16 weeks seemed like such a long time to get ready for Boston back on December 28th when this training cycle began with a quick 3-mile run. Now, 13 weeks later and Boston is just three weeks away, Pittsburgh two weeks after that – and we have passed the final “real test” of this training period. The last 20-mile long run.
I’ve said many times in the past that no individual workout is really any more important than any other when training for a marathon. It is the cumulative effect of all of your training miles that prepare the marathoner to cover the 26 mile 385 yard distance. Long runs, tempo runs, hill work, speed work, recovery runs and those critical rest days all contribute to the marathoner’s fitness level. Just as important are a solid nutrition plan as well as taking care of your body.
But I have to admit before I post the very first training run on the “Magic Fridge” I mentally circle the date of that final 20-mile run. When I reach that point of the training period and I complete that run healthy – I “know” that I am ready for race day.
For a distance runner the difference between thinking something and in fact knowing it is very powerful. Any activity that requires you to be alone with your thoughts for hours at a time requires a great deal of mental strength. There is a lot of time for self-doubt to creep in and very little to take your mind off of it. Very few distractions – but after Sunday’s workout we “know” we are ready.
I was itching for this workout to start as early as Saturday and half-contemplated straying from my schedule and running the 20-miler a day early. I had an early 6:45 a.m. flight scheduled to the East Coast for Monday morning, and an extra recovery day would have been nice before making that trip. But it was more important to stay on schedule and stick to the plan. With the exception of some wind on Sunday (7-9 mph) it was pretty near perfect conditions. A chilly 49 degrees with clear skies and an almost-full moon above to throw some light on the early morning trail.
Splits over the run ranged from a high (slow) of 7:33 over the first mile as I was “shaking loose” at about 4:45 a.m. to a low (fast) of 7:03 at mile 8. Splits over the course of the run were: 7:33, 7:12, 7:15, 7:22, 7:06, 7:20, 7:12, 7:03, 7:07, 7:15, 7:06, 7:13, 7:19, 7:24, 7:14, 7:05, 7:28, 7:31, 7:23, 7:17. Really solid mile splits over a very hilly course as I was trying to simulate the rolling hills we will encounter from Hopkinton to Boston in three weeks. Training on a flat course can make your times look great and build confidence in your ability to race fast, but it was more important for me to get used to adjusting my stride, speed, breathing and leg turnover over a hilly course. It is important to practice pushing hard up-hills and then recoving your breathing pattern for the flats and downs.
Not all miles are created equal when it comes to the marathon – it’s hard. But to borrow a line from Jimmy Dugan in the movie A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great”. Some people say that if you don’t feel like “you have to” run a marathon you shouldn’t do it. Now I don’t know about that. I think that the challenge of the marathon and accomplishing such a tremendous goal if you are passionate about running is well worth the price of admission. It changes you and gives you great self-confidence that carries over to everyday life. I truly believe that.
Had I not been through the journey that is the marathon before I’m not sure how I would have responded to the news about Dom and his battle with cancer. Probably feeling helpless and powerless I’m guessing. Those feelings did exist this past summer when I heard the news, but lasted less than a week. Then it was time to get on with it and figure out a way to help. Which leads us to where we are today. Finished with the last 20-mile training run with nothing but The Taper (which will be a topic on the blog later this week) between us and the starting line at Boston. A race, a big one, on an international stage and then 13 days of recovery before our second marathon at Pittsburgh to honor an amazing friend and help raise money for Dom and his family. Kicking cancer’s ass 26.2 miles at a time.
If you would learn more about how you can support Run for Dom please visit: http://www.runfordom.com