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home > community > viewpoint > the meat of the order

The Meat of the Order
In marathon training, unlike baseball, runners have no relief pitchers or substitute players. Our runner is heading into the middle innings of his training, facing the meat of the order, with no bullpen. Fourth in a series of essays.

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Related info:
Part one: The Itch

Part two: Into the Rollercoaster

Part three: Just Keep Moving

By Hank Brown
Posted Sunday, 12 January, 2003

This is the fourth in a series of essays following columnist Hank Brown in his march to the Myrtle Beach Marathon. The first, second and third articles are also available.

Week 4

Ok, so I made it to 14 miles last week. I'm beginning to think this Myrtle Beach Marathon crusade might be possible. But I know I have many Dow Jones weeks ahead of me. Anything could happen. I could get sick. I could get injured. The weather could turn really nasty. I could get too busy at work. I could join the circus (just checking to see if you're paying attention).

When you train for a marathon, you run on the edge. On the one hand, your body is working harder through increased mileage, but you also tend to get run down from the constant effort. Either you get strong or you crash. It's risky business but you have to teeter on the cliff.

You also get a little crusty by being outside in all kinds of weather. Your body acclimates to wind, rain, snow and cold, but you open yourself up to flus and colds. Either you become callous to the climate, or you give in to a nose that runs more than you. Again, perilous proposition...

This week I'm off to Kansas City for the USA Track & Field National Convention. I'm looking forward to the trip, but know I will be busy with meetings, meals and strategy sessions. I'm worried that the trip might cut into my training. I decide to take off on Wednesday, my travel day. Good decision because Wednesday turns out to be brutal, cold and windy. On Wednesday evening I see an old friend, Kim, and we make plans to run early the next morning. She invites Joy, and I invite my roommate Charlie. We have a foursome.

As we head out the door, the cold air hits me like an alarm clock. Ok, I'm awake now! I'm guessing it's about 22 degrees. No big deal to Charlie, who is from Minnesota. I quickly figure that I'm probably the slowest in the group, or at least the only one who doesn't have an impressive running résumé. But we're not going too fast so I'm able to keep up. But, man, this town is hilly! We go up and down more than an Otis Elevator. Near the end of the run, Kim turns up an extreme hill. We follow but I'm now the caboose in this train.

At the top of the hill, I'm breathless, but manage to say, "Don't worry guys, I'm breathing for all four of us!"

I have a 13-miler scheduled sometime this week, but after looking at my meetings; I'm worried that it might not happen. I squeeze in another hour run on Friday with some guys, and as we're chatting in the hotel lobby afterwards I notice Terry, the race director of the Hospital Hill Half Marathon in Kansas City. Hmmmm.

"Hey Terry, do you have a map of your half marathon course?"

"I could probably get you one. What's up?"

"I'd like to run the course tomorrow morning, but I don't know it." Now, the bait... "Hey, if you're not doing anything, why don't you run it with us?"

"Uh, sure, what time?"

So, early Saturday morning we're off for a half marathoner. Word has spread so we now have a small group. The early morning frost has grasped hard to the ground, freezing the streets and even the sidewalks. Cars misjudge their traction and slide into their stops. Even though the footing is untrustworthy, we stick to sidewalks as much as possible to avoid errant vehicles. Terry gives us a running narration of the course. It has seven, count them, seven major hills, each with some terrifying name. Terry actually slips and falls on two separate occasions, but each time he's up with only minor scrapes and road burn. It turns out to be a very enjoyable run, at least for the rest of us! Terry might not be talking to me anymore!


My aching foot calls me more than a telemarketer. And I can't hang up!


Week Five

Kansas City was fun, but it's good to be back home in my own bed, with my normal roommate (sorry, Charlie), and on my own streets. Jimmy, who has been e-mailing with me since our first 13-miler way back in week two, has a day off so he's coming to run 17 miles (gulp!) with me this Friday afternoon. He has to drive about an hour and a half to meet me, on his day off no less, but as his wife says, "If you want to run 17 miles with Hank Brown instead of being with me, then ok." What a guy!

I'm very apprehensive about this run. First, it's a big jump; my longest run has been 14 miles so far. Second, my aching foot calls me more than a telemarketer. And I can't hang up!

I wake up Friday morning and it looks like El Nino has invaded Tennessee. It's pouring and extremely windy. I expect The Weather Channel van to pull up outside the door anytime for a live report. I e-mail Jimmy and tell him to forget it because it doesn't look like it will let up. I've toughened up over the past five weeks but no way I'm sloshing around 17 miles in this kind of weather. I don't have Jimmy's phone number so I can't call; therefore, I don't know if he will get the message or not. Should I abandon the run or wait and see? About an hour before our scheduled run, it miraculously clears up! As luck would have it, Jimmy did not receive the message and he shows up at the house right on time. Let's run!

Other than a little rain in the first mile, and an insistent wind, the weather holds off nicely. We run, and run, and run. Gosh, 17 miles is a long way. But we take our time, stop for stretch breaks, and eventually make it back home. Pinky, (my wife, Natalie, has a name for everything, even our house) is a welcome sight as we turn the last corner and head down the hill. I sure am glad to have that run behind me, and especially glad that Jimmy missed my message. I don't know if I could have done it alone.

I stick my foot in ice and think back. I've come a long way over the past few weeks, but still have just as far to go. If this were a baseball game, I'm heading into the middle innings, facing the meat of the order, with no bullpen. Runners have no relief pitchers, or substitute players. We have to go the complete game...

Week Six

Up until this week, I have not missed a scheduled run. I'm proud of that because I'm easily swayed to the dark (and lazy) side. But so far, I'm sticking to a strict agenda, and luck has been on my side. But luck can go both ways.

The week starts out okay with a 7-miler on Monday, and a tempo run on Tuesday. But I notice I've had a hacky cough for a few days, not bad enough to slow me down, just enough to annoy my officemates. On Wednesday Scratchy (Throat) joins forces with Hacky. I'm still running, but getting worried. Please, not a cold! Not now!

I'm in panic mode now. All this hard work for 5 weeks, and now I'm about to lose it all. This cold has to go away.


On Thursday morning I wake up and realize that during the night I must have transformed into a fire-breathing dragon. I can hardly swallow until I drink a gallon of orange juice and down a few Ibuprofen. Okay, I'll take a day off. I give in. On Friday, I'm still breathing fire, and feeling lousy. I come home from work, and instead of running my scheduled 13-miler, run straight to the couch and take a long nap. Okay, two days off won't hurt.

Early Saturday morning, Natalie and I leave for Charleston, SC, for a pre-Christmas weekend getaway. I'm looking forward to getting away from the East Tennessee winter and climbing into some warmer weather and short-sleeve runs along the historic Battery. The weather in Charleston cooperates: low 60's, blue sky, warm sunshine. Too bad my body's weather forecast is nothing but severe storms. Mr. Dragon has finally moved on, but invites his friends... Mr. Clogged Nose, Mr. Watery Eyes, Mr. Sneezy, and Mr. Grumpy (that's me). No, we're not the Seven Dwarfs, but I feel like I must have taken a bite from a bad apple. Running shoes stay in the closet. The non-running days are mounting.

Okay, I'm in panic mode now. All this hard work for 5 weeks, and now I'm about to lose it all. This cold has to go away. I'm tired of carrying around this box of Kleenex. I'm tired of Alka Seltzer. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, where's the relief? Where's that relief pitcher?

Next: Layers of Tough



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