, the tendinitis was becoming an issue. I skipped Geist to recover and later that morning did a 5K training run that would have been satisfying. I thought I had a good chance at a new mile PR this June. Then while running target pace splits just two days before the race Coach Matt sent me home to avoid further injury. Ironically, I had an appointment with my doctor the following day, and we spoke of “listening to one’s body”. I asked, “Then is it OK for me to race Thursday if I listen to my body?” He replied, “No, because I think you are hard of hearing.” Maybe what parents call ‘selective hearing’ is more accurate.
Now twelve weeks out from the Monumental, I am feeling some improvement. By Nov. 4th, I will either be the most rested or the most out of condition that I have ever been. Ideas tumble through my mind. Is it prudent to run this marathon? (Is it ever prudent to run a marathon?) Can I be competitive at the 5K distance? Some would ask, “Aren’t you pushing your self too hard? Do you really need to do this? Can’t you just run for fun?” The answers are, respectively, “No”, “Yes”, and “Yes. I am.”.
My question eventually becomes, “What am I training for?” Sometime soon I will have to decide whether it is the marathon, half marathon, or 5K. That is like choosing which party to go to on a busy holiday weekend. But truly I am training for the rest of my life. The start and finish lines are merely arbitrary points in life placed there so that the Monumental staff and volunteers will know when they can go home.
If the outcome were certain the effort would mean nothing and no important questions would be answered in the trying.
The outcome has rarely been certain. Whether important questions have been answered can be judged by others if they desire. I have confronted questions important to me on nearly every outing.
I started running in 2010 to celebrate the fitness I had found at Rock Steady Boxing as I strived to fight back against the inevitable scourge of Parkinson’s Disease. Others took note and some found new determination in themselves. I committed to bring the Double Road Race series to Indianapolis in an effort to give back to Rock Steady Boxing and the Indianapolis running community, and in doing so I received more than I could ever give back.
I felt that my opportunity to run was a blessing that could best be glorified by taking it to my highest potential, and through Personal Best Training I found new personal growth and enjoyed the encouragement of runners far stronger than I.
I have been inspired by many, some will never know. My younger brother has patiently guided me knowing I will never be the runner he has been. My older brother, who hadn’t run since college, came out of retirement to run with us last year at the Monumental. I know of others who have been encouraged by example to participate in their first 5K, or attempt a half marathon or marathon. They are to be commended for their courage and determination.