Put it on the Line

I actually started this entry after the Tucson Marathon in early December. I just got back to it to tell “the rest of the story.”

I went into the race well undertrained. I committed to running the marathon during the summer. Many of the club members were running to qualify for Boston. I was a victim of peer pressure. I could hear myself saying, “…but everyone is doing it.” Mom wasn’t listening however. Therefore I didn’t have a balanced voice of reason and sent in my entry form.

Have I ever told anyone I hate marathons? I retired from marathoning seriously years ago. The last serious marathon I ran was back in the 90s. I ran a couple Bostons just to say I did it. Funny, back when I could qualify for Boston on any training run on almost any day, I didn’t have the time or money to run back home in MA. Now I have the time, effort and resources and it just isn’t something that trips my trigger. I’ll stick to coaching marathoners. I’ll stick to running the last miles in with my marathoners. I’ll stick with watching marathoners from the lead Press Truck. I really hate marathons. But my hat’s off to those who do them.

Anyway, after suffering that lapse in judgment I was rounding into decent shape. I could do 10 miles… barely. But, it was August and 100 degrees, plenty of time. Then, after having more physical issues beset me (patellar tendonitis) from Sept-Oct; I had 5 weeks of training left until race day. And that would be without a taper. Hell, I had been tapering for two months! THAT was not an aspect of my training program that needed attention.

In the final five weeks of training my weekly mileage varied from 20 to a high of 40. I had to take days off due to the patellar tendonitis. The only way I could get my runs in was to rest one or two days between runs.

I did manage several days (five or so) over that time in which I completed 14-18 miles in a day. But, they were all multiple run days. The longest single run was 14 miles. Can you say “undertrained?”

Have I ever told anyone that I hate marathons?

Well, as you could imagine, the coach in me said “forget it.” Don’t do this.

The athlete dialog in me said, you know… Boston qualifying has gotten slower as I’ve gotten older… I’m tough… I’ve been there before… I can do this… just take it slow… hell, it’s only 8:15 per mile – 3:35… c’mon… it’s an hour slower than you’ve run before (ok, forget the logic that that was 20 years ago)… I’ll run it on muscle memory… ya, that’s it… and besides, everyone else is doing it…

Mom… where are you when I need you?

I went down to Tucson and I was on the edge: logic versus athlete mindset (never synonymous). I firmly believed that it would be a race morning decision.

Ok, while at the starting line, I felt inexplicably good. No pains. Good energy. (It was already too late to do anything but start because we were 25 miles away from anywhere.) So, I’ll run till I can’t run. I’m lucky that I’ll also be running with Michael C. He’s great at pacing and good company. (He’s one of the “everyone’s doing it crowd.”)

The athlete dialog started, you know… Boston qualifying has gotten slower as I’ve gotten older… I’m tough… I’ve been there before… I can do this… just take it slow… hell, it’s only 8:15 per mile – 3:35… c’mon… it’s an hour slower than you’ve run before (ok, forget the logic that that was 20 years ago)… I’ll run it on muscle memory… ya, that’s it… and besides, everyone else is doing it…

Bullshit. After 13 miles of perfect pacing I knew this was going to be tough. By 16 I had to pick it up because my muscles needed a different cadence. I left Michael for a bit trying to stretch out a bit. It lasted a mile or so. I knew by 18 I was not going 8 more miles. I was still on pace… but it didn’t matter. My knowledge of the event is too deep. And I’m too scarred from past experiences that I know when to say when.

Methodical Michael cruises past me around 19. I tell him I’m done. He is encouraging. But, as so many of you know, when your body is done…it’s done. This is not a matter of mind over matter. I already have my shortcut in mind.

I actually go through 20 on pace to qualify but this just wasn’t fun any more. It hurt. I jog and walk the next miles and take the shortcut at 24 to the finish, truncating the last 2 miles.

At first I’m pissed at logging a DNF (my 4th for the marathon). But, it was also part of the plan. If I knew I couldn’t make my BQ time, it was not worth the pain of finishing for the sake of finishing. In those last miles my attitude actually softened. It didn’t matter. It is not a badge of courage to finish another marathon; or to suffer through more discomfort.

I know I gave it my all. I ran 20 miles in just over eight minute miles on training three days a week, and a single long run of only 14. In retrospect, I’m very pleased with my effort. I put it on the line. I did my best. I ran to my limits. The journey was wonderful because “everybody was doing it.”

The lesson to me is that it isn’t always about breaking records, beating that certain someone, or qualifying for Boston. It is about putting it on the line… test yourself; and then live with knowing you did your best… regardless of what that race result listing shows. Do you have a mindset that you can live with doing your best.. regardless of outcome?

By the way, most everyone who entered from the club set personal records and came so close to qualifying. A couple did qualify for Boston. And of those most are trying again in a west Phoenix marathon in February. And even though everybody is doing it… I won’t be. I still hate marathons.

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