I’m ready for my last long run before Big Sur, and even though it’s quite a bit longer than I usually train for a marathon, I’m actually excited to do it. That’s because there will be water stops every mile so I don’t have to carry my own, and it’s going to be a group run, which always makes the LSD easier, even when you just have one other person to run with, and I’m going to have about 25,000. Plus, this long run will have upwards of a million spectators including a bunch of my friends, and everyone runs better when people cheer. I’m familiar with the route, and the forecast is good.
It’s a big, fat 26.2-mile training run, and despite the fact that my fitness seems to be in a long-term rest cycle, I’ve managed to shift my inner conflict about my run at Boston, and I’m looking forward to it.
The essence of my uncertainty about my fitness really stems from two photos.
In 2007, I started my first Boston Marathon and scarred my runner’s identity in a way that only others in the Marathon DNF Club can know. It was miserable, and I’ll probably always carry that DNF like an albatross through every marathon I start.
In 2008, I trained as conservatively as I possibly could, running 4 days/week and never exceeding a weekly max of 45 miles. When I toed the starting line, I was so happy to be unbroken that I savored the entire race, which was casual and untimed, as far as I was concerned. This is what I looked like at mile 16:
I was stupid with joy. It may be the last time I smiled that broadly during a race, definitely the only time I’ve smiled like a delirious fool at mile 16. I was running in front of Newton Wellesley hospital, where I’d ended up under an xray in 2007, and my parents, husband, and son were there to cheer for me. Clearly, I was totally blasé to actually see my people amid the throngs. My dad took that picture.
I ran a 4:01 and didn’t care at all that I missed the 4-hour mark by a minute.
Fast forward a few years, and this was my run in 2011 at Boston. My parents, husband, and son were there to cheer for me, again, and I was equally excited by the idea of seeing them on the course. This was me racing in 2011:
That’s as close to a smile as I would go in 2011. My dad took that photo, too. I was happy to be there, but I was racing, a different runner from the giddy girl of 2008. In the three years since ’08, I’d trained like a dog to qualify for Boston and become much more businesslike about the whole enterprise of running, my dumb pink socks aside.
I ran a 3:45 and was pissed as hell that I didn’t go sub-3:40.
And so now we are here, 2013, running a Boston for which I also qualified, yet trained in way more like I was in ’08, thanks to injury and other stuff that gets in the way of seriously dedicated training.
I feel like I have a racer’s mind and a recreational body–a 2011 brain inside 2008 flesh.
We sometimes refer to a person with a false sense of security, though I don’t think this is a problem I’ve ever had myself. The problem I usually face is a false sense of insecurity, and I know I’m not the only woman who battles this mindset.
In my mind, I’m not fit enough for a strong Boston, despite my good-enough training, because I didn’t run 60 miles/week, never ran more than 4 days/week, and didn’t do a single mid-week run in the double digits. The thing is, I didn’t do any of those things in 2008 and it’s clear how amazing my race felt.
The reality is that I am in good shape for my long run at Boston, and my insecurity about it is falsely situated in the race-mind I’ve developed over years of hard training. This fallacy has been my revelation in the past few days, and it’s strengthened me. It’s true that knowing yourself better can transform more than just your perspective; it changes how you are in the world. Self-awareness matters far more than we usually give it credit for, in endurance sports and beyond.
Next Monday, I might not express the uninhibited joy I had in 2008, but because I know my runner’s mind more clearly, I will run far with a love of the marathon and what my body can do.
Good luck to my runners who are headed to Boston: Kelly, Dan, and Kara. Knowing how hard you’ve trained, I cannot wait to see what you can do. Tear it up.