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Saturday, November 22, 2014         

MARATHON AMBITION


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Long-distance running is a sport for the ages

By Christy Wong Yee

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"Top athletes realize that running is a long-term sport," says professional runner Anthony Famiglietti in his blog on www.runfam.com. "It is set up for people who value delayed gratification and who like hard-earned success."

I take the key words of Famiglietti's reflection -- "delayed" and "hard" -- seriously. My husband, Scott, and I are halfway to the start line of the Honolulu Marathon, and in our six months of training, there have been no overnight successes, no light-bulb epiphanies, no overtly impressive strides toward our 26-mile goal. Only when we step back to shake off the funk of a bad run or an injury that clouds our view of the big picture do we see the steady progress we've been making all along.

Distances I used to refer to as "super-killer" (e.g., three miles) are now our warm-up jogs. Our Sunday "long runs" are now 10 miles. Cross-training includes hiking, swimming and core-strengthening exercises. We completed the Hibiscus Half-Marathon in 2 hours and 40 minutes on June 6, proving to ourselves that we, indeed, are on our way.

Constantly fighting the human inclination to follow the path of least resistance has conditioned us to discuss our weekday workouts in terms of "when," not "if," and slowly transformed us from reluctant runners into full-fledged marathon trainees.

"Doc" Jack Scaff of the Honolulu Marathon Clinic points out that long-distance running is the rare sport in which many athletes peak in their mid-30s, unlike sports that seem to be dedicated to the lithe, impossibly youthful bodies and minds of teens and 20-somethings.

This observation makes me, in particular, happy. I just turned 32 and am starting to miss the things my body could do in its 20s -- simple things like completing a round of "Dance Dance Revolution" without twisting an ankle or gasping for air, bouncing out of bed without pulling a muscle, staying up past 11 p.m. without looking like the living dead the following day.

And learning that not only will I be able to maintain my distance running as I get older, but that it might actually improve as the years pile on -- awesome.

Even with my limited running experience, I am already finding great truth in Doc Scaff's words, especially regarding the mental aspect. Running, I'm finding, requires not only a superbly conditioned and well-maintained body, but a great ability to focus one's mind in order to get past the physical and mental hurdles of training.

In my 30s I'm a lot better at filtering what my mind takes in than I was in my 20s, which for me is key to getting past the first mile of any run. Long-distance training also requires way more self-discipline than I had in my 20s, that much is for sure.

"If you can run a mile, you can run a marathon," says Darla Won, a Honolulu resident who works in the travel and hotel industry. "It's the time you put into your training that makes the difference." Won, who has completed two marathons since 2000, adds, "It also helps to have a partner who will keep you motivated when things get difficult."

Undoubtedly. Together, Scott and I face 5 1/2 more months of training, and we will be looking to each other for inspiration with every step we take.

Follow Christy Wong Yee's adventures training for the Honolulu Marathon on the second Tuesday of each month.






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