Ready or not (mostly not), bring on the Beach to Beacon
CAPE ELIZABETH — I've always thought it might be kind of neat to run the TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon 10K. I mean, it seems like one of those defining Maine activities, as much as climbing Katahdin or making the loop through Acadia. And as a Midwestern transplant, those things seem that much cooler.
But there are good reasons I never signed up. The field fills up in about five minutes – and I seriously don't have the time, energy or luck to be online at 11:59:59 to register the March before the race.
And I hate running.
But, as one of the most active and most in-shape employees at The Forecaster (and maybe the most gullible), I was the likely candidate for the job when a running bib was offered to a reporter three weeks before race day.
Did I mention I hate running?
Put on the spot, offered the chance to write a rare first-person story or to save my body from three weeks of torture, it was a tough choice. On the premise that it might be a good excuse to run with friends, and despite the fact that no pay was being offered for my training hours, I hesitantly agreed.
The deal was sealed when Randy Billings suggested I could seek workers compensation for any injuries sustained during the race (a good bet with just three weeks to train).
We joked about my run in the newsroom – Peggy Roberts wanted me to wear a helmet cam, while Steve Mistler suggested I might podcast my hea-hea-heavy breathing. Kate Bucklin, totally serious, suggested I borrow her Blackberry and tweet my progress. (Mile 2: @mmehlsak, I'm. dying. And you. Will. Too. If I survive. This. Race.)
But, as it turns out, the joke was on me. Unless it involved wheels in my sneakers and a jet-pack on my back, no technology was going to shorten those 6.2 miles.
Considering The Forecaster's budget, I opted against expensing the jet-pack and sat down to think about actually training for the race.
Three weeks. According to a runningplanet.com series of 10K training programs, I needed at least eight weeks to train properly, whether I was a beginner or a seasoned competitor. The Maine Running Co., on Forest Avenue in Portland, runs an annual 16-18 week training program called Reach the Beacon.
I went out and bought new shoes, a good first step. The salesman recommended Asics, even though my wide little feet were set on my usual New Balances. They'd last longer, he said, and do better over long distances, since they're made of gel instead of foam. They fit, and since 6.2 miles is a freakishly long distance to me, I sucked it up and laid down the necessary $79.99.
But the difference between buying equipment and using it is not insignificant: I got the shoes on a Thursday, figuring I'd start training Friday morning. But I went up to Moosehead with my boyfriend, Stephen, instead, and he forgot to bring his sneakers.
Monday morning, Stephen and I decided to go for our first run together around Deering Oaks Park. Halfway around the park, my adrenaline cut me off and I thought I was going to collapse. "It's not too late to return these $*&#%$ shoes," I thought. "I'm done. I'm telling Mo I'm done."
Using MapMyRun.com, I later estimated our whole Deering Oaks loop at a mere 0.8 miles.
Tuesday morning, Stephen bailed on me – a stomach ache, he said. Somehow, I managed to get out of bed, put on my still-returnable sneakers, and make it all the way from my Atlantic Street apartment around the Eastern Prom to Loring Park overlooking Back Bay.
I stretched in the park, for the first time thinking that maybe I could do this. I walked most of the way back, but felt I'd made some progress. That afternoon, I made the same run, and ran the whole way. My inner college athlete was returning to me, probably helped by two years of once-a-week co-ed soccer.
I vowed to run at least five times a week until race day, but broke the promise as soon as I'd thought it – I didn't run again until Monday, unless you count my Thursday soccer games. And then not again until this Monday morning.
People twice my age and half my fitness level run this race though, right? Some people run once a year – the Beach to Beacon – and then get on with their lives, right?
One of the guys on my soccer team is running with his 11-year-old daughter – she bragged last week that they were up to four-mile runs.
My Eastern Prom route is just under two miles. I've never in my life been able to make it all the way around Back Bay, which at a little over three miles is exactly half a 10K.
John Rogers at Maine Running Co. recommended that under my time frame, I set a goal of finishing via a run-walk routine, so as not to hurt myself. The runners he's been training have spent the last few months building up to 20-minute runs, and then doing pace work (maintaining goal speeds over certain distances) in preparation for the race.
I have a couple more days to decide my strategy and attempt Back Bay.
Or maybe I'll invest in the jet-pack.
Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.