What’s that movie — you know the one — where the badass hero gets called out of retirement to do one last job?

I might be thinking of every movie. At least every good movie.

Point being, ever since I started lifting I’ve considered myself retired from the endurance-running thing. A far cry from the 4 Feet Running podcast days. I turned in my badge & my gun.

I’ve been telling people that since I’ve been lifting I have no desire to do endurance running regularly anymore. I mean it too. It’s fine but I don’t miss it. I don’t miss having to convince myself that plodding around for 2+ hours in bullshit weather is healthy & fun. After I found lifting, I couldn’t picture myself ever again trudging along for miles with a water bottle fanny-pack calculating when to squirt Gu into my parched mouth for the glory of a free T-shirt I’ll only wear if I need something I can get paint or grease on. No more. I took the description of “runner” off my Twitter bio because it didn’t apply anymore when I run about 1000 meters a week1. I wasn’t sad about it. My goals & interests changed.

It was over, Johnny. It’s over!

But it turned out nothing is over. You just don’t “turn it off.”

So anyway … I’m about 99% sure I’m going to run a half-marathon in the spring.

Why … in the hell …

I’ve said about forty thousand fucking times that I hate races, but listen: I don’t like where I left things half-marathonwise. I have unfinished business, goddammit. A score to settle.

I ran 5 half-marathons from 2009 to 2011. All of them were too hard for me. Here’s the list:

  • Providence half, 2009: 2:53:03
  • Philadelphia half, 2009: 2:52:06
  • New Bedford half, 2010: 2:44:08
  • New Jersey half, 2010: 3:01:23
  • Blackstone Valley half, 2011: 2:49:08

This was the best I could do at the time. Each one was a struggle. I’d hit about 11 miles & tap out, have to walk-run the rest. Fuck that. In Providence I was passed by a speedwalker. This is the time of the Old Dan. I carried 50 to 60 pounds of excess body fat, lacked experience, lacked enthusiasm for training, & lacked overall fitness. A 12:30 to 13:50 minute-mile pace is the fastest I could manage.


Tired chunk boy

The Blackstone Valley half, 2011.

The last one I ran, the Blackstone Valley half, is the race that made me basically give up running. Lovely course. Ran it like shit. My training was sporadic and poor. I was too fat & ate a shitty diet & didn’t know how to be fit. On race day, I ran about 6 miles in, got tired, had to walk & never recovered. I was tired, beat up, plagued by nasty abdominal stitches. Nine miles in, I finally began to comprehend exactly how far I was out of my depth. Pretty fucking far. Ten miles in, I realized this was probably the stupidest thing I’d ever done & seriously considered quitting & taking a van ride back with the sweepers. I entered this goddam thing thinking it would be a fun lark & was punished for my pride & laziness. I’m not a competitor, so I entered races for fun. Yet I made it not fun at all by not taking it seriously — i.e., not respecting the distance, not getting into the proper physical shape to complete the race successfully, & not training for it. I eventually staggered across the finish line under what pathetic steam I had left & got the stupid chintzy medal they give to anybody who survives. It’s somewhere in the house. Who cares. Save the “you finished ahead of everyone who sat on the couch” inspirational attaboy speech. That’s for first-timers. I entered a sports event that I was unfit for and under-trained for, & I got my ass kicked.

I didn’t run a lot after that. I rode my bike for a few months (not all in a row). Then I found CrossFit & lifting.

Here’s my point: That’s the best I could do then. I can do better now. I’m lighter, stronger, faster, & a lot more disciplined. My long-distance endurance isn’t up to snuff since I stopped doing long runs, but if I was able to build 13 miles of endurance as a lazy fatbody I can do it again now, but better.

I might be able to finish this bullshit right. One last mission.

Target race

Obviously I’m going to re-run the Blackstone Valley Half Marathon in Pawtucket, R.I.

This time it’s personal.

