Running and Me: Our Long, Cyclical Relationship

Reflections by Ken Globerman

September 27, 2014 – One day before the 2014 Berlin Marathon

My relationship with running started later in life than most (discounting our brief teenage flirtation and occasional treadmill flings), and it’s hard to believe 12 years have passed since we had our first date; when I finally said, “enough is enough”, and took control of my health and wellness. But alas, the honeymoon period is firmly behind us. No longer do we experience personal bests together; we’ve tackled the greatest marathon in the greatest city in the world (4 times); we lost count of all the races we’ve done; we’ve gone international; god knows how many pairs of running shoes we’ve purchased, worn and thrown out over the years; and we’ve helped so many others face their doubts and enter the sport with confidence.

So last week, on my final long training run before the Berlin Marathon, which I will start in tomorrow, I had a long conversation with myself. Don’t worry all you negetivos, I wasn’t talking to myself aloud! While I listened to my playlist, I reflected on the last 13 years. I thought back to 2002. I remembered finishing graduate school and topping out the scale at 225 pounds (that’s ~100kg for my international friends). I remembered the book, “The Schwarzbein Principal”, and reading it with intense interest while waiting for Shakespeare in the Park tickets on Lafayette Street. I remembered the feeling after finishing my first half marathon in 2003, getting chosen by lottery for the NYC marathon that same autumn, and thinking, “Can I really do a full marathon that soon?” (Recall: just a few months previously, running 5 kilometers was a challenge). I remembered how I felt during that entire first marathon experience, and then the next (passing Jay-Z at about the 18th kilometer) in 2004, the next in 2008 (coming back after a short running hiatus in 2006-7), and the next in 2009 (my personal best), and the most recent two in 2011 (in Warsaw and then back in New York City).

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Picking up some fluids from friends on the marathon course, 2003

I reflected on all the people that have supported and encouraged me in different ways through the years. A totally random, 50+ year-old Dominican veteran marathon runner who back in 2003 took me for a run in Central Park and instilled confidence in a not-very-athletic-looking novice (I was so proud to share my marathon accomplishment with him less than 1 year later). The friend who lent me the book, “Healing Back Pain” and helped me through some of my early issues with knee pain (btw, no more knee pain!). All the WITC runners and triathletes, who have made amazing personal strides in fitness over the last three years and I am proud to call my friends. My New York Marathoner friends, you know who you are. My girlfriend, who gets to listen to me complain about my lack of fitness all the time. And of course my family and all other friends who’ve supported me during my training ups and downs and as spectators on race days.

2003 NYC Marathon with mom and friends at Central Park

At the finish of the 2003 NYC Marathon with mom and friends, Central Park

Yes I reflected on all of that and more. But on this particular day in September, there was something else. You see, running and I took some time off from each other over the past 18 months. Yeah it was tough, we sometimes met for a coffee (short run) or a casual lunch (occasional 10k) but the more involved meetings were absent. But on this day, I realized something was different. Maybe we can thank winning the Berlin Marathon entry lottery as the catalyst (we all need a little push sometimes). Due to that, running and I recently started making an effort see each other more regularly again. And on this particular Sunday, after 2 months, and 1 week before Berlin, I could tell: we were back!

I got so excited! I had an extra pep in my step. The emotion carried me through at least 5 kilometers. The rush of endorphins flowed through my veins. And I knew then, more than ever, our relationship would last a lifetime. Yes, the honeymoon period was over, but it’s been replaced by something else – a lasting, ever evolving, relationship. Suddenly, I stopped looking at our road as a linear one. I started recognizing the cyclicality of it all – compressed time frames, where at any given month, week, or even moment, we can strive to be the best that we can be. I started thinking about the “Lean Startup” philosophy towards management, breaking things down into smaller pieces. Stop stalling and lingering. Look forward, but live in thehear and now”. Relish in today’s success. Be the best you can be, today.

And then it hit me. I understood why I do it. The question I have asked so many people: “Why do you run?”

And here’s my answer: I Run To Live.

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At the Berlin Marathon expo the day before the big event. It’s hard to escape cues to NYC :)

That’s it. It’s that simple. I realized that when my relationship with running is in a good place, everything else starts to fall into place – health, frame of mind, fitness, and attitude. Reaching middle age, as I firmly have, I’ve started to accept my mortality. And with running (like everything else), we will one day end up right back in the same place we all started. So why not enjoy the journey? And during that journey, running helps me discover myself. I believe when you get down to it, that’s what all us human beings strive to do. And I’m no different.

So tomorrow, I will be on the start line of the Berlin Marathon. The comparisons to 2003 (marathon #1) are eerie. Eleven years older but similar weight (a bit on the heavy side). Similar level of fitness (not particularly great) and a similar dose of self-doubt. Tomorrow, I will discover myself, yet again…

September 29, 2014 – One day after the 2014 Berlin Marathon

“HEY DOUBT, IT WAS NICE SEEING YOU AGAIN. BUT YOU CAN TAKE A HIKE NOW, BECAUSE I DID IT!” Yes, I represented Warsaw International Triathlon Club at the 41st Berlin Marathon and completed the challenge. Today, my thighs are as stiff as boards and I spent the day walking around Berlin like Frankenstein, but otherwise I feel absolutely great! It was a perfect atmosphere on a perfect September day. Went out a little fast for my fitness (as I seem to always do in these events) and could feel the positive effects of my recent weeks of extra training. The first 25 kilometers were a breeze but kilometers 25 through 35 were the hardest 10k I could remember. However, I wasn’t giving in. As one t-shirt I read said, it was now, “WILL OVER WALL”. The support on the racecourse was absolutely awesome, and got better and better as the race neared its conclusion. My Austin Powers-like mojo started to return, as I moved through kilometers 35, then 36, and 37, 38, 39 and finally, 40! The last 2 kilometers were an ABSOLUTE CELEBRATION, and started to crescendo as I passed under Brandenburg Gate with just 200 meters to the finish line!

I completed the distance in 3:57:44. Fastest finishing time for 45-year old Ken and about 1 minute faster than my first marathon in New York back in 2003. And it must have been a perfect day, because not one but TWO men (Kenyans, of course) were faster than the previous world record (10th world record set at the Berlin Marathon) with the winner posting a time of 2:02:57!

Finding time to visit the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium the day after the marathon

Finding time to visit the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium the day after the marathon

You know, six months ago, I never would have been able to make this happen. And now it’s behind me. But the biggest thing of it all is, I feel motivated to continue eating healthier, training and building upon this accomplishment. That’s my trophy. The halo effect through life. And sure, it doesn’t hurt that my jeans fit better than 3 months previous. :)

So I’d recommend the Berlin Marathon (and running for that matter) to anyone and everyone. What a great feeling! And if you ever think you’re a little to old, or too heavy, or to weak – don’t ever let your inhibitions, fears or concerns get in the way.

Just get out there and do it!

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My “Rocky moment”! WITC at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

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