First off, congrats to the 2017 Boston-ers, especially you Allison and Cheryl! Also, how about Jordan Hasay: a 2:23 in her debut marathon! Unreal!!
I am now at T-7 weeks until I start marathon training- things are starting to get real. After over 6 months of just sorta “running for fun”, I am going to be in official training mode before we know it. So, with only 7 weeks to go, I am starting to prepare. I’ve begun the process of researching and writing my training plan and once we move into the house and my schedule clears up slightly, I will begin base-building and hope against hope that 6 weeks of easy running is enough for me to feel prepared to ease into the early weeks of marathon training.
So, as the preparations commence, I’ll be coming at you with some pre-training running related content in these next few weeks. Today, I want to talk about goals and expectations, and I need to start by addressing the awesome feedback you guys gave me on my mini-freak out post last week.
I am taking the advice many of you gave and just letting myself enjoy this special time in my life as a new homeowner right now, not worrying about getting runs in and crossing that but-what-about-my-fitness bridge when I get there.
All of you who commented were very helpful, but I think Charissa really hit the nail on the head when she pointed out that my anxiety probably stems from the pressure I’m putting on myself to run a PR at this race. I think, deep down (or not so deep down?), a part of me worries that if I put in a lot of work and don’t run a fast time, I’ll be disappointed, even if I ran an otherwise strong race and had a good time.
After the Pittsburgh Marathon, where I earned my Chicago guaranteed entry qualifier, I wrote about how we passed by the city of Chicago on our long drive home and I looked up at those gleaming steel buildings and wondered what they had in store for me 17 months from that moment. I knew at that point I needed a break, but I still imagined a refreshed, confident 2017 version of me, faster than ever and charging through the streets on marathon day like I owned the place.
What I didn’t imagine was that one year from that moment, I’d still be in a running slump that I was losing all hope I’d ever come back from, and that I was facing down the likelihood of spending all summer working my butt off only to run my slowest marathon time to-date. Sure, the reasons I fell behind in running are because of good things happening in my life, but I can’t help being a little deflated. “Just to finish” seems like an underwhelming way to match the glitz and excitement of the 2nd largest marathon in the world and my first ever World Marathon Major, you know?
I suppose this is all a testament to the fact that things just don’t always turn out the way we plan, in running or in life. My days of going into a marathon training cycle with simple, single-minded focus are over, and I’m trying to navigate this strange new territory of working hard and committing to something knowing that the prize I’m so accustomed to will not be waiting for me at the finish line. I’m long out of shape and while it’s not easy, I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that things are different now – I’m not going to be where I want to be on June 5th and if I want to have a good experience, I’m just going to have to find something else to motivate me.
So, with that reality starting to sink in, I have been trying to shift my focus lately to the bigger picture and some of the qualitative goals that can keep me motivated during this time of change in my life. It’s still not easy to let go of PR hopes, but after some soul-searching, there are a couple subjective goals that even competitive little me can get behind.
The first and foremost of those goals is to cross that finish line wanting to keep running. Even if it is my last marathon for a long time, I want the Chicago finish line to feel like the beginning of something, not the end. I think that is the “breakthrough” I truly I need at this point in my life. At my last marathon, I worked so hard and gave so much and raced so well, but in the process I killed my passion for running and in some ways I am still trying to recover from that. I don’t want to have to take another long break from running and training and then struggle to regain my fitness and my motivation. I don’t want to stand in Grant Park with that signature red and blue ribboned medal around my neck feeling glad it’s over and wanting nothing more than to get the hell away from running for a nice long time. Instead, I want to feel like I felt after my first two marathons again – a proud member of the running community, eager to get back out there (after a recovery period, of course) and keep running – whether that be setting my sights on a new race goal, staying in shape, or taking advantage of the routine I formed during training to make running more of a habitual practice in my life. That can only be accomplished if I truly enjoy everything – the race, the process – and don’t overwork myself in training or get too invested in the race outcome.
My other goal is to really explore and respect the process of training to peak for a specific race on a specific day. I’m in the process of starting to draft up my training plan (with a little more guidance this time – more on that later), and this time I’m being much more mindful of training correctly. That means spacing out the hard work appropriately, focusing on the quality of my weekly work instead of obsessing over mileage totals, running by effort instead of pace, and setting and adjusting goals as I go along based on the the information and feedback I’m gathering from my training runs. Easy runs will be legit easy runs and the goal of workouts will be to run them at the appropriate pace, not the fastest one. Instead of pushing myself hard each week for the instant gratification of seeing fast splits on my watch, I’m trying to embrace the challenge of trusting in the slow, measured work of training and accepting that any given race training cycle is only going to accomplish so much.
It’s important for me to stay focused on and motivated by qualitative goals this season, because I think it’s the only way I’m going to be able to stay motivated to train during a time in my life when I just don’t have the capacity to invest so much effort in my running development.
There comes a time in every runner’s journey when we have to start picking our battles. The effortless, across-the-board improvement of our early days wears off at some point, our bodies change, our lives change, our hearts change. I want a PR, but I want even more to regain my love of running. So that is the “battle” I am picking, and that will be what I remind myself on those days when my friends are surging through training while I’m seeing workout splits that would have seemed slow to me last spring. This is the battle I’m picking.
Up next: I am currently reading Brad Hudson’s Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon, and I’m planning to use his methodology of adaptive running and self-coaching for my training this year. I am going to use one of this sample marathon plans as my framework and make adaptions and tweaks to build my own training plan. I am trying to squeeze in reading and planning amidst all of our house work, but I hope to be able to share some details about it soon!