A decade of slow running: My most memorable moments

Crosscut By 2: As this year's Seattle Marathon training winds down, our columnist looks back on his 16 marathons and 10 years of serious running.
Crosscut By 2: As this year's Seattle Marathon training winds down, our columnist looks back on his 16 marathons and 10 years of serious running.

Editor's note: Monte Enbysk, an experienced (but not elite) runner, was thrown off his Seattle Marathon training schedule by an injury last month. He's chronicling his comeback effort and 'ꀔ if he makes it 'ꀔ his race day for Crosscut. His previous installments are available here.

As I finish my second-to-last week of training for the Seattle Marathon, I'ꀙm thinking back on how and why I started running in the first place. It was more evolutionary than revolutionary, and not the stuff that legends are made of.

If I finish this marathon alive, as planned, it will be my 17th marathon. I am trying to get to at least 20 before my legs can no longer handle the distance. Yet even 10 years ago, when I was beginning to run as long as eight miles at a time but had yet to do any races, I couldn'ꀙt have imagined doing even one marathon. So I'ꀙve packed a lot of running into this last decade, and I can only explain it by saying it'ꀙs become a necessary, even compulsive part of my lifestyle. I get agitated and grumpy if I can'ꀙt run while listening to music on my headphones.

I played three 'ꀜball'ꀝ sports in high school and two at a community college, and never had to worry much then about weight management, cholesterol, and so on. Things changed as I moved toward middle age; I spent more time behind a computer, worked crazy hours at newspapers, ate whatever I wanted, and found that pitching for my Media League softball team did not burn anywhere near enough calories.

Friends in my hometown (Pendleton, in Eastern Oregon) were walking. Long walks. Back visiting and seeing my folks, I joined them, and enjoyed our talks while we walked all over town. A funny thing happened. Came back to visit once in the 1990s, and they were running. I felt awful that I couldn'ꀙt keep up the first time, and so I began running on my own. I ran track in junior high school, but this was different. I didn'ꀙt like it so much then, but I began to like how it felt now. I started with a mile, then two, then three or four. Before long, when I went back to Pendleton, I could keep up.

Fast-forward to 2001. I'ꀙd been eager to enter some races, but was totally out of the loop as to when any were scheduled. I found out about a downtown Seattle 10K to support AIDS research, and signed up. I had a great time. I did another 10K in Redmond two months later. It wasn'ꀙt too long before race organizers knew my email address and found me.

And my progression was thus: After running four 10Ks, I felt ready for a half-marathon. My first was the Seattle Half-Marathon in 2002. After just one half, I knew I wanted to do a full. The marathon seemed the pinnacle of all races; the one where the accomplishment feels the grandest. I actually ran four half-marathons before doing the Portland Marathon in 2003, but finishing that first marathon indeed felt grand. (No plans for any ultras at this time, however; marathons are long enough.)

Here are more of my memorable moments in a decade of slow running:

  • Over-training leads to slow dressing (November 2003): My first marathon in Portland (finish time: 5 hours, 7 minutes) went amazingly well for me, but at the urging of my running partner, I signed up to do the Seattle Marathon (4:53) eight weeks later. I was fatigued from over-training, and nearly collapsed in the last three miles of a chilly day. A guy I didn'ꀙt know in the finishers'ꀙ area looked at me, laughed and said, 'ꀜYou look like shit.'ꀝ He was right. After showering, I had trouble putting on my clothes and shoes because I was so sore.
  • Breakthrough run (May 2004): Oh, but my third marathon, Capitol City in Olympia (4:34), was one of my best. I trained just right, my legs felt great in the last six miles, and reaching mile 25 I was euphoric. The last mile in front of the Capitol was almost all downhill.
  • Half-marathon PR (June 2004): Doing marathons seemed to make my times for other runs better. I ran the Seafair Half-Marathon in 1:55, my best half-marathon time.
  • Marathon PR (October 2005): Victoria, B.C., has a festive marathon each year, and I'ꀙve run it twice. At the starting line for my first one, 'ꀜHighway to Hell'ꀝ by AC/DC blasted on my headphones. The highway did not lead to Hell; I ran 4 hours, 29 minutes, 46 seconds, for my personal record (PR) time.
  • Good time at the Holiday Bowl (December 2005): One of my most fun races was a 5K in San Diego before my Oregon Ducks played in the Holiday Bowl. On a flat course, with my brother chasing me hard from behind, I ran my 5K PR time of 24 minutes, 32 seconds.
  • What not to wear (May 2006): Don'ꀙt wear too many layers for a marathon, especially one in a steady downpour. I over-dressed for the Vancouver Marathon, including running pants and a coat that did not repel water. I lugged extra pounds of water-logged clothes to the finish line (5:01). A woman at an aid station mocked me, yelling, 'ꀜYou warm enough?'ꀝ
  • Lesson learned (November 2006): I did the Seattle Marathon in another steady downpour, in short pants and a light coat. I froze afterward, but did my best time for this race of 4:38.
  • Great run in TrackTown but PR is elusive (April 2007): The Eugene Marathon returned to TrackTown USA in 2007, and I was happy to be part of it. I finished 10 seconds away from a new marathon PR, at least partly because of a dizzy spell at mile 23 that forced me to walk a bit and collect myself.
  • Valentine'ꀙs Day lowlight (February 2008): On a tight 5K course around Green Lake, I got tripped twice by other runners in the second mile, and tore my hamstring. Sidelined me for five weeks. I limped to the finish line; I had to, my car was parked just beyond it.
  • Running in high heat (June 2008): My hamstring healed and I was able to train for the last Seafair Marathon to be held (it'ꀙs now the Rock 'ꀘn Roll Seattle Marathon, not run by Seafair). We did a rare trek across the Evergreen Point floating bridge, but I will remember more that temperatures this day reached the 90s. And I wasn'ꀙt about to kill myself. I walked more than a mile and stopped in front of several houses along the course to get hosed off by friendly homeowners. My time was 5:46, but I was glad to just finish this one, a true Highway to Hell.

On Nov. 29, there will be temperatures in the 30s and 40s for the Seattle Marathon. Cold, wet weather is no fun for a marathon, but I will easily take it over high heat.

Fellow runners, help me here. Did you do any of these races too? What are your most memorable moments in running? Please leave a comment below.


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