Like many athletes, I get nervous before a race. Really nervous. Perhaps a runner exists who can stride confidently to the starting line of even the most consequential race. That runner is not me. About six weeks ago I started feeling that little drop in my gut whenever I saw a shamrock or other symbol of St. Patrick’s Day (if you’re new here, I’m running the Shamrock Marathon on St. Patrick’s Day weekend). My skin gets tingly when I scroll past a post from the Shamrock folks on my Facebook timeline. Butterflies in my stomach? More like a flock of migrating sandhill cranes.
I’ve allowed this race to take on an Olympian persona – not only have I set an aggressive goal for myself, but I know that this could be the last time in my life that I approach the marathon at my current level of fitness. It could be several years before our next child is old enough to allow me to dedicate more time to training. Not only will I be a few years older, but I won’t have the solid running and triathlon fitness behind me like I have right now. I won’t be starting from scratch, but I’ll certainly be a few rungs down the ladder. I won’t say there will never be another chance to qualify for Boston, but this moment is about as good as it’s going to get.
There lies the root of my apprehension. This will be the first race where I’ve been shooting for a standard set by someone else. In other races I’ve chased PRs and 10-minute denominations (sub-1:40 in the half or sub-20 in the 5k, for example), but they’ve been goals that have only had significance in my own little running sphere. For once I’m chasing a goal that has a concrete meaning in the larger world – even non-runners are at least familiar with the idea that qualifying for Boston is hard to do.
And while I’ve run my training miles in solitude, I feel like there are a lot of eyes on me for this race. Social media such as Daily Mile and this blog have been wonderful to help me connect with athletes of similar interests and abilities (and those that are far faster but provide inspiration and knowledge), but the flip side is that I feel like I have a lot to prove with this race. I’ve received so much support and encouragement from these people (including those of you who are reading now), and I feel like I need to show I can actually pull it all off. After March 18 all the training and preparation fade away and leave only the final clock time to judge the effort of the past months.
(It’s intentional that very few people in my non-Internet life know that I’m chasing a BQ, or even that I’m training for a marathon – there’s less to explain if I fall short on race day!)
However, there are a lot of reasons to be confident as I approach the final week of taper. My training cycle has been about as perfect as I could have asked for. I nailed every workout and, looking back, I can’t think of much I would have changed. To be going into the marathon with this kind of preparation is really the best situation I could hope for.
I’ve taken care of everything under my control, and I need to find a way this week to get out of my own head. I can’t let the significance of this race – realistic or not – paralyze me. All that’s left is to show up next Sunday, turn off my brain, and let my body do what it knows how to do.Bike: 0/334.5 miles Run: 6/404.1 miles