I’m about a month into my 18 weeks of training– roughly 1/5. Which is to say there’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of time still. But occasionally when I’m tired I let my mind wander to a somewhat dark place– what if on race day I have an epic failure? I’m working hard each day to ensure that doesn’t happen, but there are some days that just aren’t yours. You aren’t meant to run fast or far that day, let alone both. What if it happens on December 7th? How will I react? What will that mean? What if I get hurt and can’t even get to the starting line? What if I get sick? I think we all have these thoughts.
I don’t think I’ll truly know how I’ll react unless that happens (and let’s pray I never find out) but I have a couple of observations.
1. Much of training is about the journey, not the result. I’m learning a ton during this training cycle and pushing myself to work harder than I ever have before. There’s value in that. And there’s value beyond just running. I’m developing a mental and physical toughness and discipline that I didn’t know was there, forcing myself to prioritize and plan my schedule and draw clear boundaries to fit everything in and those are skills that transcend the marathon. I was looking at old photos of myself from childhood to adulthood and I realized that since I’ve been running I look much more like my 7-year old self than my high school self. And I love that. My 7 year old self was a badass, afraid of nothing and willing to try anything.
2. I’m developing mental and physical muscle memory that will come back if I decide to attempt this thing again. So even if I miss my goal, the next go around will be easier. It is much easier to regain fitness you once had than to develop new fitness. So there’s value in my training that extends beyond December 7th.
3. I’m having fun during the journey. I’ve had some incredible training runs both in beautiful places and my own neighborhood that I probably would have missed if I were just running sometimes. I don’t love my double days, but I do love that I get to see my neighborhood on foot at both sunup and sundown. Plus, I get to eat a lot and license to eat like a teenaged boy is pretty darned fun.
4. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’d rather go all out and give this race every, single ounce I have than be scared of failure and to hold back. If that means I blow up and finish the race a bawling, soaking wet, sick mess, so be it. I’m leaving nothing to chance– not training, not stretching, not eating well, nothing. And I’ll know I did the absolute best I could to be the best runner I can be at that starting line.
5. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter to anyone but me. My friends and family are going to love me no matter what. If I never make it to Boylston Street or the elusive BQ time, they’re not going to care. They won’t. What they’ll care about is the kind of person this journey has made me and so it’s important not to get so wrapped up in split times, intervals, workouts and race results that I miss character building opportunities. Plus, I’m not a professional runner. There won’t be a foreclosure on my little house if I fail 🙂
So, for anyone else out there training for the marathon and working themselves to death: Good, keep at it. Work yourself hard and give it absolutely everything you have. Don’t give up and dream big and don’t leave anything to chance. But don’t get so wrapped up in your end goal that you lose the value of the work to get there– because at the end of the day, 3 hours on a Sunday is small potatoes compared to the 5 months you’ve spent preparing. Enjoy them.