I ran the southern loop of the KC Marathon this morning, with the opening chapters of Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. on my mind. After the ascent of Sunset Drive to Loose Park (miles 11 and 12), there are some rolling hills (miles 13-16), and the long descent to The Paseo (miles 17-20). The hills do not have very steep grades. In some sense, they are nice, as they give various muscles a chance to work but don’t tax any of them for too long. These are rolling, undulating hills. In Once a Runner, a similar section of a well-worn route is tagged “the bacon strip.” And I smiled as I thought of the earth here as bacon under the grill of the sun.
I was going to do this run at marathon pace +20. With the temperature (soaring?) to 81° at 5:45, I added 11 seconds per mile (one second for each degree above 70). I think this was a good modification to the run. I managed +23, but I think shooting for +20 would have been too much. And I know I would have pushed it if I had set my virtual partner to a more aggressive pace. I’m going to continue this modification for temperature on my other runs.
Meb Keflezighi talks about “going to sleep” during the opening miles of a marathon and letting the miles go by on auto-pilot. And I thought of putting that strategy to use for miles 13-21, where the bacon strip turns into a long and pleasant descent on Brookside and continues on Volker along Brush Creek. The “high point” of this section comes on Ward Parkway at 73rd Street at 1,010’. There’s a slight down onto 75th, then an up to 68th on Wornall. From there, it is a long (mostly) descent to Volker (along Brush Creek) and The Paseo.
In “Once a Runner,” Parker talks about track and field athletes and their various predilections. He calls field athletes the “heavy artillery” of the stone age, useful for their ability to hurl heavy objects (like spears and rocks) long distances. The jumpers, vaulters, and sprinters are likened to “shock troops,” with their specialized training and quick reflexes. After months of practice, the event (or charge of the hill) is over in the matter of a few seconds. While distance runners are the messengers, able to carry a detailed message swiftly from one end of the country (or battlefield) to the other. And I thought of being a runner with a message. (What is my message?) And the hours that we spend alone with our thoughts on the run.