The final week before a marathon (or any goal event really) is both an awesome time and stressful time. You’re excited and you’re fit (hopefully), but by resting more than usual you feel not-so-fit. You’re excited to run the marathon, but on the other hand it’s a marathon, it’s so LONG and it gets so darn difficult…and so on and so forth. There are more opportunities for ambivalence than a political convention. For many people yesterday was the peak of these mixed-feelings as it was the 3rd anniversary of 4-15-2013, and the deaths of 3 people (later, 4), with 260 people sustaining injuries, and also the day when many are flooding into Boston to kick-off 4 days of indulgence in running lore.
One of the things that draws many to marathon running is its duality. It is an individual sporting competition but also a thing that hints at the very definition of community and teamwork. This duality will be the exact driving force behind my own performance this Marathon Monday. I’m going to be running with Meredith. We’ve never actually done a race side by side before. She’s one of the best friends (and humans, period) I’ve ever known. And yes, we’ve logged many hours running side by side, we’ve composed the Great American Novel’s worth of text messages about running, we’ve coached and counseled each other in running and in life, and we’ve run the same races plenty of times. But never 100% together.
After the rough fall season I had with my health, and then totally bonking at the LA Marathon also due to illness, I decided not to go to the Catalina Marathon after all (discussed here). And then, I sort of tanked emotionally and physically (again). Instead of increasing my stress by trying to stick to my training plan for Boston I switched up to a more intuitive style for a couple weeks, and that coincided with racing season kicking off. I love races. Not because I’m particularly competitive really, I just love the feel of races…people are so friendly at them, and I love that while you’re participating in a race from 1 mile to an ultra-marathon that’s all that exists for that period of time: running. It’s good medicine.
Basically my strategy became: run when I wanted to and do whatever type of run I felt would bring me a psychological boost (while maintaining a minimum of marathon readiness), and I would race for the fun of it. This way, even though I’m feeling heavy, slow, and tired (all the time, more or less), I wouldn’t lose sight of how much I love running, and how much it makes the rest of life manageable.
Even once I decided to switch to this love-based running strategy I was consumed with kind of wanting to bow out of Boston this year. Which, well, is a bit out of character for me. What really was going on was that I have gained weight and haven’t been getting enough rest – all related to overall stress I think, and that was being channelled into a complete lack of confidence. I spent a lot of time thinking about all the reasons why it would be better NOT to run Boston this year, and although all of these things are true, it’s embarrassing to admit I nearly committed to a DNS because of them: I don’t have the money to spend on the trip, I’ve gained too much weight to feel good when I run, I have no chance for a PR and it’s been so long that another slow marathon will leave me too frustrated to handle, my gut issues (celiac, colitis, diverticulosis – for those who don’t already know everything about my plumbing) have been unpredictable lately and I don’t want to eat out for 4 days, I have too much work to catch up on….and so on…you see how ridiculous this all was at this point.
Whenever I was talking with people about their running during this time, and especially when talking with Meredith or other close friends, I noticed that all those excuses weren’t present in my mind. So I asked Meredith what she thought about running together. Like, TOGETHER – together. Like, you know, teamwork. But we’re focused on her goals and the purpose of my race is to make her race better (hopefully). She was in! Phew! The magic in that is this will make my race better. It will make my race, period. Ever since making that decision, I’ve been enjoying (almost) every run, and have been so excited for marathon weekend.
That’s the beautiful thing, not just within running, but in life. If you put your focus on others, and strive to lift them up. You end up getting lifted up too. In fact, you ‘re really the one getting the better deal.
P.S. I’d be inexcusably remiss if I didn’t note also that for the second year in a row I’m staying with my wonderfully generous and thoughtful friends Kelly and Tish, who live in Boston. Kelly is running the LONDON MARATHON next weekend! Kelly is also fundraising for VICTA a charity providing support for children with visual impairments. As a personal favor to me, please head to her fundraising page and drop a British Pound or two!