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David Freeze: Gotta Run

Are you thinking of a marathon?

Editor’s note: Salisbury native David Freeze is currently cycling from Anacortes, Washington, to Green Bay, Wisconsin. He wrote this column before setting out. Contact him at david.freeze@ctc.net

As the weather starts turning warm, thoughts for many runners turn to a possible long distance race in the fall. Several of my clients already are.

However, training during the summer is not much fun — at least the first part of training comes with some heat and humidity for marathoners. I was a total novice when I decided to run my first marathon. Hopefully you will enjoy the story.

I hardly ran at all when my very first wife (there ought to be a special award for that) and I watched the New York City Marathon on ABC way back in 1979. I will admit to having a little bit of extra around my middle, but it wasn’t the need to lose weight that got me started. My wife thought there was absolutely no chance that I could run 26.2 miles. I thought I could, although what looked so good on TV never seemed quite as easy when it came to putting the feet to the road. I planned to prove I could do it.

My own choice of the first marathon was pretty easy, especially when wife no. 1 thought it was so funny that I wanted to do NYC. I can still see her laughing, some might say uncontrollably.

I started reading everything I could and got immersed into the training, as you might expect. Running was a good thing for me and quickly the weight came off. Building the distance of long runs became enjoyable too.

Former Post Sports Editor Ed Dupree wrote a story once about my running and success at races. Ed’s title was “Freeze Enjoys His Time With God,” referring to my long runs. I think I enjoyed them more than most and built up the distance while thinking, praying, some singing and realizing for the first time that there seemed to be a real connection between miles on the pavement and sorting through issues.

I raced at least every other weekend and just about any distance was fine, as long as it was a race. Sometimes I raced hard on Saturdays, then ran long on Sunday mornings. Mid-week interval sessions on the track at China Grove Middle School started to click and in my first year of real running, only about eight months after I started, I posted a 1 hour and 20 minute half marathon (13.1 miles). That time was significant to what happened later.

My only experience with a marathon was watching one on TV and reading about others, mostly about very good runners doing fast times. Was this running thing really so easy?

I listened to those runners who said all I had to do was complete a couple of 20 mile runs in preparation. By October, my feet were flying and the cooler weather made the effort even easier. I was set to run my first marathon in New York City on the first Sunday in November and I couldn’t be more confident.

Race day came, one year into my running and just one year after that first TV marathon, and there I was with the helicopters flying overhead, fire boats spraying colored water and more foreign runners than I had ever seen. The cannon was about to fire to send more than 20,000 runners on their way through five boroughs of the greatest city in the world.

The result was not quite what I expected. I had an idea that I could run a 2 hour and 50 minute marathon based on my fast half-marathon time. I thought, “Just do that time twice and even if I slow down, I’ll have a very fast time.” I hit that same 1 hour and 20 minute half marathon and kept it up for about four more miles, obviously too fast for my training. The 20-mile long runs in training weren’t enough because I ran out of gas and crashed.

My next 13.1 miles took 2 hours and 7 minutes and I felt miserable. Total time was 3 hour and 27 minutes, way off what I thought I could do. Respect the marathon and learn from your mistakes! I certainly did, and ran a 2-hour-and-56-minute marathon a month later in Jacksonville while running more sensibly.

So choose carefully, don’t be afraid of the distance and get good advice. You will learn a lot from your first marathon, just like I did.

Check www.salisburyrowanrunners.org for info on the Run for the Greenway 5K, set for July 15.


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