Photo from the 2014 Ice Age Trail 50 Miler by Ali Engin. Permission to use header photo must be obtained through Ali Elgin.

"It's better to feel pain than nothing at all. The opposite of love's indifference." - The Lumineers

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Skovløberen Marathon

"You're still young enough to get faster" says Nina, the female winner of Sunday's  marathon  to Teresa, the third place woman, standing next to me.

 At first, I was struck by the fact that she was essentially calling me old by not including me in the "young enough to get faster" category (and perhaps she simply wasn't talking to me). But then I thought about the idea that there was an age at which a female could no longer get faster (okay, this concept was not entirely new ;)). But in my case, despite being 33, I don't think I've gotten to that point. Or rather, I know I haven't. Three years ago, I ran this same very hilly trail marathon in 3:53, last year in 3:49 and this year in 3:22 (and I ran every step in pain from my hip injury this year)!! Either I am not too old to improve or I missed out on my earlier potential, only now am I tapping into it and will never know how fast I could have been.

Nina, on the other hand, has a marathon PR of 2:49 and ran Sunday's race in 3:14. I'm not sure whether or not her "slowing down" can be attributed to being 48 years old or whether it is the simple fact that one has to train perfectly and a lot to be in 2:49 marathon shape. Honestly Nina still looks to be in 2:49 marathon shape. What a dream to look like that at 48!

Nina, female winner, wasting no time at the aid station (does envying her arms make me a bad person?)

I also have to mention, Skovløberen is an awesome race. It is the only marathon I have run three times. I have previously called it my favorite Danish  marathon. And it still is and it is SR's, too. It is challenging and beautiful and almost exclusively on trails in the woods of Hejede Overdrev. It includes the highest point on Sjælland and basically when all of the ice caps have melted from global warming, this Overdrev will be all that is left of our island. This marathon would definitely be turned into an ultra in the USA because it just attracts the ultra runner types.

Daniel has been a very good friend through all of our moving back and forth. He has really developed into a strong runner and his New Balance Minimal trail shoes are my next shoe purchase...
SR in yellow - drafting nicely. He went on to take second place in an awesome 2:58. I'm thinking he is in PR marathon shape, too.
Hey look. That is me. Nike cotton t-shirt circa 1982. This is flat, so I must have been running. But I somehow always look like I'm walking. A natural pose runner? Naaah. Then I wouldn't get injured.

So yeah, I made the critical mistake of running a marathon on the Tuesday before Skovløberen and that is when my hip problems started. I KNEW it was idiotic! But thanks to hot yoga, I was able to run the whole distance.

 But injuries and short tracks aside, I can harldy believe the improvements in my running times when compared to my old times here in Denmark. I came through the half marathon in 1:37 and actually had to force myself to slow down because I didn't want to do more damage to my hip. I feel I could so easily run a PR on a flat marathon course, if only my hip would stop hurting (I need to take a rest!).

BUT getting faster will also require that I have time to train and - oh my gosh - with the responsibilities of work and three kids (and a husband), I am quickly finding myself swamped and if I weren't so addicted to exercise, I probably would have given up on it entirely by now. (tomorrow I am presenting three scientific posters ... )

 Maybe that's why there were over 90 men in the marathon on Sunday, but only 12 women!? But the story about how women who run long distances here are looked at as freaks is an entirely different story all together. Or is it?

Not just long distance runners, either. One of SR's colleagues saw me riding my bike with a yoga mat strapped to my backpack and said "isn't you wife too old to be running around doing things like that?". These two quotes about being "too old" have been reverberating in my head all week. Age has always been a meaningless concept to me -- and writing this has made me realize - that is how it should stay.


 Song I am guessing 1. you haven't heard and 2. you will like

11 comments:

Marathon Mom said...

Great job! I agree there is a time when you can't get faster but I think that varies on each person and also life situation. I spent the last 2 years improving and now have taken a step back, I wonder was that my peak or is something else happening? Am I just too busy with life, who knows!
Good luck with fitting it all in and the posters.

Danni said...

I doubt most people (elites excepted) really know what their potential is. There are so many variables. In your case, doing things like running a marathon two days prior and your other quirky habits probably inhibits you. Or helps you. Who knows.

cherelli said...

Interesting - i am reading a book on gerontology and the west's approach (ie you get put out to pasture, are considered useless and incapable) versus some cultures where people are revered for their age, wisdom, and ability to still stay fit and active as well as mentally strong...it seems to me you are on a very quick upward curve to find your potential - and ironically it'll likely be three years AFTER you reach it that your realise you've reached it (as your times plateau or slow...) I am amazed at how you manage to make your obsessive exercise routine fit in with raising a family and be a doctor - what is the secret??? Or like you allude to - is it just a matter of committing to what is most important to you?

CP said...

Wow! You came across the half way point at my half marathon pace...and you were doing a whole 'nother half! Impressive!

PiccolaPineCone said...

there is no age of decline. it depends entirely on the athlete's history. a 60 yr old woman who takes up running for the first time will probably improve through age 70 and beyond whereas a 37 year old woman who has trained seriously for 25 years probably has her fastest times behind me, um, i mean her.

sea legs girl said...

Jen (MM) I do not think you have reached your peak, but I have certainly been there with plateaus. Just keep up a training schedule with regularly scheduled speed work and suddenly you will surprise yourself.

sea legs girl said...

Danni . you are exactly right about almost no one knowing their real potential.

The injurious marathon was actually 5 days prior. I wrote it in a confusing way. Sorry! Though I guess it made me sould really tough.

sea legs girl said...

Cherelli, the secret right now to the obsessive workout rutines, at least with running is only two or three runs a week (one or two marathons and a set of intervals). If I keep this up I think I will still keep improving and have lots of free days to boot. That sounds like a good book, by the way. What is it called?

sea legs girl said...

The gerontology book I mean :).

Lars Merrald said...

Congratulations on your exelent performance at Skovløberen. As I recall your time is the 3. Best ever for women in this race..

Several years ago during Skovløberen, I discussed the age issue with Anders Munch Madsen (+500 maratons), and he promissed the personal improvement could continue until around age 48.

So both you and SR can improve the future years.

Many regards
Lars Merrald

sea legs girl said...

Thanks, Lars! What a great comment. I is so nice to hear from you. I was really hoping to see you at Skovløberen. I hope your running is going well these days.

Interesting that Anders says the magic age of not getting faster is 48. Something is telling that was HIS experience and that everyone, if asked, would give a different age.

According to the biology of aging, we are probably best equipped physically for running a fast marathon when we are 28. The problem is few have trained enough or correctly or have enough experience by that age to run their fastest time the. There are just so many factors at play, making the subject extremely complicated.

Thank you for commenting - all the best to you!