The Eugene marathon is in nine days. 17 weeks of intense training will come together in the few short hours of one 26.2 mile race. All the blood, sweat, tears, achy muscles, chaffing, hours spent training, shoe buying, toenail-losing, fist pumping, strategizing, and dreaming will culminate at the finish line on the track at Hayward Field. It’s terrifying and exciting and nerve-wracking all wrapped up in one.
Carissa and I recently reminisced about the day she presented Hal Higddon’s Advanced 1 Marathon Training Schedule to me and suggested that we follow it. It was a week after Christmas. I hadn’t run farther than 8 miles in several weeks. I don’t like to be told what to do or when to do it. Following a rigid training program that required running six days a week for eighteen weeks with very specific mileage and pace suggestions did not sound fun to me at all. But Carissa insisted that if we followed the schedule we’d emerge on race day fit, fast, and equipped to accomplish our time goals.
I agreed to try it for two weeks but told Carissa not to hold her breath that I’d stick with it. Begrudgingly, I took an entire evening to enter the complex schedule into my calendar and then taped the paper copy of the chart inside my cupboard door by the coffee where I was sure to see it each morning.
The first two weeks were the hardest. Never in my life have I run six days a week. Starting the second week of January in the cold and the rain made it even tougher. The mileage on the training plan was ruthless. In the first week, five miles was a mid-distance run and the long runs started at 11 miles. I remember thinking, “It’s only going to get worse from here. Do I really want to do this?”
But somewhere around ten days into the schedule something changed. A schedule took the guesswork out of whether or not I should run. Each morning I stumbled into the kitchen, poured my coffee, opened the cupboard and checked the distance/pace of the required run for the day. Knowing Carissa was doing the same thing in her kitchen gave me the accountability and encouragement to make sure I was ready to run when I saw the kids off on the bus.
In the end it was the boxes that roped me into committing to the training schedule. I’m a little OCD about recording my workouts. Since 2008, I’ve recorded every workout in an ugly little Log Book that I bought at the Dollar Tree. I write the date, the type of exercise, the distance covered, and the pace. If it is an exceptionally memorable run, I write a comment or highlight it for easy spotting. Line by line, one page at a time, that ugly little book has recorded my journey to fitness and good health.
Following a training plan gave me a Log Book AND a chart! I envisioned the completed chart on race day, each box marked off with a little X, and I KNEW I had to mark off every single box. The boxes taunt me when I want desperately to skip a workout. After all, I can NOT scrapbook a chart with an unchecked box.
I have spent the last 16 weeks, chasing down the dream of fully checked-off chart. I never knew I could be so dedicated to something so rigid or so driven to finish what I started. I’ve run with Carissa, Ruth, Danielle, Tanya, and Julie. I’ve run by myself. I’ve run with Curt, Sarah, and my Little People on their bikes. When Carissa’s adorable toddler joins us for our Monday morning runs, we switch off every mile pushing the stroller. Stride by stride, mile by mile, each box has gotten checked off. Now there are only nine left.
Carissa was right about the schedule. We are in the best shape of our life and running faster than we ever knew we could. We are equipped to cover the distance and excited to see how our bodies handle the challenge. Now that we’re tapering, I’m setting intent for this race.
The atmosphere on race day is always electric, but this one will be really special. Carissa and I will toe the line with our friend Danielle and my step-brother Jon. Jon can run circles around us, but he’s choosing to run this marathon for fun. This week he told me he intends to run with me the ENTIRE distance. I almost cried when I read his email. What a gift to have a companion the entire race. My friend Julie and I both lost our friend Krista to cancer in October. Krista battled bravely for two years and is a major source of inspiration to both Julie and I. Julie is running the Eugene marathon – her first – in Krista’s memory. Talk about an emotional day! Goal number one is to soak in the excitement of race day and have fun.
Goal number two is to beat my previous personal best marathon time of 3:43:57. If I don’t do this, I will be really disappointed.
Goal number three is to qualify for Boston. I ran my last marathon in 2010 and since then, the time requirements for Boston have gotten faster. I will need a 3:40 time to qualify which means averaging an 8 minute 23 second mile over the course of 26.2 miles. Based on our training runs, this should be attainable. If I don’t hit a 3:40, I will be disappointed.
Goal number four is to finish in 3 hours and 30 minutes, which averages out to an 8:01 minute per mile pace. When we started training in January, this time never crossed my radar screen. But Carissa and I have watched our pace per mile get faster each week, even as the mileage increased. A 3:30 finish time will require a nearly perfect race, but I’m optimistic enough at the possibility that I’m saying it out loud. My dream for this race is a 3:30 finish time. That would THRILL me!
Goal number five is any finish time that shows my average pace per mile with a 7 in front of it. It’s a total pipe dream, but a 7:59 pace just sounds so much faster than an 8:01 pace, don’t you think? Now that I've said it out loud, I'm motivated to leave it all on the course and see how many of these goals I can accomplish.
Training for this race has awakened in me a need to dream. And dream big. Joy has come as I learned the discipline needed to chase each dream down, one sweaty mile at a time. I can hardly wait for race day!