Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Date With The Devil

I got introduced to the devil earlier this week.

As in, the one from the old English proverb that reads: "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't."

Don't worry, it's not as dramatic or traumatic as it sounds. It simply means that I decided that it was better to know exactly what lies ahead for me, rather than to jump in blindly.

Runners are divided into two pretty distinct groups when it comes to pre-race rituals -- those who want to know every hill and turn and those who will just tackle whatever the route throws at them on race day.

I've always fallen into the latter category, which is probably a surprise to anyone who knows me and knows that I worry about everything and anything -- all the time -- all the "what ifs" in life, no matter how far-fetched.

In life, I definitely feel most comfortable when armed with more information.

But my race philosophy has always been that once the run had started, it wouldn't matter how big the hill was in front of me. I'd have to run up it. (Note to self: perhaps not a bad philosophy for life, too.)

If I knew the route -- especially if I knew there was something dreadful out there -- I'd just be focused on the fact that I'd have to face it. I might, gasp, chicken out?

Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever driven a race route prior to showing up at the starting line -- until now.

The other evening, when a strong summer storm caused the quick cancellation of a bike ride, I drove the second half of the Manchester Marathon course. Not only did I drive it, I did so in preparation of running it this weekend. Yes, actually training on the course. Go figure.

With my Trusty Companion riding shotgun and supplied with the marathon route map (and later the mapping function of his iPhone), we started at the half-way point -- which incidentally is right outside TC's building.

See, it's just as important (if not more) that TC familiarize himself with the route, since he'll be providing me with support for my run on Saturday (and presumably on race day).

When I found out I wouldn't be running with the team on Sunday (due to an important cow-belling engagement for TC's first cycling race), I decided I'd take a rare opportunity for a long run in the city to test out the course -- at least part of it.

I'm sure that during the marathon the course will be well marked, volunteers will be directing runners at intersections and -- let's be honest -- I'll be following someone the entire way. I won't really need to know where I'm going.

But when I run on Saturday, I'll have to find my way. I made mental notes of street signs and landmarks as we drove the course, even though I'm sure TC will be there at all the right moments to point me in the right direction.

As expected, I also made mental notes about some of the hillier parts -- and there will be quite a few as we run through the St. Anselm's College campus. A few of those hills seemed pretty long, especially considering that I'll be running them at the 18-mile mark. (On Saturday I should just remind myself to be grateful that it's only Mile 5, right?)

Driving the course gave me an appreciation for how far I can already run -- "I can't believe you're going to be running this far," TC said at one point -- and how far I will be able to run. (Although I do admit experiencing the slightest moment of panic wondering if I'd be able to run it twice, mileage-wise, in just three months.)

One thing's for certain, now that I've been introduced to the devil, I look forward to getting to know him up close and personal.

See you Saturday, Wicked One.


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