Crowd Coaching to Boston Part 3

Cherish the journey and great goals will be had

I set out for a five mile run on Wednesday with not much else on my mind but enjoying some time on my feet and a beautiful fall day in Wisconsin. The sun was out, it was cool and I was in taper mode, with the GR Marathon coming in less than two weeks. 

Within the last six weeks I had taken the advice fellow runners had given me to reach my goal of a Boston qualifying time of 3 hours 25 minutes. I had increased my slow-pace running, increased my weekly distance training, and added in hill repeat training days to build more strength and endurance. But I wasn’t feeling gains like I thought I should while I was out there during my training run. I did my best to maintain a slower pace on designated slow days, but my mind told me, “your slow shouldn’t be this slow. Move faster!” 

So I would, but even those times were slower than I would like. I kept looking at what I needed to be running – a minimum 7:49 min/mi would get me the 3:25 marathon I wanted. My times were hovering somewhere in the mid 8s to high 9s and that was for a half marathon distance. I needed to make up an entire min/mi and maintain it for twice the distance. Doubt was beginning to set in that I would have the conditioning needed to make my goal. I started thinking that maybe my Plan B of a PR, beating my 3:37 personal best from last year’s race in GR, would be more realistic. I thought, I didn’t give myself enough time to train this summer so how could I expect to reach my goal. 

I spent the first half of 2017 training for the Kettle 100, making it to mile 82. It was a tough day with heavy rains early on creating a mud-filled slog fest that about 24 hours after starting got the best of me. The months that followed left be drained. I still don’t know if it was from over training, allergies or maybe the race itself that seemed to drain my energy over the next few weeks. But the fact was that I wasn’t doing much quality training from that early June race all the way through July. It wasn’t until early August that I started to ramp up again – about the time I reached out to the running community for help. My thought being, I have come this far with my own understanding of the sport and the training involved. Why not reach out to the rich knowledge base available through social and make up that extra 12 minutes that I needed to reach my goal. 

And I was glad I did. I had not only opened the door to some excellent advice but was introduced to people with incredible wealths of knowledge in the sport who were willing to take the time to not only give me advice but to ask me questions so they could give me precise feedback to help me reach my goals. It was a level of graciousness I don’t recall ever seeing in any other sport. 

So it was a beautiful day on Thursday, the heatwave we experienced with temps reaching into the 90s had passed and it was sunny and in the low 70s. I was scheduled an easy run, but it was tough from the beginning to maintain a slow pace. I would make a conscious effort to keep things slow but would notice from mile to mile that my pace would quicken. Once noticed, I would slow things down again and again and again, until it came to me. Maybe I am underestimating where I am at. Maybe my 5K pace is now my half marathon pace. I started to allow myself to continue at the faster pace. At first it felt uneasy and I even got a little scared that I was pushing too hard and was going to crash, but I didn’t. I reached a hill where I would normally slow down and in some cases depending on where I was at in my run and how hot or humid it was, I might walk it. This time I increased my pace up the hill and easily bombed the strait, flat road that followed. 

I knew I was moving fast and I felt good but it wasn’t until I looked down at my watch to see my mile split that a rush of excitement hit me, propelling me even faster into the last mile. I had broken a 7-min mile by six seconds. Not unheard of when I was out to see how fast I could run one mile but this was at the latter part of what was meant to be a 5-mile easy run. What had started as a casual pace had ended with a 7:39 min/mi average and gave me new confidence that the Boston qualifier goal is still in play.

I understand to that I will need to maintain about this pace for a little more than 5 times that long, but I also know with the right heart and attitude the body can do amazing things. I know to reach my goal I am at times going to have to ignore my mind’s pleas and outright demands that I slow down or even walk during this race – things I have struggled with in past races. It’s easy for me to say, “It’s not life or death. It’s just a race. Nothing to discomfort yourself over.” But life is full of discomfort. Every time something changes – be it a move, divorce, birth, death or anything that rattles our cage of “normalcy” – we react. It’s how we react that dictates the course that change will take us. We can’t know when change will come because it has its own schedule and we aren’t privy to that information. We can anticipate it though and learn to strengthen our ability to welcome and coexist with it in a way that makes our lives richer. 

Running and especially running at marathon and longer distances has been said to mirror life in a day. Between the start and finish lines we can experience incredible highs as we pass through aid stations filled with cheering spectators and friends showering us with food and water, and gut wrenching lows as we plod through backroads by ourselves with the heat pounding down and stomachs churning to the point where the only relief can be found in a moment alone at the side of the road hurling up that bagel and banana you had for breakfast.

Marathons are adventures, and that is why it is so much fun to stand at the finish line of a race and see the mix of emotions from people who come over that finish line. They all took different paths to be there that day and to achieve this amazing feat of running 26.2 miles, but on that day they followed the same path and they all shared in the glory of making it.

Will I break the 3:25 I need to be a Boston qualifier? I think I will, but even if I do not I will be happy with my attempt, because I know that I will put it all out there this time. You can’t ask for anything more. 

To quote Grand Rapids Marathon Race Director Don Kern: “The adventure continues.”