This was the theme last year... running marathons for fun as "training runs" to prepare myself for the JFK 50. I'd sign up as a way to motivate myself to get my long runs in and get a medal and a cheering squad for getting out there and doing what I had to do anyway. With the pressure of a time goal off the table, I looked forward to the marathons and delighted in completing the distance. No matter what time I finished, I felt spent, exhausted and like I could not go another step. In other words, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment in finishing the marathon. They weren't my fastest, they weren't my slowest. But they were my favorite. Perhaps my favorite of all was the morning I packed up, headed to Indy solo, got my race packet that morning and hopped in line at the start. That one felt the most like just another long run. I had run the Chicago Marathon 5 days before and although it was chaotic fun, with all the bells and whistles of a big time race, it paled in comparison to the small town, beautiful fall morning run through Fort Benjamin Harrison.
Every single thing I love about running was wrapped up in that 4 1/2 hour long run, with the exception of having someone to chat with along the way. The weather was perfect and the course was scenic. I had lots of time to think, pray and enjoy the run. I saw every type of runner and tried to imagine their story... the wall hitters, the limping runners, the true racers... why were they here today? Was anyone else doing this as a training run for an ultra? To be so in-tuned to my surroundings was such a new and awesome experience for me. The theme for 2010 was "marathon disasters". I came out of that year with the feeling of wanting to just take up a different sport. I was mentally exhausted and felt like the pressures and failures from the previous two years had taken such a toll. I wanted my race times to reflect my ability, but at best, my performances in races labeled me as "ok". I focused on the finish time, not everything I went through to make it to the finish. No matter what I did, the time was all that mattered. I loved running long, but at that time I absolutely hated racing. My ego was far too big to handle the disappointments of those marathons, even though one of them was a huge PR for me.
Summer and fall of 2011 morphed me into a different kind of runner. Time didn't matter. Distance mattered and I found tremendous joy and happiness in being going out and running for a really long time.
When JFK was over, it was time to incorporate speed into all that endurance training. Although I loved the slow long runs, I still had that desire to go fast. I could not wait to begin to do those lung burning, hard running workouts again. For a couple of months, things went perfectly. Long runs, easy runs, track work and tempo. The memory of injury was getting a little too distant and I forgot that unless you are really paying attention, it is very easy to screw things up pretty quickly. I stopped stretching and icing so religiously. My diet isn't what it was last year. I'm getting a tad less sleep and I'm not always paying attention to the ever important heart rate training I was so religious about. I forgot that I wasn't doing all those things when I cavalierly went out to run with Will for his very first half marathon the day after running 22 miles. I forgot to remind myself that a lot of things were different from the fall. To say I wish I hadn't isn't true. I'm so glad I did. But it cost me a solid 5 weeks of marathon training. Five weeks that I could not do any speed work and minimal running. One, two and maybe even three weeks of lost training, ok..., but five is too many and goals must be readjusted. Of course I say 5, but it's more like going on seven as I would not dare go out and do a speed workout on my healing calf right now. And so my goal has gone from racing for a BQ at the Pig with Sarah to running the marathon and going the distance... with Sarah. She has agreed to run with me, although I think she is prime shape to nail a sub 3:30. She has NEVER, EVER run a race without the goal of getting to the finish as fast as she can in her head. I feel it is my duty to change that for her and increase her running longevity. She has threatened to run under an alias.
This marathon will be like no other I've ever run. I have accepted running it without a time goal so easily because I know the satisfaction in the finish alone. A certain friend of mine doesn't know that kind of satisfaction yet. I've gotten a couple of e-mails from sweet, well-meaning friends who have said they were sorry to hear I couldn't race and how badly I must feel. It's funny, I don't even know how to respond. Sure I'd like for everything to have gone as I had planned it to for the Pig. But it didn't and yet I am equally excited to run. The desire for a BQ is there, but there will always be other marathons to run. This marathon has no threat of disappointment whatsoever. How could I not look forward to it?
I am running to celebrate the memory of my brother-in-law, Mitch. I am running with the most incredible, thankful heart for a sweet baby girl and well as in thanksgiving for a million other things.
Next time, I am running to crush a Boston Qualifier.