Ok, most of my blogs are positive upbeat things but this time you are getting the “human” side of me, the side that says dig deeper when things are tough. Most of you know I’m a fanatical runner, loving short races to longer races, and just running in general. This past weekend I headed to Burlington VT to run in my 8th marathon, with the hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. All I had to do was run this course in less than 4 hours, which was averaging a 9-minute pace. Should be no problem I say, I’ve done it before, why not do it again?
Well, along with great scenery and views of Lake Champlain and mountains, it also brought some hills. I picked this race since my sister lives in Burlington, and I thought it was a great way for her and her family to get to see my son. Why not run a marathon while I am there?
As a runner, you know some days you feel good and some days you just don’t. Some days you feel like you could run forever, and some days you want to quit after a few miles. Well, that was my day….after 3 miles I just didn’t feel great, but the crowd was fantastic so I was motivated to run fast. When I saw my niece at the 9-mile mark, I gave her the thumbs up signal, which was really a lie. I was running hard and making good time, I just felt like crap.
When I hit the 16 mile mark, I think my body just gave out. I had pushed myself to get there, and though I had plenty of time to finish in under 4-hours, there was a part of me that doubted myself because of how I felt. That was probably mistake #1…just psychologically giving up. I had plenty of time, as long as I didn’t slow down too much. I said I could do it, but deep down I felt like crap. Nutrition wasn’t working, my body felt tired, yet I kept telling myself I could do it.
As the miles went on and my mile split times got slower and slower, I soon realized I wasn’t going to break that 4:00 mark. Uggg!! I had trained all this time and this hard to qualify, and here I am, just gonna throw it away just like that? Dig deeper I said…but my legs didn’t respond. At that point, it was all I could do to hang on.
I knew my sister was going to meet me around the 20 mile mark, so I figured I could just jump in the car with her and call it a day. Save my legs for another race. But when would that next race come? It’s summer, there aren’t many races to choose from. So I kept on going.
The last 6 miles seemed to last forever. I went from sub 9-minute miles to 11+ minute miles. It seemed like the mile markers were never coming. It may have been the hardest thing I have ever done. I so badly wanted to quit. I stopped at a water stop and took a few steps and realized that if I didn’t start running again, then I never would. I started to run, just wondering how this could have happened. I feel like I was going to disappoint my family who was all there, my patients at home who I told I was hoping to qualify, and more importantly, me. I had never had this happen in a marathon before. My marathon in an Ironman after biking 112 miles felt better than this. What was going on?
My niece met me at mile 25 and “ran” with me to the end. She was so sweet as she encouraged me every step along the way, telling me I could do it, that I was doing great, and even encouraged me to pass people at the end. I didn’t want to let her down, or anyone else, so I picked it up a little to pass one person, and crossed the line at 4:14 and almost collapsed.
So, what happened? I really don’t know. I can only say it was a combination of things…..not being in the best marathon shape, being 5 pounds away from my ideal race weight, getting 5 hours of sleep three nights before the race (after spending 3 hours in the ER with my mom, who is now ok), trying to balance motherhood with everything else, nutrition not working, a much hillier course than anticipated, and the list goes on.
So now I contemplate….do I find a nice flat course to qualify, or do I stick to shorter races? I mean I have already qualified for Boston three times and I have run it, so why do I need to do it again? I guess it is just the competitive spirit within me, wanting to prove to myself that I can balance running with being a mom. So the search is on for a flat fall marathon. No need to run a hilly one again when the flat ones will do just fine.
So….the message here is to dig deep and never quit. Two days later I am glad I didn’t quit, even thought it hurt to finish, I am glad I did. So I’m human. Bad race = bad day. Kobe Bryant has them, Tim Hudson, Roger Federer. Any athlete has off days. This was mine.