When I started training for my first marathon 13 years ago I started with absolutely no running base at all. I remember the thrill I had when I ran my first 9 mile training run. I couldn’t believe I was able to run (and walk a bit) that far. As my training progressed, I reached the “real” long runs that were 14 to 20 miles long. Every other week the coach scheduled a shorter long run of 12 miles in between the longer runs. By the end of my training my thought process – or perspective – had completely changed. I went from marveling at running 9 miles to looking at my training scheduled and actually saying “I only have 12 miles to run.”
That was 13 years ago. Today I had a shorter long run of 14 miles and I was so excited that it was all I had to run. That perspective just keeps changing. It wasn’t easy though. The first nine miles were run at my marathon goal pace. The California International Marathon (CIM) has a net elevation loss of 320 feet, but the race organizers stress it is not a downhill course. The first half has several rolling hills and it is important to pace yourself. After talking it over with my trainer, my plan is to run 11:30 pace the first half and then pick it up to 11:00 pace the second half. My primary goal is to finish and set a PR. My previous PR is 5:19:19, I am targeting 5:00. If I break 5:00 I will be thrilled.
Today I ran out and back on the towpath on a section that picks up about 80 feet in elevation the first half. So the first 7 miles I was consistent at keeping 11:30 pace. I felt good and my heart rate stayed in the upper zone two lower zone three range. At the turn around I picked up the pace as the elevation was slightly decreasing and was able to keep 11:08 pace for miles 8 and 9. A good trial run at race pace and I was pleased. The last 5 miles I took a bit easier, but I still finished strong and with my goal time for the day.
Several bloggers who are newer to running and triathlon have expressed similar amazement at their accomplishments and commented that they don’t even think of doing the distances I haven done this year. I remind them that it is only a matter of time before they are on this side of the curve. A good friend of mine has told me for years that there is always someone faster and someone slower. I still consider myself slow, I just have decent endurance. But I am getting faster – according to my standards and my perspective. And that is what it is all about. Yes I participate in races. My biggest rival is myself. Thousands of people participate in races like CIM, but only six people really receive the official honors – the top three men and women. There is expected to be 8,000 runners in this race. Of that, 7,994 participants just want to do their best. Well maybe 7,990, I always feel so bad for the fourth and fifth finishers… But my point is it only matters how I do to me. I may be dead last in my age group, but if I set a personal record – I am thrilled. What matters is the bar I set for myself in life, not the judgement of anyone else. That is part of seizing the day.