Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most define us

- Thanks again Deena (opening line from Spirit of the Marathon).
I ran a hard 20 mile run yesterday - the first time in a running groups from the Pacers store. Up and down hills, through the wind, with fast runners. These were strong, solid runners - those who go to Boston on a regular basis, those with phenomenal PRs, those who run many many marathons a year, those who have run more than 16 months straight. I was the newest and weakest, and I didn't feel like that until mile 12 or so.
I finished in under 3 hours, close to 2:54, the fastest 20 mile run I've ever done, with the exception of the Marine Corps Marathon. I finished feeling quite tired, and concerned. It felt hard for a long portion of it, the hills scared me, and I began to doubt my abilities to perform well in Boston. I had an 8 mile recovery run today, and while last week, the recovery run was a piece of cake, it was more of a struggle today. More doubt entered my head. If I felt so tired, how was I going to run Boston successfully when I want to do it at a faster pace, and it's a harder course?
But then I had to remind myself of the bigger picture. But then I realized that these guys have been doing this for a while. It is okay to be tired - I came off of a hard track workout earlier in the week, and I am in the peak of my training. Instead of building to one big mileage week, Sarah is sustaining me in a long peak - and that is where I am. I will be more rested when it is time to run Boston. I will have the adrenaline of the race and the support of the crowd. And oh yes, this was my best 20 mile time.
So why was I so hard on myself? Was it because it felt so hard to push to get through the run? After my recovery run today, I put on Spirit of the Marathon. I watch that movie at least once a month, usually after a run, and usually end up falling asleep at some point. If you haven't seen it, it opens with Deena Kastor running, and she says, "Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most, define us."
It is good to be challenged. Looking back, sure it would've been great to run the 20 miles at a faster pace with relative ease. But where would my triumphant moment be? People are not often respected for their ability to simply breeze through things. Yes, we all respect and admire those who can effortlessly play music or sports, or do math - they have God-given talent. But we also give a great deal of respect to those who have endured and struggled in order to end up at the top.
No one runs a marathon because it's easy. We run the marathon for the great challenge that lies in front of us. Whether it's a tough workout or high mileage week, it is a challenge. It is a challenge to maintain a lifestyle that will help us prepare for this enormous event. The moment we get comfortable, we decide to up the ante and push further and harder. Because we pride ourselves on enduring challenges; that is a part of our history. We hail those who survived the harsh winters, the tough conditions, the adversity, and emerged on the other side.
While I've waxed historic a little, I really did have to think things through after the run. It was a stressful week last week, and this week is stressful with a paper and a Latin midterm. All of that can make a run harder.
But I will rise to the challenge!

Here's what this week looks like:

Monday, March 1: Swim

Tuesday, March 2: 2.5 mile warm-up; 4 x 800 meters, first 2, 3:53, second 2, 3:50 (1 lap jog between each interval); 4 mile run off track, should be a moderate pace, but not a hard effort; 4 x 800 meters, first 2, 3:45, second 2, 3:42. 2.5 miles cool-down. Total Mileage—14.5 miles

Wednesday, March 3: 9 miles easy

Thursday, March 4: OFF

Friday, February 5: 18 miles; first 5 easy, middle 8 at marathon race pace, last 5 miles easy run.

Saturday, March 6: 6 miles easy

Sunday, March 7: 8 miles easy

Weekly Mileage: 55.5 miles


  1. Count me among the many who are impressed with what you are doing. You are training hard and doing great and you will do awesome at Boston. And I know the guys you ran with and I think it's absolutely wonderful that you kept up with them.

  2. I second MCM. We have weeks throughout our training that are especially tough, that is normal. You are not just training for Boston, but working on scholarship, having a life, being a daughter, sister, friend. You are a remarkable person. You will kick a$$ in Boston!