Now that I’m a little more than 6 hours removed from my race I think I have a little better perspective on my perceived failure. First of all, finishing a marathon is never a failure. No matter how long it takes you to get from point A to point B, it’s still 26.2 miles and the courage it takes to get to the starting line is immense. It’s not a race you approach lightly, but like they often say at the beginning of wedding vows, quietly, with discretion and the utmost respect.
Secondly, I don’t train and run to achieve a certain time at a race. Ok, that’s a lie, I love PR-ing more than I can tell you, but it’s not my primary motivation for getting out the door in the morning. Having a goal keeps me motivated, but you do not wake up at 4:30 in the morning to do a tempo run because you want to see a certain number on the clock. You wake up, stretch your tired legs and say no to the second glass of wine because you want to push yourself and be the best athlete you can possibly be. Becoming the best you can be is so much more than numbers on a clock. Am I a Boston qualified marathoner? No. Am I an athlete that’s capable of 70 mile weeks, double days, pain, suffering, 21-mile training runs and working hard? Yes. Will seeing a number on a clock change that? No. I know how hard I worked and even a race result that I didn’t want can’t take that from me.
This race was also probably the last of my “huge” PRs. Now that I’m a little bit faster (still not fast, but on my way) I can’t take PRs for granted the way I used to. For awhile it was normal for me to chop 10 minutes off of my half-marathon time or 4-6 minutes off a 10k. Now that I have some more speed the PRs don’t come as easily and the marathon was my last distance to tackle since improving. So I need to enjoy that. The PRs are coming in seconds and tenths of seconds not full minutes now so I need to revel in the giant chunk of time that came off. To put it in context, if I took another 20 minutes off my 10k time I’d be competing in the Olympics, so I can’t expect that same jump again.
Another piece of perspective is that this was only my second marathon. It takes years to build up to the kind of endurance and stamina you need to really race a marathon. I actually think I fueled and hydrated perfectly during the race and so the next time I get to that starting line I’ll be confident that my strategy is correct. I never bonked, never cramped and although I certainly didn’t negative split I could have felt much worse at the end. I learned a lot this race but mostly I learned that I have what it takes to run the full distance- I just need to speed it up.
I’m going to do a separate post on what I’ll do differently next time, but if I could change anything about my training, I wouldn’t. I did the best I could with the life I lead and the knowledge I had. Sure, hindsight is 20/20 but I’m still at peace that I did everything I could. Plus, had I not run that much I wonder how much worse I would have felt.
So what now? I still don’t know. And I love that. I’m toying with the idea of a spring marathon but none of the options work well with other commitments I have and I don’t know if I’m ready to throw myself back into the volume of training running a marathon requires. I’m interested to see what happens with my running after my break– last time I ran a marathon I came back much, much stronger. I always run the Shamrockin Half Marathon, and it’s a race I love, so I’ll do that no matter what, but I may just play around for awhile.
Finally, thanks for all the nice comments and emails. They really do mean a lot because I know that the majority of you really get it.