Wise Running

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Tag Archives: aging

Identifying Who I Am As an Athlete: P. Mark Version 3.0

As I shared in my last blog, a lot of my efforts have shifted from running goals to bodybuilding goals.  As I have fully engaged in heavy lifting more frequently and long runs less frequently, inner conflicts began to surface.  I began to ponder…

  • Am I shifting just because I am getting older and slower? (I turn 52 tomorrow)
  • Should I focus on muscle measurements or strength goals as the primary target?
  • How does this effect my long-term participation in the local running community?

And…  For heaven’s sake!  Why is this question of athletic identity so important to me?

Athletic Identity

Let’s start with that last one. I am a father, grandfather, husband, Christian, professor, researcher, author, and so much more.  Why in the world does my athletic identity feel like such an important matter?

Certainly, it was absolutely critical to me in my teenage years.  I belonged to my church, my school, my cross country team, and my track team.  I had a place.  I had some personal success, but I scored points for the team.  So many teens feel lost.  I knew who I was.  The teen years were difficult, but running was part of what made them good for me.

When injury took me away from running, I let it go for nearly a quarter of a century.  I would lift weight periodically, but never with competition in mind.  I would go for runs, but almost always just to go relax.  There was no formal training or competition.  For about 24 years, my athletic identity was more like a relic of the past rather than a current need.  The glory days were gone.  I was doing important work in the field of education, in church, and serving my community.

Why, then, did the importance of athletic identity once again rise in importance?  Okay, so life did not go as planned.  Around 2008, I was trying harder than ever to make a difference and I got knocked on my butt.  My midlife attempts to save the world backfired.  At one moment in 2009, I was at the same kind of identity crisis as I was at a teen.  I knew I had a lot to offer the world.  Jesus was still my rock, but I was reeling with self-doubt and in need of some direction.  I had achieved great things up to this point, but I suddenly felt like I needed to re-establish my identity.

I responded to this identity crisis in many of the same ways as I had when I was a teenager.  I joined new groups, tried new relationships, but most importantly I started running again.  Not just running, but training.  I joined the Knoxville Track Club and started training and racing.  I did a half marathon, then a marathon… I eventually set my sites on qualifying for Boston.

My renewed identity as a runner was an important part of rebuilding my self-identity as a strong, capable person.  My new job a Carson-Newman University helped tremendously as well, but it was my running achievements that connected me back to that strong feeling of identity to which I clung as a teenager.  Here I was clinging to it just as strongly.  If my high school running identity was version 1.0, then my new running career started at 42 years old was “P. Mark 2.0”

I went on to achieve some pretty cool things.  I wasn’t world class, but I was the best runner I could be.  I also had the hardware to prove it in medals and trophies.

What happened to P. Mark version 2.0?

After I finished an Ironman, ran Boston a few times, and set a solid personal record in the marathon, I just sort of lost some steam.  I was training hard, but lacked the same intensity which developed this late-blooming athlete.  I had some extra duties and a packed personal life as well.  I was getting worn out.  I would set goals once in a while, but I never could stay focused on one goal long enough to achieve it.  I burned the candle at both ends until the fire went out.

To be honest, I was glad to let P. Mark 2.0 fizzle out.  I focused more on just doing the things I felt like doing.  By late 2018, I was still an okay runner by my own standards but I was getting more out of achieving weightlifting improvements.  I had no major goal to set my sites upon.

Why P. Mark version 3.0?

As I am writing this blog, it is finally dawning on me.  P. Mark version 3.0 is necessary.  It is only part of who I am.  It does not define me in any major way, but it is absolutely critical.  I realize that I always feel the most like myself when athletic endeavors are a part of my life.  It does not need to be running.  I am as happy going for a two hour swim as I am going for a two hour run.  I love to ride my mountain bike on the trails near our house in South Knoxville.

I feel joy when I lift hard, run hard, bike hard, and swim hard.  God has built it into my soul.  To deny my athletic identity is to deny a part of what God has designed.

Version 3.0 will simply have some tweaks.  Goal setting gives direction to the workouts. God gives me joy while I am working out.  I can set any goal I want and be happy with it.

For now, here is what I understand about P. Mark the athlete as of July 5, 2019:Kiawah 2018

  • I will continue to lift weight with specific goals of size for arms, legs, chest & back.
  • I will continue to focus my running on shorter distances for now (800 meters to 5K).
  • I will begin to build my bike power numbers to prepare for cycling and triathlon in the years to come.

