Realism and Running don’t always go hand in hand.
It’s a funny thing really. Especially when it comes to marathons. Every runner I know has a story about a race where their race-day expectations were radically unmet.
I find that setting a realistic pace goal for race day is challenging where the marathon is concerned. This is partly because I always set a marathon size goal, though I think it’s also because there are very few athletes who run 26.2 miles as part of their preparation for the event. The pace calculators that say, “If you race a X:XX Half Marathon, you can run a X:XX marathon” are rarely accurate for me.
I understand how I should do it though. To run a certain pace at the marathon, a runner needs to train for that goal.
The engagement has to happen early in the training. There are months of preparing for the big day, and then early in the race the runner makes a commitment to GO for it.
It is pretty easy to find oneself in a bad relationship with goal race pace at mile 20 of a marathon with six long miles stretching out ahead. Breaking up is hard to do after that amount of work, but sometimes the marathon leaves us no matter how hard we try to make it last.
Lately as I log my training runs into Daily Mile or brag about the long miles on Facebook I’ve been pretty careful not to post specific splits. For one thing, I run without a watch about 50% of the time. For another, the actual splits aren’t generally noteworthy. I have been depressingly slow compared to my 2012 PRs. My friends cheerfully claim, “you’re going to crush that marathon!” in the comment boxes, not realizing that at this point crushing the marathon is far from the goal.
This time the goal is more visceral and less metric.
As part of my preparation for this marathon, I saw my physician in early spring. I had been having lung issues for over a year and it just seemed to me I ought to be recovered by then. She cheerfully informed me that the scar tissue in my lungs would make running “very difficult”, and that it might be time for me to “find a new hobby”. I am very proud of how I handled the situation and subsequently I was not arrested that day.
I also chose not to follow her suggestion, and in early April I signed up for Steamtown Marathon in Scranton PA.
I resumed running, found new old friends to run with, and rebooted myself. When I decided to train for my marathon, I based my “at registration goal” on where I thought I should be in 6 months, assuming a healthy pair of lungs.
I set out to train for the illusive Sub 4 that I have been admiring from afar. Lofty as it sounds, the whispering siren call beckons me, and my Half Marathon PR, a sexy 1:52 I ran with little prep-work and even less training, suggests that this was at some point a realistic goal. Up through early August, I was well on my way to a 9:09 pace run, and actually smashed my 18 miler with 4 sub 9:09 miles between 13-17.
As race day approaches, it becomes obvious that my race will not be a sub 4. Nor will it be a PR.
No running injuries have struck me down; instead, I am plagued with injured lungs that have been insulted by the same respiratory virus that is making headlines across the United States. I caught it in early August. For three weeks I coughed endlessly. I took 10 days off from training. I rested. I drank water. I stayed home from work for a day and lounged on my couch with hot tea.
I attempted to jump back into training. I attempted on the next run as well. At one point, 15 days after I started running again, I found myself sitting in the middle of the street coughing while my two companions stood guard over me.
Each time I run, even if it’s only three or four miles, I fully realize how far behind I am with my training. The goal pace is too fast. Way too fast.
It seems that The Sub 4 has escaped again, only this time it happened before race day had arrived. My 20-mile runs are pointing at a solid 4:20 marathon.
As much as I want to be disappointed, and I guess I am on some level, I cannot be too upset. I think back to my Doctors appointment. To the words that were spoken between me and my physician.
“Woe is me, I will have to go run a marathon without achieving a predefined goal I set 6 months ago” should truly be replaced with, “I’m so lucky that I can breathe well enough to go run a marathon at all”, “That Doctor can suck it”, and “She may as well have thrown a steel plated gauntlet down at my feet, because the fastest way to get me signed up for a marathon is to tell me not to sign up for a marathon.”
I get to run a marathon in three weeks.
I GET TO, and even though the goal is not to achieve a predefined TIME, the experience of going out to run a marathon without any expectations is just as defining.
~savor the run~