Monday, July 7, 2008

Why I Started Running Marathons

One question I am often asked is, "Why did you start running marathons?" It's not a very complicated answer. I was never a big runner before 2004. Sure, I had run from time to time to try to stay in shape, but never had any thoughts of ever entering a race before 2003.

Sometime in '03, my then-roommate Matt Hillen and I decided that we were going to attempt the '04 Chicago Marathon. We just thought it would be something that would be a challenge and figured why not? So in the summer and fall of '03, Matt and I tried to get out on some runs to give us a little base for the following year. I use the term base loosely. I think I got up to 8 miles on a single run before the weather turned. Our Wrigleyville bachelor pad was conveniently located just a half mile from the lake path, so we really didn't have an excuse not to get out and run.

In June of '04, Matt and I began training for the marathon. Our friend and fellow Mizzou Tiger Rob Bowers also decided to join in the Chicago Marathon fun, albeit 4 hours away in St. Louis. So Matt and I trained for the 16 or 18 weeks as prescribed by Hal Higdon, marathon training legend. We didn't actually talk to him. Matt simply copied Higdon's beginner marathon training program, transferred it to Excel and added some fancy colors. For the next 4 months, our training program was on the fridge for all to see and study.

The bizzare thing was, Matt and I never ran together during training. I was starting work very early in the morning, so I would try to get my run in as soon as I got home. Matt was working a much more normal schedule, so it wasn't uncommon for me to be showered, finished with my run and lying on the couch and watching TV by the time he got home.

The other notable thing about training for the first marathon is that we were kind of idiots. We really didn't know what we were doing. We were roughly 25 years old and would go out drinking the night before our longer runs and not think anything of it. I'd occasionally have to push my run back to later in the day or maybe even to the next day if I couldn't shake off my hangover. Matt, on the other hand, would repeatedly drink and fill up empty 32 ounce Gatorade bottles with water. He'd lay on the floor, maybe stretch a little bit, drink some more water, maybe stretch a little more and continue to drink more water. We'd talk some Cubs-Cards baseball, maybe recap the previous night and shoot the breeze while Matt was continuously stretching out his hamstrings. It wasn't unusual for him to fill up and drink three or four of those Gatorade bottles before he headed out for his run. I think he used to say he sweat out the booze from the night before by mile 3.

I am going to save the story of final five weeks of the training for the 2004 Chicago Marathon for a later date. So when people ask me why I started running marathons, the answer is I just wanted to see if I could do it. I really think anyone can do it if they are dedicated and have the desire to do it. Don't get me wrong, it's hard, but with some solid training and some focus I really believe anyone can make it the 26.2 miles.

Here are a couple pictures from the Brewers game on Friday:
My wife Tiffany (on right) and our friend Maryann with the Italian Sausage:

Chorizo out in front before winning the race:

J.J. Hardy picking up one of his four hits:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I still don't believe Matt Hillen finished the marathon.
There were rumors that he pulled a Rosie Ruiz and hopped on the El halfway through the race, did a little shopping at the Gap and Filene's Basement and got off just before Chinatown, carefully spraying himself with a water bottle to mimic the effects of running 20 miles.
Matt Hillen -- the Rosie Ruiz of the new millenium.