It’s on May 4, 2014, which means I have a little over 9 months to re-learn how to run 13.1 miles in a row. Not that I ever really did that before anyway. I always barely got to 11 before I bonked. But this time I’d like to do that for realsies. As in, start running when the gun goes off, stop when I cross the finish line.


The bikeway

Seen in fall 2011.

The course is pretty. It’s fairly flat & fast, and much of it is on the Blackstone River Bikeway, a beautiful, lush bike path. I’ve ridden it many times since then. There are some awesome bridges and a boardwalk section with springy wood boards. For what it’s worth, those first 6 miles I ran in 2011 felt pretty sweet until they suddenly didn’t anymore. If nothing else, it’ll be good to see it again.

Hopefully rolling by much faster this time.

The goal pace

I ran that race with a 12:54 pace last time.

That is unacceptable to me now.

I’d like to hit 2 hours 10 minutes. That’d be a 9:55 minute-mile pace. I don’t know for sure yet, but I can probably learn to sustain that. I’m going to test my mile soon, but I know I’ve run 8:30 to 9 minute-miles, and I may have even hit an 8 when testing 400m sprints. The whole question is how I’ll keep it up for 2 hours straight.

Less than 2:10 would be nice.

Under 2:00 would be even nicer. Maybe if I’m a very good boy.

Under 1:54:14 & that tops Nik’s half-marathon PR, in which case she’s already threatened me she’ll have to run another one to get ahead of me again. There’s a strict pecking order around here.

Training and eating

The barbell shit doesn’t stop. Neither does the CrossFit. I need to iron out the details with Coach Nik but so far here’s what I’m thinking:

CrossFit twice a week. I do what’s on the board, keep building up my general physical preparedness.

Powerlifting in the garage once a week, doing the Wendler 5/3/1 program to build strength, plus some Olympic lifting to build power. I might lose bench press day & add more Olympic lifting. Benching is overrated for a guy like me who’s not competing in powerlifting meets.

One day a week, hill sprints. This is (a) also to build power, (b) cardiovascular endurance, (c) get me used to running hills, because I’m shit at running hills, & (d) to cut body fat. I’ll want to lose fat because that’s less useless tissue to carry.

One day a week, I’ll do a long run with some fartleks or striders in there, to get me used to running faster over longer & longer periods of time, until I approach the 2-hour mark.

That’s it. No junk mileage, no medium-long runs, no 20-to-50-mile weeks.

I keep hearing great shit about Prowler pushing. Specifically, that it’s one of the best things you can do for conditioning besides hill sprints. I don’t have a Prowler. My gym does. Maybe we’ll get to use it someday, or else I’ll just come in during an off hour & push the fucking thing around by myself until someone tells me to vamoose.

The diet will remain essentially the same as I eat now: lots of protein and fats & vegetables, probably no grains, & I’ll add more sweet potatoes as my primary carbohydrate fuel source.

Possible shit that could go wrong

I’m 36 years old & I have janky knees2. The other day Nik, Malley, & I went for a 3.5 mile run, & my knee felt a little swollen afterward. I know running doesn’t fuck up your knees, but my knees are already fucked up genetically, & some things make them worse. If for some reason this gets worse & ever threatens to interfere with my squatting,3 I’m calling it quits.

Articles have been making the rounds of the Internet grapevine, as they do from time to time, about how running (or any slow steady-state cardio, really) is good if you want to participate in the sport of running, but is not great for fat loss. Like this one or this one or this one or this one. Or worse, that it “degrades muscle and bone” or makes people “gain body fat and increase waist circumference.” If I get fat again, screw it, I’m calling it quits.

Basically, there’s no way in hell I’m going back to Fat Dan again.

After I have my revenge on this race & show it who’s the master, then we’ll see about further sequels. I don’t think so. I really only want to finish this thing so I can retire.

  1. (which doesn’t stop running coach/”guru” types from following me almost daily)
  2. “Lateral discoid meniscus,” according to an MRI I got once, but “janky” sounds better.
  3. (which does not hurt my knees)