Last Sunday, I got up early to watch the women’s marathon in the Olympics; today, I got up early to watch the men’s marathon. Never in a million years did I think that I would be the person who would sit on the edge of their seat watching hours (!) of people running. But there I was, enthralled by each race, cheering on the runners. While Team USA was my favourite, I was so excited for each and every runner who crossed the finish line.
I think that is because I understand what it takes (on some level anyway) to complete a marathon. Of course, my pace is no where close to 4:30/mile, which was what the runners today were achieving – in miles 20+! (Side note: I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be able to run one mile at 4:30, let alone 26.2!) Nor do I see myself running 120+ miles per week, which is what professional distance runners put into their careers each and every week of training. I can’t imaging the dedication, effort and ability of these athletes. They are incredible. And that is putting it mildly.
No, that is not for me – 4:30 min/mile and 120 miles a week – no way! In fact, I just completed a two week stretch that had me running 86.5 miles total (41.4 and 45.1 respectively). Honestly, I am beat! My legs are tired, and my mind is stretched to the mental limit. My 19 mile run yesterday was no fun at all, and in 105-degree real feel temps, it was everything I could do to run that distance in 3.5 hours. Far and away my SLOWEST 19 miles ever. It wasn’t the way I had hoped to finish this week of training, but at least I did finish the planned miles. And that is on top of working a full time job this year. (Last year, I wasn’t working and I didn’t hold up this well through training. So clearly, I am getting stronger overall.)
I’m not letting it discourage me. I’ve been here before, where the heat and humidity slows me down to a snail’s pace. I’m putting in more miles and higher quality, faster runs this marathon training cycle, and I hope it will pay off in the fall. I’m gunning for that four-hour marathon time in 2016. If I don’t achieve it, it won’t be for lack of effort on my part. I’ve done what I need to do to get there during the training phase; race day conditions and staying injury free remain the two factors that will influence the outcome – yet I have no control over either one.
Every runner tells you they require motivation to complete the training runs from time to time. Lacing up day after day, even if it’s not 120 miles a week of training, can be monotonous. Today and last week, I gained some new inspiration as I watched Olympian marathoners from around the world give it their all. The women suffered through very hot, humid conditions. The men had a cooler day than the women, but they faced a wet course. Watching one of my marathon heroes, Meb Keflezighi struggle throughout the race, yet finish – after slipping just feet from the finish line – with a smile on his face, inspires me to go out, give it my all, and have a great time in the process (he did push ups to cover the slip, then got up to finish 33rd in the race, beating others who are 10+ years younger. Meb, you give those of us on the other side of 40 a good name!). The Chicago Marathon won’t be the Olympics, but it will be MY race. And I’ll be giving it my best effort, too.
I understand that while my four-hour attempt isn’t exactly an Olympic effort, it will be a significant effort for me. It will be the culmination of hundreds of training miles, many tears and a few lost toenails. It will reflect the dozens of Saturdays that my husband gave up to help support me in my running efforts. Not to mention the hundreds of dollars spent on running shoes and races. This effort, while not an Olympic one, is sponsored by a dream and some drive – and my wonderful husband, and I hope to honour all of these come race day this fall.
Thank you Olympians for your hard work, effort and inspiration. You are all amazing athletes in your own right! I will carry your dream and inspiration with me as I tackle my own marathons this season.