This Sunday I’ll run my third marathon, in Philadelphia. I’m used to reading other runners’ blog posts about the week leading up to their marathon: what they’re eating, what they’ll be wearing (or what they’re thinking about wearing), all the ways in which they are preparing for a perfect race. When I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2007 and 2008, I was also thinking about those things. This year, though? I don’t know what it is. It’s hard for me to process the fact that I’ll be running a marathon in less than a week.
In April, I was really excited about marathon registration. I missed out on Philadelphia last year because I was in the hospital (not that I would have been in any shape to run it anyway) and this year, as if to make up for what I lost in 2009, I went all out and registered for the Philadelphia Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon. Toward the end of September, though, as I came to the conclusion that I was overtraining and literally running myself ragged, I decided to defer my registration to the MCM and just focus on Philadelphia. It may have been at that point that I sort of half checked out of my training.
As I alternated good and bad long runs almost weekly, I started to think I might not even be able to finish this upcoming marathon. I really like to run marathons, and even though I know there’s no shame in taking breaks to walk, I just don’t like to do it. It doesn’t feel all that good to me, and it interrupts the rhythm I have going on while I’m running. So obviously, I’d prefer not to walk. But I’m still not sure I’ll be able to run 26.2 miles straight. One thing is for sure, though, I’m not setting out to PR, or even to come close. At the same time, though, just admitting that makes me squirm a little bit. Deep down I know it would be a mistake to go into this race with high expectations…but I guess I still wish I were in a position to do so.
It’s not that I’ve given up on this race, it’s just that I want to take it easy, enjoy the run, and have those things be okay. I’m used to going into things in a certain way: I wouldn’t say I have goals, per se, but I have a way I’ve decided things should be. Sort of like very strict rules that I’m not even sure I could realistically obey under the best of circumstances. This time around, though, I want to let those rules go. I want to think of this as a victory, and a multi-faceted one at that. For one thing, I’m healthy enough to be running long distances again (whether I run the whole way or not); I worked hard to overcome a lot of challenges that came up during this training period, and dealt with things in a much healthier way than I have in the past; and hopefully, I can enjoy running, and these things for what they are and not worry that my experience is only valid or justified if I run as hard as I could, or faster than a time I’ve arbitrarily selected for myself.
I think my desire to approach this race in a laid-back way is what has made me look at this week with such a low-key attitude. However, there’s still anxiety under the surface–I’m worried about logistic issues, of course, but I’m also worried that in spite of my wanting this to be a non-competition, I won’t be able to rid myself of that mindset entirely. After all, these things don’t go away over night. Changing the way you think is a marathon in and of itself.
Time will tell how things go. And now I’m off to pick this evening’s yoga practice.