723 days ago I crossed the finish line of the 114th Boston Marathon a beaten man. A day that I had looked forward to since May of the previous year after earning my way onto Marathoning’s biggest stage. The day I had anticipated being one of my “greatest” to that point as an endurance athlete ended in bitter disappointment.
At the time I told myself all of the things my delicate psyche needed to hear.
I tried my best.
I never gave up.
I ran every step of the course.
I fought for every inch.
Finished the race and earned my Boston Finisher’s Medal.
I really didn’t have much of a choice but to move on and move on quickly as 13 days later I was running another marathon in Pittsburgh for Dom. I would be standing in downtown Pittsburgh with another bib on my chest ready to take on lady marathon for a second time in less than two weeks.
I immediately tried to put thoughts of Boston out of my mind and focus on the next step of the journey. We ran our heart out in Pittsburgh and in the end surpassed our goal of raising $26,200 for Dom and his family.
As the soreness in my muscles faded and I got back to running just 5 days after Pittsburgh, “Boston” started to haunt me.
I never really “mourned” my performance and preparation. Never took the time to analyze properly what I should have done differently not only in the months leading up to the race, but during the race itself, and then flush it. Move on. That’s what winners do. They learn from their mistakes and keep moving forward.
Coming back from injury and having a shortened 14 week training period hurt me without a doubt. Only being able to run 4 times per week with very few back to back days – my endurance and stamina simply wasn’t there.
I did not do any hill work, very little speed work and was hoping my experience as a marathoner would get me through.
My friends told me that running a 3:22:46 was a solid effort given the circumstances. That I should be proud of the accomplishment. Know that I did my best.
But that was the problem, I knew it wasn’t my best – and that is the measuring stick I have always used to judge race day performance. Age group awards, overall placement, 1st place male masters – all that stuff at the end of the day is just noise. It has more to do with other athletes on a given day than it does about my own abilities and performance.
How I run against “me” is all I really care about. That is the only competitor on the course I am battling with.
In the marathon, the best I have ever been was November of 2011 in New York City. On a tough course, with more than 46,000 marathoners taking on the streets of New York I ran a personal best time of 3:08:09.
A week from today we will stand once again on Main Street in Hopkinton, MA 26.2 miles away from Boylston Street in downtown Boston.
With ESPN cameras pointed at the starting line, the worlds greatest distance runners in attendance, surrounded by tremendous athletes, we will crouch down below the buzz of the crowd, run our fingers over the names on our shoes, think about the early morning alarm clocks, the runs through the wind and rain, hill repeat after hill repeat, double workouts on Tuesdays and all the craziness that has led us to that moment.
We’ll stand up tall, take a deep breath and at the sound of the horn we will shuffle slowly with the rest of the runners toward the starting line. Our pace will increase to a walk, then a trot, then a light jog and as we hit the starting line we will be at a run.
Every day for the last two years we have thought about that moment – in just 7 days it will be here and there will be no turning back.
The hills I have trained for will stand in front of me one after the other. The race will be challenging, the final 10 kilometers will be grueling. There will be times that I won’t think I can make it. That I can’t take another step.
Then I will.
I will take another and another and yet another.
It’s Boston week, the chance I’ve been waiting for more than 700 days.
As in most things in life. Careful for what you wish for.
Sub 3:08:09 …. a week from today we just might be the best we have ever been.