iRun ISSUE05 2015

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FEET, DON’T FAIL ME NOW BEN KAPLAN, COLUMNIST

EYE ON TOMORROW: BEN KAPLAN TACKLES MILE REPEATS IN PREPARATION OF BREAKING A 3-HOUR MARATHON. PHOTOGRAPH BY SOLANA CAIN.

HARDER, BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER

Staring down lethargy, fatherhood and overall exhaustion, Ben Kaplan decides to laugh in the face of middle age and train for an October PB

T

wo weeks ago I was on my way to pick my kids up at daycare and I ran into a friend, giving it. He had on a yellow bandana, yellow tank top from the Chicago Marathon, and his tattoos were blazing. I was jogging, loping, thinking about other things. He was RUNNING. We looked like different species. Man, I thought, channeling When Harry Met Sally: “I’ll have what he’s having.” Then and

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there I reached a decision: I’m not too old to PB. I can and will train for a fall marathon. My fastest days are in front of me. I’m all in. Let’s go. I’d been on the fence about ever racing again. I’m 41. My kids are almost 2 and 4. I’m tired. I’m busy. I’m middle aged. I don’t want to get injured. I’m trying so hard in every aspect of my life; do I want to make running another thing that I’m working at? Can’t I run lazy laps around

my neighbourhood, listen to Paul Simon, and leave my watch in a drawer? Besides, I ran the Ottawa Marathon without racing. I went slowly at the beginning. I had no finishing time in mind and, when pushed, thought I might do it in something like 3:45. I hadn’t been training, I’d been teaching a clinic and believe me when I say I had more burgers than bananas since the fall. I loved running Ottawa. I gave out more

high fives than the Pan Am games mascot and had the most drastic negative split of my running career—turns out, with people cheering on a beautiful day after a warm-up, I can still drag a 3:15 from my lazy bones and retire in good enough shape afterwards to catch a plane to Toronto and put my children to bed. Why not run that way all the time? Why risk life and limb when it will only change my time, at best, by 15 minutes and one second? My mind was made up. Chris McDougall, my running hero, the Born to Run guy, stopped racing. He told me that as a dad and an author in his 50s, he’s happy that he’s even running. Why run Fartleks when you can count your blessings on a summertime afternoon? When I saw my buddy, the reason became clear: he was having FUN! It’s fun to train, to be on a mission, to have a goal and to push yourself beyond where you’ve been before. It’s fun to hurt. It’s fun to struggle. It’s fun to improve, to try things, to eat more bananas than burgers and practise discipline. And guess what? When I saw Chris again in Toronto, when he had a new book to promote and we got to talking, he told me that he too was reentering

racing! Curiosity had got the best of him. What is the most he could give? And so now I’m three weeks into training with my buddy in the yellow bandana. On our first week, we did mile repeats, then 20K, with a negative split at my half marathon pace for the final 10. Last night we ran 30 kilometres. I’m batting 75% at reaching the target performances. It’s awesome. Running paths that I’ve been on hundreds of times have become racetracks. My watch is again my best friend. It’s helpful to have a partner when you begin seriously training. No way I could push myself like we’ve been pushing on my own. And this guy’s tall, crazy long strides to take us out of the gate fast enough to reach split times. Also: so far, no injuries to report. Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) is the first marathon I ever ran, back in 2009. I’ve done nine since, including one in Jerusalem. The fastest I ever ran one is 3:00:19, last year at STWM. I thought that was as fast as I was ever going to do it. But you know what? It isn’t. Not even close. I’m dusting off my racing shoes and changing baby carrots for chips. I’m back, as they say, in the saddle again. It’s going to be so much fun.

Ben Kaplan is the General Manager of iRun and the author of Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now FOLLOW @iRunningBen READ his blog on iRun.ca RUN WITH him in Toronto on Wednesday nights along the Lakeshore!

iRun because I want to eat more! — Guy Leblanc, Ontario

2015-07-16 12:33 PM