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.

Go Big or Go Home

If I have ever entertained the thought, “chip off the old block”, seeing that photograph brings it home.

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.

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Comments
  1. Jodi H says:

    I really needed to see a post like this. I need to find my fire and determination again. I need a training plan my friend!! Care to help a girl out? You are going to crush Houston. You always go big or go home!!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jodi! You know, the reality is that a lot of people get burned out in the sport with respect to racing and really trying to continue on an ascent month after month, year after year. But all it really takes is one thing to rekindle that fire and it burns just as bright as ever. For me, it was that kick in the face (literally) during the swim in Kerrville. It really snapped me back into race-mode and I’ve never been more determined to crush a marathon than I am right now. You’ll find it – keep searching!

  2. Jodi H says:

    You are so right Joe! Thanks! Also, I think I do in fact have a serious goal in mind. What email should I send my training plan request to coach? 🙂

  3. Robin says:

    I really do belive that if you’ve run a good race, and you are on pace, then the last part of the marathon is all mental, at least for me. Yes you are tired, and your legs hurt and you want to stop but it’s up to your brain to say no and to push and keep going. To me my best race, regardless of time, is the one I pushed through and finished strong and didn’t let my mind take charge over my legs. Good luck in your upcoming races! Great prep for sure.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Robin! Thanks so much for the visit and the message. I completely agree with you about how to measure a “great performance” and not just by the clock at the finish. I was thinking about what I would consider to be my “best” race at any distance over the years on my recovery run this morning – and it comes down to either the 2011 IBM Uptown Classic 10K or the Shamrock Half-Marathon last spring in VA Beach. Both times despite running very close to the ragged edge for most of the race I never gave an inch until I hit the tape. I knew immediately afterwards that on that day and that course I could not have run a single second faster. It’s the best feeling in the world. Pain is temporary on the course, But a performance like that lasts forever.

  4. Jodi H says:

    Thanks Joe! I sent an email your way. Also, have you ever done a blog on what you typically eat in a day? I’m trying to clean up my eating but want to make sure I am getting enough fuel.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jodi! Just sent you a reply regarding AZ 13.1 I’m in to coach you if you are up for it! I think that you have a great idea about a nutrition post – but not so much race fueling, but day to day nutrition. I think I’ll keep a log for a week and then blog about. Thanks for the idea!

  5. Jodi H says:

    Thanks Joe! I am ready to be your student again! Yes, I was referring to fueling your body during the weeks not just during the race! I will watch for that post! I’m excited to read it!!

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