As many of you know, I’ve never been much of a runner. I ran in high school when I played field hockey and softball but I rarely ran outside of that. About two years ago I started hanging out with more runners and slowly got sucked into their world. I started with a 10k last October and, on the eve of heading off to Asia, I registered for a marathon. At the time it seemed like a good idea; something to keep me occupied when I came back from traveling and had blown through most of my money.
Rather than trust myself to train on my own I decided to join DC Road Runners where I joined the Saturday long run and Wednesday night track workouts. It was good to have some structure back in my life and I was pretty good about sticking to my workouts.
I felt pretty good a few weeks out from the marathon but I think I may have peaked about a week too early. By race week I was not excited anymore; I was sleeping eleven hours a night, craving junk food, and was not terribly excited about the race. The upside of sleeping so much was that I was very well rested come race day. I had a delicious sushi dinner the night before, put on my race clothes, and went down for a good night’s sleep.
The first half of the race flew by; it seemed every time I looked at the mile marker we were four miles farther along. However, at the halfway point I realized I was ahead of pace and decided to slow down so that I didn’t burn out in spectacular fashion as I had a few weeks earlier in a tune up race. I ran most of the second half alone which meant that my mind didn’t have anyone’s gossiping to distract it. It was this time that made me realize that it is definitely my mind that limits my performance. When I realized that I was off my goal pace, I found it impossible to dig in and push the pace.
The last four or five miles were rough. The sun was strong and I was completely over the race. Why was I doing this to myself again? I took that race in segments of water stops; I knew that as long I kept going it would eventually end. This was where my freediving training kicked in. I remember doing statics with Richard Wonka; I came up after a dive and he asked me why I came up when I did. I realized that I wasn’t in danger of drowning but I was uncomfortable and distracted and didn’t want to stay in that dive any longer. There was no physical reason I ended that dive and Richard made me realize that my mind was the only thing holding me back. I kept coming back to that conversation and that got me through the end of the race.
I finally finished, found my family, and took a quick nap in the park. While the result was not what I hoping for and training for, I learned a lot about pacing; everyone warned me about going out too fast but I guess that’s one that I had to learn the hard way. I was so ready to take an off season after this race but I knew I still had the Sears Tower to conquer in three weeks.
Following the race I was ambivalent about doing another marathon. I still want to qualify for Boston since I think it’d be really cool to run the race that I’ve watched for twenty years and run to the place I was born. I made this my goal last year before the bombings but that day I realized that I was born and almost died in the same neighborhood but had no real experiences there, minus those two big ones. However, I know I’ll never be a top distance runner so I think I can push this goal off for a few years while I focus on stair climbing and cycling.