12 Weeks until Houston. I am finally in the place that I want to be during marathon training. Firmly in the now. Not looking too far ahead and perhaps more importantly, not looking behind me.
Frank Shorter once famously said, “You should never run a marathon until you have forgotten your last one.”
There are a couple of ways to interpret Frank’s remark. The first time I read it I thought that he must be talking about the fact that the marathon being such a unique race takes a tremendous amount of effort to prepare for, get mentally checked-in, race and then recover from. It is such a draining experience for the athlete whose goal is not merely to finish, but to run the race as close as possible to their maximum potential, that you need to not only physically recover from the race, but you really have to get your mind right before you tee it up again.
I still believe that is the main point that Frank was trying to make.
Lately however I have found new meaning in Frank’s comment. With the NYC Marathon now less than 2 weeks away I have continued to replay that race over in my mind on training runs over the last month or so. Despite the fact that I finished Boston in April, I consider NYC to be my “last” marathon. Yes, I earned a finisher’s medal in Boston for the second time in three years and covered every step of the storied course from Hopkinton to Boston. But with race day temperatures reaching 87 degrees, I did not “race” Boston, I merely “ran” it. Still an accomplishment, but never for one moment on April 16th did I feel the intensity of race day. I simply left Hopkinton at a comfortable training run pace, dealt with the course, the heat, the need to hydrate and fuel to the best of my abilities, high-fived kids along the route, flirted briefly with the coeds at Wellesley and hung on through Brookline past Boston College to the finish.
NYC was my last Marathon and it was my best ever.
What I am realizing is that when you look back fondly on a great performance that can be a dangerous place to be preparing for a marathon.
The marathon is cruel. The distance is significant. The training is tough. The race is tougher.
You have to not only put in the work prior to the event to put yourself in a position to be successful, but you have to prepare mentally for some of the toughest miles you will ever run. If your “memory” of marathon glory is too fresh, if the only thing you can draw from is how exhilarating it felt to cross the finish line with a new PR in hand then you are not going to be in the right mindset to battle through the pain and fatigue it takes to get there.
I’m not sure if it has been the increased intensity of my run workouts over the past couple of weeks that have flipped the switch from Triathlete to Marathoner or not, but with each passing workout I feel like my mind is getting closer and closer to where I want it to be on race morning. Tempo miles, hill repeats, long runs – it is all building toward a crescendo that on race morning down in Houston we are going to attack the marathon like none of the other 9 that have come before it.
All it really took to get me there was the look on Landry’s face as she was preparing for her first “Fire Truck” Race at her friend Levi’s Birthday party on Sunday.
In 5 Weeks we will be racing on Thanksgiving morning at the Thundercloud Subs 5-Miler. 16 days later the Ronald McDonald House Lights of Love 5K, 16 days after that the Shiner Half-Marathon and then 4 weeks after Shiner we will be in Houston.
4 races, 4 opportunities to leave it all out on the course and go after a PR in the 5-mile, 5K, half-marathon and marathon. Approximately 5 hours and 14 minutes of racing where we need to be focused throughout, race with passion and determination and in a word, fearlessly.
Running that close to the ragged edge can be a bit scary. It also has the potential to create a race where you go out too hard too early and fade badly at the finish. Very true.
But I also know that failing to go all in and playing it safe is a recipe for the average to slightly above average performance more times than not.
Frankly, I’m not interested in that.
If we blow up down in Houston, miss our goal and struggle to finish the race, I’m prepared to pick-up the pieces after the race and figure out where we go from there.
The one thing I don’t think I can live with is driving back to Austin and looking Dawn and Landry in the eye knowing that I was too scared to go for it. We’ve got 12-weeks to make sure that on race day we’re prepared for the toughest final 10 kilometers we have ever run. We’ll be ready.