As mentioned, I went into the race knowing that I was not in PR shape. I had the miles, but not the quality, and what I think was probably even more important, no race practice. I really do believe that 90% of racing is mental, and especially for a distance that long, your head needs to be in the right place. Especially when you have a head as noisy as mine is.
Coach’s plan for me was to go out at 9 min/miles. If I felt really good at mile 8-10 pick up the pace, otherwise pick it up at the half if I could. So since I knew a PR wasn't going to be in the cards, my goal became to stick to that plan and run a smart race. And without too many gory details, that’s what I did; I’m actually pretty amazed at how consistent my splits were. Very close to 9 min/miles up until the half. I wasn’t feeling “really good” so kept the pace there. Then the pace slipped down towards 9’10s and I had to fight to hang on. And I did, finishing in 3:56:15 (9’01 average) – missed a personal worst by less than a minute, but I did it. I’ve only done three marathons, and this one was the “middle child”.
And if you still care for my perspective, here's a little bit more about what it took. There were two huge “mental moments” during this race. The first was at mile 3. The mile was long. I didn’t know that, of course – miles 1 and 2 had been 8’55 and 8’50, and mile three was totally flat and I thought it had been about the same effort level, but I hit my split button at the mile marker and it said 9’21. I knew that if that level of effort had turned into a 9’21 my “plan” was shot, and I panicked. No really, panicked. Cacophony of negativity – everything from self doubt about my training, to phantom pains popping up out of nowhere. I even contemplated dropping out at the half, (insert sulking teenager voice) “if you can even make it that far.”
And then I got to mile 4 and my watch said 8’19. Oh.
I felt silly. I’ve talked about how much damage a negative “head” can do in previous race life, and I know it’s my own worst enemy. But here I was, practically ready to drop out of the race because of a long mile 3. You have to believe in yourself a little more than that, right?
The next mental moment was at the other end of the race. As I mentioned, I held pace really pretty consistently up through mile 18. And then things really started to slip. I missed the split for mile 19, but 19-20 combined was 18’42, so I had slipped to 9’21 pace average. And this time it wasn’t long miles. At that point I was too out of it for that even to register -- I just knew it hurt, and my pace had really slowed. Then, sometime between mile 21 and mile 22, something clicked in my head. I really felt like it was a key, turning in the ignition. Ka-chuk, ka-chuk VROOM. And it turned on Green Light. Not turning off the negativity, but turning on the positivity. I’m going to take this metaphor to ridiculous levels, but the engines revved, and all of a sudden, I wasn’t fighting pain, I was finding strength. I dug deep, I enjoyed it, I felt like a million dollars. It seemed like I was running 7 minute miles. I didn’t look at my watch, and that was probably a good thing – most of those splits were closer to 9 min/miles (well, mile 24 was 8’41). I powered it all the way to the finish, with a stupid goofy grin on my face for the last five miles, cheering on my fellow runners as I turned them into roadkill, and even cheering the spectators. For the first time since Seb was born, I really felt like Green Light was back.
And so that’s my report. I wish it were easier to control – not just banishing the negative, but turning on the positive. It takes drive and will and I don’t know what else. Practice.
So I'm happy with the race. I'm happy with how I ran it. I'm happy it wasn't the slowest marathon I've ever run. I’m not sure exactly what’s next – I’m going to wait until I can go up and down stairs easily before deciding – but I can’t wait for it.
And to reward you for reading this far, here's a pic of Seb with his marathoner: