When I made the insane statement to friends and family that I was going to run a marathon way back in 2009, it quickly dawned on me that I did not know the first thing about what I was doing. Having only gone as far as 10 kilometres, I really didn’t respect the distance I had just committed to, but I was going to have to learn fast. I began reading everything I could about training for a marathon. By the end of my reading list, I learned that there are 3 consistent must haves in any marathon training schedule:
1. The Long Run: While it doesn’t have to be fast, it has to be done.
2. Speed Work: In order to race fast, you have to train fast.
3. Warm Up Races: Essential for marathon success.
It seemed to makes sense that to race and finish well you need to train for endurance and some speed. But the warm up race was puzzling. Why would I go into other races before my big race? Well it’s pretty simple. Not only are the warm up races a time for testing gear, nutrition and race day rituals, but it’s also the best time to test your coping mechanisms for that inevitable voice in your head that tells you “You are so not ready for this.” come marathon day.
Going into this past Sunday’s Around the Bay 30k, it occurs to me that usually I am running this race as my last long run before my spring marathon, rather than my first run of this distance. The voice in my head is starting to speak to me, and I am trying to ignore it. The second thing that occurs is that I realize they have changed the first half of the course, and added more hills! Now the voice is pointing out that due to the icy conditions of this winter, my hill training to date has been non-existent. Finally, and this is the best one, I have been telling everyone that I fully expect to finish around 2h 20min, same as last year. Yes that’s laughter coming from inside my cranium. But reminding myself, “This is only a training run,” takes off some of my self-inflicted pressure.
During the race I kept focusing on my iTunes as I headed up hills (and there were A LOT of them!) and repeating Rob Watson’s famous words of encouragement “You are gonna smash it!”. At 16k, hills be darned, I am right on pace where I wanted to be. My mind begins to wander, I battle the discomfort and try to relax. I begin to break down the remaining kilometres into manageable pieces. I remained focused on hitting the 28-kilometre mark so that I can face down the Grim Reaper. Then it’s an easy downhill two kilometres to Copps Coliseum and the finish line. Heading up the final hill, all I could think about was the Monty Python skit at the end of “The Meaning of Life”, coming over the top and past the 26-kilometre marker with a little smile on my face. Even the voice in my head was giggling. When the signs announcing Death appeared, I took a minute to look at my watch. I realized I was on pace for a 2:21-2:22 finish and so happily decided to ‘embrace’ Death, and stopped to give the Grim Reaper a hug. He told me “You won’t be finishing now, you know.” I laughed in his face, and picked up the pace for the last 2k, finishing in 2:20:57.
Now with 8 weeks until Ottawa, that voice in my head is saying, “I guess you’re doing ok.” I know that internal voice will never be overly enthusiastic, but I’ll keep looking forward to the weeks ahead and the countdown to the Ottawa starting line.