In short, the distance runner in version 2.0 has been replaced by an athlete building power.

Although I anticipate a return to Ironman races in a year or two, I will not train long distance until that time comes.  I am a 52 year old athlete (as of tomorrow) who is building power for the next round.  That is who I am right now.

Blessings to you and yours,

P. Mark

 

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Chasing a Seventeen-Year-Old Me (updated 11/30/2016)

“Goals are not only absolutely necessary to motivate us.  They are essential to really keep us alive.”  — — Robert Schuller

‎”You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ~Jack London
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Call it a mid-life crisis.  Call it dreaming.  Call it whatever you want.  I am chasing the shadow of a 17 year-old me.  I was 17 when I consistently ran 4:45 for 1600 meters.  I was 17 when I ran a half-marathon in 1:20:48.  I was 17 when I got tendinitis.  After a couple of years of doctors, specialists, & physical therapy, nobody could figure out why I had this tendinitis.  I would run once in a while, but my competitive days were done… or so I thought.
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My tendinitis issues started in 1984.  Now fast forward to 2003.  I decided that I was getting out of shape and I started jogging.  This time, my tendinitis did not show up but I had knee issues.  Another specialist and another round of, “There is nothing we can do.”  I was told to stay off hills and run 3 miles or less.  So for a few years I jogged 3 to 7 miles on a feel-like-it basis, every so often.
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When my life was turned inside out back in 2009, I needed stress relief badly, so I turned to fitness.  I joined a gym and started training for a marathon.  Well, I should say that I started running a lot and hoping that would help me finish a marathon.  I can’t really say that I had a plan.  In the 2010 Knoxville Marathon, I totally bonked at mile 17 and walked the rest of the way…mostly in the cold rain…shivering..muscles locked up… but I finished.  5 hours and 35 minutes.  It was hell.  I was hooked!
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I put the weights down and focused on training for the 2011 Knoxville Marathon.  This time, I followed one of Hal Higdon’s plans.  I modified the advanced I plan.  I also learned about electrolytes and Yasso 800s.  I felt fast enough to run 3:40 or so, but alas I had still not learned enough about electrolytes and nutrition.  I had to settle for 3 hours and 55 minutes.  Much better than the first try!
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After this one, I followed Hal’s advice and used the momentum from this marathon to earn some personal records (PRs) in shorter distances.  He was SO right.  I had done very little speed training.  Most of my track work was about pacing more than speed.  Still, my training had made me much faster.  I found myself running a 5k in less than a 7 minute pace for the first time in over a quarter of a century!  A month later, I averaged a 7 minute pace for a 10k!
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“What else can I accomplish?” This was the question That I asked myself.  Moreover, “What do I WANT to accomplish while I am still young enough to get fast?”
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I set my sights on a 6 minute mile.  In the next 5k, I ran the first mile in 5:47.  I obviously couldn’t maintain that speed, but it was my first sub-6 mile in a very long time.  I ended up finishing the 5k in 20:46.  I kept pondering…”How fast can I get?”
. As of 11/30/2016, my best times (not including high school) are:

Marathon

3:08:22

Half Marathon

1:27:42

10K

39:43

5K

18:35

 1 Mile

5:23

800 meter

2:21

Full Triathlon (Ironman 140.6)

13:59:43

Half Triathlon

6:06:30
I am now 49 years old and I have qualified for the Boston Marathon on the courses at:
  • 7 Bridges Marathon, TN
  • Shamrock Marathon, VA
  • Indianapolis Marathon, IN
  • Savannah Marathon, GA
  • Boston Marathon, MA
  • The Seqouyah at Pinson Mounds, TN
At this point I am still wanting to achieve a sub-3-hour marathon.  It is not about the final destination, however.  It is about loving the journey.    🙂
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Qualifying for Boston was just bucket list item #1.  Also on my bucket list:

  • Run 1 mile under 4:45.
  • Run a 5k under 17:40.
  • Run a half marathon in less than 1 hour and 20 minutes  ( I can probably make it faster, but this specific time would be enough to defeat the 17 year old me)
What I am not doing is setting time limits.  I obviously can’t wait forever, but injuries/mishaps will occur along the way.  I have to give myself that latitude or I will go crazy.  I set goals and display them publicly to push myself, but I want to enjoy the ride.
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I am chasing the shadow of a 17 year-old me…
I am finally getting close enough to see him…
and I think I can pass him before this race is over!
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Happy Running!

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