Kathrine Switzer's Blog

Kathrine recently ran her first marathon in 34 years. Read how she did it!

Archive for March 2010

Long Live These Endorphins!

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Just for the record, the endorphins are still surging from finishing the Mototapu Icebreaker Marathon last week! I can’t wipe the grin off my face, and to tell you the truth, this feels almost as good as seeing a book you’ve been writing for years finally published.

When it’s been a long time, and in my case 34 years since I did my last marathon distance, you can’t quite believe you’ve done it. My book, Marathon Woman, took almost that long, too, as I kept writing, and then would put it away. I just wasn’t ready to go that deep again in both cases. It hurts to plumb the depths, physically or emotionally.

But now I’m ready to go again, because in writing or running, empowerment from doing it builds confidence and takes away the fear of pain or failure.

I’ve known this all my life; I lecture on it, I write about it…but when it comes to yourself, it’s a new story.  I’ve learned a lot about myself from this difficult marathon, and it’s both hilarious and eye-opening.

I’d trained hard, had done at least 8 runs over 3 hours, 2 over 4 and one at 5 ½, wearing a backpack loaded with the emergency gear I needed to carry on the run and doing them all on rough, rocky and hilly tracks.  Still, I was nervous as hell; was it enough? The Motatapu is one of New Zealand’s toughest races; it’s not about time, it’s about doing it.   It turned out yes, I’d done enough, but no, I was still not prepared enough. Both the up hills and downhills were steeper and longer than any I’d done; I felt gypped that after having to walk some of the uphills that the downhills were so steep I could not really run them, but instead had to jog carefully down the loose shingle.

The river crossings nearly killed me.  I guess I couldn’t imagine that I’d get more than splashed; instead the rushing water and slick bottom stones nearly knocked me over and my shoes so filled with water and grit from the force of the streams that when I tried to lift my now very heavy feet, my hip flexors began to howl in protest.  There was one advantage to the streams though: the water was so bitingly cold it totally numbed your calves and feet. So when you ran on the sharp stones, you couldn’t feel them.

And the glutes!  Oh dear, I talk about having to sit on a tennis ball to break up the little anvil in my buttocks, but at half way, both of them just seized on me.  I had a Crisis of Confidence. Yup, my first one ever in a marathon.  I thought, ‘I can’t lift my legs!  I might not be able to finish this.’  My watch said 2 ½ hours, I kept telling myself to get a grip; I’d done 5 ½ hours in training. But not with an immobile backside.

For those of you who know me, you know I am skeptical of anything but the Hard Work School of Running Improvement. So you will now laugh your own butts off when I tell you that I was so nervous about this race that I’d pasted magnets on my butt, on my back, in my arches; I visualized myself happily sipping a latte at the finish; I carried extra energy gels and now I was looking heavenward and invoking all the old helpful spirits of my life. At one point, I said, “I’ll tell you what, God, if you just loosen these glutes a little, just a little, I think I can finish. How about it?”

And POW like a lightening bolt came the message, “You idiot, you put a fast-acting Advil in your pocket this morning, why don’t you take it?  And why don’t you take your energy gel?”   And so I did. I had no idea why I’d put an Advil in my pocket when I left my hotel room; I’d never done that before in hundreds of races, and I rarely used gels.  They both worked like a charm. I began to loosen up, began to stride again. Oh boy!

I even began to appreciate the scenery, which is why I wanted to do this race in the first place. On environmentally protected land, this remote, wild, high sheep country is both stunning and scary. The scale is beyond vast; there is no one there; it’s about both survival and appreciation.  I was one lucky and grateful woman to see it and run through it. But I still wanted it over.

The last 10k of this event is downhill. Gorgeous but not nice, it is rocky and treacherous, with a sheer cliff on the right hand side. The race instructions say, “If you go over this cliff you likely will die. So stay left.”  I was hugging the left canyon wall but did venture a peep over the side to see if it really was a cliff and nearly puked, so you get the picture. As I ran down this track I was seriously jamming my toes into the end of my shoes, but my feet were still frozen and I couldn’t feel it. I was sure I’d lose all my toenails the next morning, but since I couldn’t feel anything, I just thought, what the hell!

With a mile to go, thinking you were home at last, you go around a curve and find that the next half-mile is a slog through a river bed, with big stones to crack your ankles against. I looked heavenward again and asked, “Tell me, is this a test?”

Then out of the water and around another curve, we burst out of the woods and could see a mob of cheering people lining the finish chute on the village green in the tiny mountain village of Arrowtown.  I was happy to finish strongly, as Roger was there with a hot latte and a bacon sandwich and I found myself blinking back tears.

