This echoed throughout my head the entire race. I went into this race with a pipedream goal (run 2:50), a realistic goal (Sub 2:53), and a last resort (qualify for Boston). As I pressed my cheeks against a car dealership window (don’t worry I wasn’t the only one) shielding myself from the rain, I kept going back to this quote. That and the thought, “can I actually see my breath in June?”
Who the hell says I can’t go out and run a 2:50? Me? Why the hell not? After all, the conditions are right (cool and rain paired with a fast course) and I’ve been feeling great for the last few weeks. I toyed with the idea all week. Initially, I was just looking to PR: anything under 2:54:20. But like many other runners, I thought out the “what if’s.” What if I could run a 2:50? Can I go sub 2:50? What if I blew up trying? What if I fail?
With my sexy sweatshirt-garbage bag combo donned, I began walking my shivering self to the start line. Through a persistent, steady rain I continued to weigh my options. This is very uncharacteristic for me. I usually dial in two weeks prior to race day with a specific race plan. I train for the pace and just go out and run it. Simple, right?
I started partaking in the customary pre-race small talk with the surrounding runners. “Is everyone around me shooting for 2:50,” I thought. I must have chatted with 10-15 people (also very uncharacteristic). Succumbing to peer pressure, I thought “Ok, it looks like everyone else is doing it.”
Bang. – Actually, Toot. (A horn started us)
The toggling hard-light rain started to subside almost instantaneous to the horn. I ripped off my sweatshirt and started putting one foot in front of the other. Continuing with my uncharacteristic race, I occasionally partook in early race chatter. Again, everyone around was looking for 2:50. Well, here we go. I’m going for it. Why not?
The first half flew. A combination of spectators (kudos to you), tooting train horns, and pack running made for easy work. The course was cool, wet, and fast. I clicked through the first half of the race at 1:24:50. Perfect.
Stop Trying. Just Run.
I knew the math. To break 2:50 I needed to hold a pace below 6:30. I came through mile twenty holding 6:30’s on the dot. Up to this point I told myself to relax and just run. I never focused on finishing, but just clicking through miles. Miles 13 through 20 were all about relaxing and not forcing anything. “Don’t tense up, just run.” I was more aware of how I felt through mile 20 than ever before. The goal was to remove all pressure and tension. I just simply ran.
I was hunting negative talk the entire race. When the “good enough” mentality started to weasel its way to the forefront of my consciousness I targeted it. I reiterated the quote, “Remove the mental barriers we set for our self.” It sounds cheesy, but I lived by the quote. Every race prior to today I succumbed to self-doubt and settling for “good enough.” I let my legs call the shots.
Don’t Waste Your Previous Miles
Coming through mile 20 I was averaging 6:30’s. The legs began to get heavy and the mind started to wonder. Truthfully, the legs felt pretty good through mile up into mile 24, but my focus began to slip. I wanted to be done. I focused on many of the same items I teach in our RunSmart Mechanix Program. I ran down my check list: lean forward, drive your legs, drive from the trunk.
For a guy that doesn’t talk too much (outside work), I sure did a lot of self-talk during the race. Miles 20 through the finish were all about preservation. “Don’t waste miles 0-20 on the final six.” I knew going soft was an injustice to the previous miles I fought. I just focused on fighting each mile, maintain form, and never looking to the finish.
Go. Just Go, Legs.
Dialing through mile 24 brought some new life. I began reeling in some runners were out front for over two hours. With each runner I passed I gained a little ‘freshness.’ I hurt, but my legs felt like they could still give it a go.
After a quick glimpse at the time around mile 24, I knew I had to drop a few fast miles snag a 2:50 or lower. I pushed to the point where my legs began to hate me. Within the first 800 I could tell I was gobbling up time (and runners). As quickly as I started it seemed to all come crashing back.
Within sight of the mile 25 marker I felt my calf fire off a warning shot, “if you don’t back off I’m going to cramp and make you walk!” (I imagine my calf had a snooty tone when it said this, so please read it as such). I took a minute and tried again. Nope. Weighing my options (pushing on or pulling up), I succumbed to my calf. I clawed my way through the last 25 miles, I will NOT blow up in the final mile.
With the finish line in sight, I through a final kick to break 2:52, finishing with a final time of 2:51:57 and nearly a 2 ½ minute and another ticket to Boston punched.
Four weeks prior to Grandma’s I logged my first DNF at the Buffalo Marathon. Never has the decision to bag Buffalo been more gratifying. My fastest mile in Buffalo failed to trump my average from this past race. Continued progress is an art. I preach it to my patients, while walking the line myself. I’ve bagged countless races that jeopardized my continued progress, Buffalo included. I focus on quality (strength, balance, flexibility, run form, training) and the proof is in the pudding. With Buffalo out of the equation I’ve continued to trend downward, PR’ing each of my last 5 marathons.
I plan on continuing down that road, too. The long term goal is to find my way down in the low 2:40’s in the next 5 years. For now it’s all about recovery. I have zero plans to run for seven days, while beginning my six week recovery staple: RunSmart Yoga. Other than that, I have nothing planned. I’ll tackle a few races throughout summer with the intent of chasing runners down while pushing my son.
Thanks for following this lengthy journey that started back in December!