Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2007

Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon caps freshman year

July 12, 2007

Most college students seize every opportunity to sleep in and relax, so Lauren Griffen's freshman year at Kansas State University was anything but typical in that regard.

Instead, the 2006 Lansing High graduate opted for early mornings and a year in constant motion as she trained for her first marathon - the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in San Diego, Calif., - with college friend Diana Hylton.

"One of my friends at K-State had run Chicago, and then one of our mutual friends moved to California and was convincing (Hylton) to do the marathon out there," Griffen said. "(Hylton) said she wasn't going to do it if she didn't have someone to train with, and we were training to do a half-marathon, so she convinced me to do it."

Griffen had just completed her first half-marathon, the Topeka to Auburn Half-Marathon, in January.

A cross country runner and soccer player in high school, Hylton was a veteran runner with the Chicago Marathon under her belt. Meanwhile, Griffen was a volleyball standout at LHS with no significant running experience. Despite their vastly different training backgrounds, both were looking for a way to stay in shape during college. Neither had aspirations of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, so speed wasn't an issue.

"It was more of a social thing for me to run it with her," Griffen said. "We'd just wake up in the morning and talk while we ran."

Griffen and Hylton woke up at 5:30 a.m. five days a week to go on training runs before class during their second semester at KSU.

Four and a half months later, with finals out of the way and summer vacation just starting, Griffen and Hylton flew to San Diego for the June 3 race. It was Griffen's first trip to California.

After a day of relaxing in San Diego, they reported to the starting line early in the morning alongside more than 17,800 other runners. There were so many runners that Griffen didn't reach the starting line until five minutes after the race began. That gave her plenty of extra time to think about the 26.2-mile race she was about to endure.

"I was excited to start, but at the same time I was also really nervous," she said. "There were butterflies in my stomach and I was thinking, 'This is the real thing. I can't believe I'm up and doing this.'"

Griffen said she and Hylton's training was sufficient for the race, but she admitted she hit the wall as she began mile No. 21.

"That was an absolute killer," she said with a laugh. "We had great weather all the way through, because San Diego in June is overcast and really cool. But by the time we hit mile 20 and 21 the sun had really come out, it was getting hot, the bands were few and far between and the mile stations (with water) seemed to disappear. My body was just hating me."

Still, Griffen persevered. She crossed the finish line four hours and 50 minutes after starting.

It's customary for novice marathoners to take about a month off from running after finishing their race, and Griffen has been no exception with this injury-prevention technique. Even so, she admitted she already misses her daily runs and plans to start again soon.

"I feel like a lazy bum when I'm sleeping in until 7:30 because I'm not up at 5:45 and running," she said. "The training was more addicting than the actual marathon. There's just something fun about getting up early and going around Manhattan with one of your best friends when nobody else is up. You just feel so healthy, so fit and have such a sense of accomplishment."

Griffen said the daily running gave her more energy and helped her manage time better during school. After taking on such a physically demanding task, she said she felt much more productive.

"I can get through pretty much anything now," she said. "When you spend four hours on a Saturday running, you can find time to watch your sisters play basketball, vacuum for your mom and fit in school and work. It's not that hard."

Griffen and Hylton will have an apartment together at K-State in the fall, and Griffen said running will remain a part of their routine. No marathons are on the schedule in the near future, but she said daily runs and an occasional road race would be on the agenda.

"We'll try to do low mileage stuff during the week and then a long run of maybe eight or 10 miles on the weekends so we can go do a 10 K if we want to and we'll be up to snuff to run it." she said.

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