Postscript: The next day, I had absolutely no soreness.  I did not even bruise a toenail, nor have a blister. I’d heard that trail running left your legs in good shape, but this was an absolute revelation to me, as the road marathons used to just shred my feet and thighs.  Roger and I went for a 3-hour hike, much of it up a mountain slope and down again, and I felt fine.   Later in the day I discovered that my time of 5 hours 38 minutes was good enough to win my age group by 33 minutes….of course, there were only four women over-60!  But I was 164 of all 270 women; that pleased me a lot, even though I swear I’m not competitive.

Have fun, be fearless, be free.


Written by kevinm

March 22, 2010 at 7:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

DID IT!!!!

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Dear Friends–after 34 years, I did my first marathon distance at the Mototapu Icebreaker in the South Island of New Zealand    (www.iconicadventures.co.nz) and let me say, I was a bit out of my mind to choose one of the hardest endurance races in New Zealand: through the mountainous high country, carrying a pack, 28 river crossings, all off-road with astonishing descents as well as ascents.  I finished in 5 hours 38 minutes; average time for women over 50 is over 6 hours so I am exceedingly pleased.  Mostly to know an old body can gear up again and embrace adventure. I will write more when I can, I have limited time here on my computer in the mountains, with dodgey network connection, just wanted to say THANK YOU!  It was gorgeous and amazing.

Written by kevinm

March 13, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Rekindling the Fire

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I’ve been running for 50 years.  It staggers the imagination. Even mine!

That’s an awful lot of miles, and since I do my best thinking on the run, that’s a lot of contemplation. I’ve put many of those thoughts and ideas into three books, hundreds of speeches, more business proposals than I want to remember, and a bursting idea box.

Now it’s time for a blog.  I know, I know, Luddite techno-phobic me has finally realized that plenty of ideas don’t make it into books, most books don’t get published, and when they do it takes at least a year.  And nobody is going to see an idea that is jammed into an idea box.  Plus, you all have been needling me to create some kind of interactive forum, so here goes.

Here’s my first topic—Rekindling the Fire.   (Also known as what keeps you motivated, sustaining the interest, and what gets you out running every day for those of you who inevitably ask that question!)

On March 13, I’m planning to run my first marathon in 34 years.  I’m 63, and to tell you the truth, I’m more than a little nervous.  But I think the reason that I’m compelled to throw myself back into this madness has resonance for all of us.

My last marathon distance race—where I actually pinned on a number and committed myself publicly to 26.2 miles (42.2 K) —was 1976, 34 years ago.  Sure, in those 34 years I ran regularly, raced and competed, but all at shorter distances.

Plus, after running 35 marathons, the desire to actually do the distance again wasn’t as fascinating to me as broadcasting it for TV, or writing about it in another book. My work, which involves huge amounts of international travel, also made getting consistent long runs very difficult.

Then, two years ago, my friend Thom Gilligan from Marathon Tours and I were working to revitalize the Bermuda International Race weekend and Thom came up with this crazy idea of the Bermuda Triangle Challenge—three races in three days.  When he asked me to run it I told him he was out of his mind; it was crazy when I was running 100 miles a week and it is even nuttier now that I’m age 60 and jogging 25.  He badgered; I whined. Then I began training because I was curious. Could I do this?

I was also meeting plenty of women who were my age and older who were running in amazing events, and although I admired and lauded them, I began to feel a little… what?  Not quite competitive, but kind of irritated with myself for feeling left out.

I did indeed do the Bermuda Triangle Challenge, and even won my age group and $100 cash in the 10k!  I was on such an endorphin high after winning the first ever prize money in my life and getting through the half marathon the next day that I was totally hooked again.

Then the clincher:  A year later, we launched my book Marathon Woman in the South Island of New Zealand at a race called the Motatapu Icebreaker.   This event is held on environmentally protected land that is open to the public only one day a year for an off-road marathon and 50K bike race.  The proceeds raise money to protect the land; it is jaw-dropping beautiful, remote and pristine.  I recall telling myself  ‘If you don’t run this, you won’t see it, and it would be a shame to miss something so special.’

Thus, I’ve been pouring on the miles, the time-consuming miles, almost all on rough trails and wearing a hot and hated backpack.  You can follow my training in the link above (Follow Kathrine’s training), but just to advise you in brief:  it’s been an astonishing experience.  It’s a whole new body! But it’s the same old mind. So it’s also wondrous.   When I get ready for a hard workout, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry for the dread or the discovery. When I finish a hard workout, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry for the result or the knowledge.

The point is this: I’m motivated because I have a goal, and my fire is rekindled because it is challenging.  I figure it this way:  difficult is only temporary and fascinating is forever.

Be challenged!

Written by kevinm

March 9, 2010 at 5:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized