That’s right. Like all those big, long-term goals this one has crept up on me. The Virgin London marathon is nearly here – Sunday April 21st is raceday.
It’s been 2 years since I last ran a marathon and I feel very similar to the way I sometimes feel at a birthday or another anniversary – a desire to process what’s happened in the meantime.
- I’ve retrained as a personal trainer. Doing a course in London and being away from my family during a period of change and upheaval for them anyway was tough – I didn’t realise how tough until afterwards (but isn’t that often the case?). I realise that a lot of my malaise and constant self-doubt last year was the hangover of emotion of being away from my family, of feeling constantly torn by guilt, and that feeling of just hanging in there for dear life. Nevertheless I loved my course and made some great friends, and the career choice was the right one for me. But it almost frightens me to think how deeply I now feel “never again”. Those three months at the end of 2011 were too much. Too much for my family and too much for me.
- I took time off from running. Triathlon was a great big scary thing for me and again, in retrospect I am astonished by my desire to throw myself straight into the unknown just after finishing my personal training course. It would have made sense to stick with something I knew and was moderately good at so I could boost my self-esteem, but instead I did all this stuff that was new and intimidating. And that I was not particularly good at. But it didn’t kill me, and it did make me stronger.
And here I am, about to head into my final week of tapering before the race. My training has been very different from the marathon training I’ve done before – lower mileage, more strength work and now less of a taper. I’m tapering (when I can stop myself from training with clients) but not as much. I think that’s a good thing, as I think in the past I have sometimes switched off totally in the taper and not really woken up in time.
The biggest change though is my mental one. As you know I have really struggled with competition and competing and dealing with my own expectations and fears. I know it’s not all about PRs and I know I’m not all about PRs but somehow I put that weight on my shoulder and I have not really found a way to deal with it. Then, yesterday, I was explaining the concept of “sandbagging” to my husband and telling him proudly that I had “sandbagged” to someone – i.e lied to them about the time I hoped to run. He looked at me and asked me why I had done that. And it’s taken me until this afternoon to really think about that. Why would I lie and say to someone I was hoping to run a 3:45 when that’s not the time I am training for? Fear of failure. Why? Honestly, sometimes I want to take myself outside and slap myself around a bit. Failure? What failure? Of setting yourself a goal and not achieving it? How is that failure? Would I judge another friend if she, for whatever reason, didn’t make the time she set out to make? Is that what I want to teach my kids – lie about your goals so that nobody knows if you don’t make them? Honestly. I can be such an idiot. Instead, I am probably setting myself up for “failure” by never even stating out loud what I am going for. The professional runners set out to win this thing. They may well not win it, but they certainly won’t win it without believing they can. And dammit, I am setting out to run faster than I have ever run before .
So here’s the truth. My PB, achieved with blood, sweat and some time in the medical tent in Berlin in September 2009 is 3:45:47. This year I have trained for and am aiming for a sub 3:40 marathon. I have a strategy and a plan, cooked up with my wonderful coach, Mary, who has held my pathetic, moaning, self-pitying hand on too many occasions over the course of this training cycle. It is NOT an easy goal for me, it’s hard. Things need to go my way for this goal to work out. But I know from my experiences in previous races that I can handle adjusting my goals in a race if I have to. In Boston, where I also aimed for a sub 3:40 I had to slow down at 21 miles because I just did not have it in me and I just ran and enjoyed the city for the last 5 miles. Look at that photo above. Is that someone who is disappointed with herself? My race strategy for the recent Ashby 20 is another case in point. What my coach and I had in mind was undoable on that course on that day. I reset my goal and still managed a massive PR. The point is – I know I can handle it if I don’t make my goal. I’ll figure out what to do. But if I want to actually be in with a shot of making that time, I need to say it and I need to (forgive the Oprah-ism) own it.
As someone told me just before the 2009 London marathon – “you’ve trained for months for this day, no point in going in gently and seeing what happens. It’s time for balls to the wall”. So there you have it – April 21st – it’s balls to the wall!