No CIM for Me in 2012 / What I Talk About When I Talk About Running / What Marathon Should I Target Next?


Pain seems to be a precondition for this kind of sport. If pain weren’t involved, who in the world would ever go to the trouble of taking part in sports like the triathlon or the marathon, which demand such an investment of time and energy? It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive — or at least a partial sense of it. – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I started my day today face-down on physical therapist Meredith Soelberg‘s table with her thumbs in my right calf, probing to see if I’ve strained my gastrocnemius or my soleus, and to what degree. We moved to standing, socks off, toes to heel. I walked up and down the hallway, she checked my gait. Next I put shoes on and hit the treadmill, first walking, then running. Then off the treadmill and with an associate’s help she pulled my calf one direction and stretched tape across it to sustain the tension. Then back on the treadmill. Less than a mile of running in all and I was feeling the pain of the strain — the tape hadn’t magically lessened the pain. After a brief conference outlining our options for unloading the strain on the injured muscle a bit and hoping for the best we made the call: I’m not running the California International Marathon in Sacramento this weekend as planned. I have an injury and running Sunday will make it much worse, leaving me on the sidelines even longer. For now I’m going to focus on getting better in time for Ragnar Florida Keys January 4th, and pick another marathon to make a Boston Qualifying attempt in the spring. *sigh*

I’m embarrassed to admit how depressing it was to call and cancel my rental car and hotel room, to finally, officially, throw in the towel. I’ve known this was a possibility throughout this training and I’ve pretended to be nonchalant and ok with it. I wasn’t healthy going in, my training started nearly two months late due to an ankle sprain. I told myself I’d do my best and if I didn’t make this one there’d be another. But it’s impossible not to focus on the goal as you’re training, especially when you’re checking your watch and kicking out workouts with a particular time goal in mind. I’m right on the edge where qualifying for Boston is *possible* but a stretch. I’d need to complete a qualifying marathon 30 seconds faster per mile than I ran the Los Angeles Marathon last March; it will take real work and application to get the job done.

Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life. – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

In the end Meredith agreed with my hypothesis, the track workouts are where the calf strain came from. To run fast you need to practice running fast. Intervals on a track are a great way and place to practice running fast. Wearing track shoes and running as fast as you could for the given distance (200, 400, 800, 1000, 1200m — it depends on the day) puts more of the work into the front of the foot which in turn asks those calf muscles to show up, extend, and contract as fast as they can, as hard as they ever have. Who knows which loop was one too far, or if it was just all of them, week after week. But it will heal and I will get back out there, slowly ramping back up and nailing sub-three minute 800s again, smiling knowing that in theory that should mean qualifying for Boston is possible for me.

How is this any different from pouring water in an old pan with a tiny hole in the bottom? – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

When I told my wife the physical therapist agreed it was the track workouts that caused my calf strain, she had a solution I hadn’t considered, “I guess you’re done with track workouts?” I had contemplated quite a few adjustments to my program and workout, but ditching speed workouts wasn’t one of them. I’d thought of adjustments to my shoes and my form and considered a few different paths to work back up to the speed I want but I’d never considered cutting the speed work. It’s part of the learning process. I’m pushing my limits. I pushed too hard. I can ride the line better next time. My awareness has deepened.

Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons. How much can I push myself? How much rest is appropriate — and how much is too much? How far can I take something and still keep it decent and consistent? When does it become narrow-minded and inflexible? How much should I be aware of the world outside, and how much should I focus on my inner world? To what extent should I be confident in abilities, and when should I start doubting myself? – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I just finished the Murakami book from which I’m quoting liberally, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Friend and triathlete Amy Blackman gifted it to me for my 40th birthday this past August. What I Talk About is an odd memoir. It’s a memoir of Mr. Murakami’s running, touching only here and there on his life as it relates to his running. There’s no story arch, no central conflict looking for a resolution. More than anything it feels like the author looking to explain why we run, or perhaps to explain why it doesn’t matter that there isn’t any great reason.

Maybe it’s some pointless act like pouring water into an old pan that has a hole in the bottom, but at least the effort you put into it remains. Whether it’s good for anything or not, cool or totally uncool, in the final analysis what’s most important is what you can’t see but can feel in your heart. To be able to grasp something of value, sometimes you have to perform seemingly inefficient acts. But even activities that appear fruitless don’t necessarily end up so…

I have no idea whether I can actually keep this cycle of inefficient activities going forever. But I’ve done it so persistently over such a long time, and without getting terribly sick of it, that I think I’ll try to keep it going as long as I can. – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Me too.

Which leaves me searching for my next marathon. Any thoughts on a Boston Qualifying race I should throw myself into in the first half of 2013? Anyone care to run with the 3:10 or 3:15 pace group along with me? Grandma’s Marathon in June? Something sooner? What do you think?


Trackbacks & Pings

  1. Big Ups To Everyone Who Ran California International Marathon This Morning at FISTFULAYEN on 02 Dec 2012 at 10:14 am

    […] past Monday I had to drop out of the race due to a calf strain. I’ve been following along closely, though, particularly with a couple […]


  1. Chris Walton wrote:

    Avenue of the Giants is ( is slightly earlier in the year & is a Boston qualifier. Might be an option.

  2. Pam W-H wrote:

    Ian — not a spring race but one to stick into your data banks: the Columbus marathon is run in October, and it’s a fast, relatively flat course. About 20,000 runners come here from all over the place — and Andrew has qualified for Boston every time he has run it. His old-dude 3:12 this year puts him right at the pace you are looking for.

  3. Matthew Hanagan wrote:

    Murakamis book was definitely an interesting read! Sorry to hear you’ll have to skip the marathon. I def know the feeling as I ran the SF Marathon one year with ITB syndrome. At mile 18 or so the agony set in and I had to limp run/walk my way to the finish. I couldn’t run for 2-3 months after that even for 2 miles. I learned my lesson that I’m not 18 anymore and running injured removed all the fun from it. Heal up and enjoy the next one!

  4. Ben Temple wrote:

    Just discovered the blog, it’s great. Have you picked your spring marathon yet? I’d vote Grandmas in Duluth. It’s flat, fast, and point-to-point along Lake Superior north of Duluth in Minnesota. In my own training I have dropped track workouts in favor of tempo sessions of varying duration and paces. Instead of worrying about 400m splits, I go by my rate of perceived effort. I ran a 5:00 marathon PR this fall having made the switch. “Train, don’t strain.” – Arthur Lydiard

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