After watching the Boston Marathon last Monday, tracking some friends and feeling the energy of the event (even through the TV!), I had a moment of ‘I want to do that.’
Please keep in mind, I just had a miserable run in Paris the prior weekend and all but swore off large marathons.
How easily a runner can forget the pain.
Boston is iconic. Most marathoners aspire to run Boston. It is an exclusive race, open to elites, those who run stringent qualifying times and to those who commit to raising thousands of dollars for a charity. All for the chance to run 26.2 challenging miles from Hopkinton to Boston. For many, this is the crowning achievement in their marathon career, and for almost everyone who takes to the course, it is among their favourite. most memorable races ever. I’ve always thought that I am unlikely to qualify to run Boston; my best marathon time is 4:05; I need a 3:45 run to qualify (women’s 40-44 age group). And I’ve never come anywhere close to running that time again. That seems to me like it may have been a flash in the pan run, a race where everything just fell into the smoothest of grooves and I embraced it. I remember feeling like I could have kept running a few more miles after I reached the finish line. I assure, no marathon since has given me that euphoria or ease of running again.
I posted something about missing my Boston qualifying time by 20 minutes on Facebook as a bit of a joke. A comment on that thread said that if I wanted it badly enough, I would work harder and put in the effort needed to increase my pace and achieve my goal of a BQ time.
Honestly, I was a bit taken aback, as it hinted that I wasn’t working hard already. I run five days a week, averaging 30-40 miles a week, including tempo runs, speed work and long runs into my weekly regime. I haven’t been good with my cross training; it comes and goes, but I typically do something one day a week (yoga, walking, softball, weights, etc). Not to mention I run my long runs in stupidly hot weather for about eight months out of the year, and somewhat hot weather the remaining four months out of the year. I’d like to see what someone would define this effort if it isn’t deemed ‘hard work.’
It is true that I can work harder; this is probably the truth for everyone of us in almost every aspect in our lives. Or if not harder, perhaps smarter. In September 2015, I was doing just that (working harder that I ever had before) and I actually had to drop back the effort a bit because I was so exhausted – all the time. I tweaked my diet and cut back on my running schedule, I bounced back to complete my training for my first marathon after that figurative crash and burn in my training. Since then, I’ve been able to increase the effort, and my times have become better overall. But I’m perhaps a little afraid of injury if I push it too much. Or getting sick from the heat if I try to go a bit harder. If there is one major lesson I have learned in running it is that it is important to ‘live to run another day.’ Suffering a serious injury from over training would be a major set back that I’m not interested in risking
What I think my slower races really boil down to is the quantity of marathons I run. If I am running them 4-6 weeks apart, as has been the case this spring, I don’t have as much time to allow my body to fully rest and gear up for the next race. However, I really like running all these races; it gives me the chance to travel, I meet so many new people, I am able to honour more 22 Too Many heroes, and I am just having an overall good time of it.
Which brings me to my ah-ha moment. I realized that right now, I needed to evaluate what I want from my running. What are my goals? Is it more important to me to try and aim for that ‘fast’ marathon? Or did I want to try and run as many as possible? Do I want to chase that ‘unicorn’, sacrificing my time, energy and travel for my training to hopefully achieve an aggressive goal? Do I need to spend the money to hire a running coach? Is there even a running coach in the Cayman Islands that would work for me? Or do I prefer running a lot of races, giving me the satisfaction of the finish line more often as a reward for enduring many punishing summer long runs in high heat and humidity? Do I give up the extra travel I enjoy? Do I miss out on the experiences I have and people I meet at these races? It really will just be a lot of introspection on my part. (Below is just a SMALL look at some of the great folks I’ve been able to meet at various races.)
If I choose to not go the route of pursuing the unicorn BQ time, I can always go the charity bib route (raising minimum of $6000 for a registered charity). Of course, it would be an incredible personal accomplishment to qualify on my own efforts, but it is nice to know an alternate is there.
Whatever I decide that my goals need to be, it will be a well thought out decision that takes into account all the things I get out of and put into my running. And it will be a decision that I reserve the right to change. I mean not only am I a woman and that is my prerogative; sometimes you wake up with a new perspective, which then drives you to new end results.
No matter what, I do work hard already, and achieving the goals I currently have is testimony to that. And if I decide I want to chase that BQ effort, I’ll put in the required work to do it as well. Because that is who I am. One thing running marathons has taught me is that it’s not just about the finish line; it’s very much about the journey to get there. My journey will be uniquely and amazingly my own, which means that it has to satisfy and enrich no one else but me. As long as I remember that, I think my decision will be the right one in the end.
Do you have running goals? Have you had to re-evaluate them? What was the hardest thing about going through this process? Have you shifted your goal posts at some point? Have you run Boston? Is it worth it? I’d love to hear about and learn from others’ experiences.