November 14, 2016

It's Race Week

On Sunday, I will toe the line of my 7th marathon. I'm nervous and excited, but I'm definitely ready. I can't wait to get to that starting line. I'm pumped.

I conjured a very eloquent, motivating post in my head yesterday during miles 3 through 5 of my 12-mile run and, of course, all of it swiftly left my brain the minute I got home and realized there were breakfast burritos to be had.

I thought a lot about how I got here.

I don't think I actually knew the distance of a marathon when I signed up for my first. I trained for that race perfectly. I didn't miss a training run, I didn't try anything new on race day, I followed all of the rules. My goal was to run as close to a 4:00 marathon as possible. I ran a 4:08. I was thrilled. I had just run a freaking marathon. I was on top of the world on a high that I didn't think I would ever come down from (until I woke up the next morning and tried to go downstairs).

One year later, I ran my 2nd marathon with the goal to run under 4 hours. I ran 4:03. I didn't care that I didn't beat my goal. I had just run my second marathon with a 5+ minute PR. I was elated.

I never actually meant to run my 3rd marathon. I was visiting friends in DC (before I lived here) and someone gave me a bib for the DC Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. My goal was to use the race as a training run, jump out at Mile 22 and take the metro to the finish line. There was no metro at Mile 22. Someone told me, "You gotta finish this thing." So, I did. It was my slowest marathon, but it wasn't supposed to be a marathon! I felt like the world's biggest badass because I woke up on Saturday morning with no plans to run a marathon and then, I did. Oops.

I trained like hell for my 4th marathon. I was determined to break four hours. I felt incredible during that race. I was nailing my paces and on track for a strong sub-4 finish. Then, at Mile 20, my body said, "You need sleep" and I ran a 4:24 marathon. I threw my goal out the window at Mile 21. I had just finished my graduate thesis 3 days before and had barely slept in a year and I was tired, but I had just finished my graduate thesis and I was running a marathon in Spain, so who cares?! I'll go sub-4 at the next one.

My next one got canceled. One week later, I got in a car with a few friends and a few strangers and drove to Richmond and ran the fastest marathon I ever have. In four hours, one minute, and five seconds. I wish I could say it hurt, but it didn't. I ran every step of that race. I never stopped to walk or stretch, I didn't stop at water stations (I carried my own water), and I cruised through that finish line knowing I couldn't have done anything differently.

Then I got hurt. I couldn't run for 2 1/2 years and it was horrible. I had so many "comebacks" and that put me back in PT and I gave up so many times.

To this day, I don't know how I crossed the finish line of my 6th marathon in Chicago. At Mile 23 I stopped in front of my mom and husband and sobbed. "I don't want to do this anymore. Everything hurts and I just can't do it." I was a mess. Neither of them had ever seen me like this, and they both told me that it was ok, that I didn't have to finish. I think I needed to hear that. I didn't have to finish. I wanted to finish, and I did, just under 5 hours. I barely trained for that race because I was convinced from Day 1 that I wasn't going to run it. I was convinced that I would reinjure myself. I woke up the morning of that race absolutely terrified. When I crossed that finish line, I promised myself that there would be a number 7 and that I would never, ever let myself feel that terrible in a marathon again.

So, here we are. Number 7 is upon us, and, while it isn't the race I thought it would be. It's exciting to go back to where it all started. I've long had dreams of going back to Philly and blowing my PR out of the water, but that isn't going to happen. I'm not going to run a sub-4 marathon, but I do have goals for this race like I've had for every race (except Chicago). I don't think you should ever go into a marathon without a goal. It doesn't have to be time-specific, but it should never be to just finish.

My goals for the Philadelphia Marathon are:

  1. To smile. To enjoy every step of this race. To fight through whatever doubt and negativity is waiting for me somewhere between Miles 18 and 23 and know that I don't have to do this. I want to do this and I can do this.
  2. To run a strong race. Despite taking some time off, I've trained well for this race. I'm not in the best marathon shape of my life, but I know I've trained well enough to run a strong race. My three best marathons are all under 4:10. My three worse are all over 4:20. I would like this to be the "best of the worst." I'm definitely capable of running somewhere between a 4:08 and a 4:24 and that's what I would like to do. I think a realistic goal is sub 4:20. 
No matter what happens on Sunday, I don't want this race to be anything like Chicago. Philly is a great course and I'm excited to get out there and see what I have to work from because there definitely will be a number 8 and I will go sub-4 but right now, I'm focused on Sunday. I'm going to have a lot of fun on Sunday.

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