This year was a fortunate year. For the first time since I started running, I was not in Maine doing the half-marathon the same weekend as the Twin Cities Marathon. Boy, am I glad that’s the case.
I knew several people running the 26.2 on Sunday, so I decided to walk over to Lake Harriet to be a spectator. Spectators have used their voices and their enthusiasm to help me get through races, even for people in the back of the pack like me. With that in mind, I put on my bright orange Maine Half-Marathon jacket, grabbed 2 cowbells, made 2 thermoses of hot coffee, and set off, all bundled up, to Lake Harriet.
I had runner tracking turned on for 3 runners, all of whom serve as such huge inspirations to me: Jen, Erin, and Kat. Jen and I were training for our respective first marathons at the same time, but her performance was what I wished I’d been able to do in my first marathon. Erin has such a strength and determination, and she adds a fun spark to everything she does. And Kat’s path to Twin Cities this year has been nothing but amazing, and she is my reference for how to persevere through the dark times that plague us all.
What a beautiful morning. A part of me ached, wanting to be running in this race. Such beautiful foliage, the crispness in the air, the crunch of the leaves under my feet… and then I could start to hear the cheering. I walked more and more quickly toward the sound, wanting to become a part of the wall of sound.
I found a place to stand just before the runners turned to head down toward Minnehaha Parkway. Cowbells out, and there I stood, for the next 1.5 hours. I rang my cowbell, called out encouragement, smiled, cheered, and looked for my friends. I never did see Kat, but I saw Erin (she was almost past me before it registered), who was in the Zone, and then, a bit later, I saw Jen, running toward me with a huge smile. She gave me a huge hug, and continued on.
I stayed there, cheering till the last runner had gone by, as one of a handful of spectators still at Lake Harriet. As a 6:46 marathoner in a 7-hour event, I knew that the 6-hour runners in this race needed the encouragement just as much, if not more, than the faster runners.
Once the bus had traveled by, I walked back home. I had originally planned to head out to mile 23, but standing in the cold had angered the fibro gods, so I went home and helped Sean clean the house.
We had the house under control, and I put on KARE11′s livestream of the finish line. I sat there for almost 2 hours, watching people cross the finish line. What an inspiring scene. I saw Erin, Kat, and Jen cross the finish line, and I cheered so loudly for each one that the dog came running up to me to see what was wrong.
All I could think, while watching that, was how badly I wanted to cross that finish line one day. I’m not fast enough now to do it. Yes, I am a marathoner, and no, no one can ever take that away from me. But it’s not enough for me. I did it, but not in a manner that I think is “good enough.” And I think I will always regret it if I don’t learn to run quickly enough to finish a marathon in 6 hours or less. What better marathon to test that mettle than the big hometown marathon in the fall? Next year, I have another date with the Maine Half-Marathon (I really just want to break 3 hours there, where I grew up – 2:58 would suffice). But after that, it’s figuring out how to keep that speed going over 26.2 miles, hopefully in 2014.
All of that has been percolating in my head since Sunday. Then, I read Julia‘s post just now, over lunch. And it really hit home that I will always regret it if I don’t try to train for completing a 6-hour marathon. It feels more legitimate, somehow, to say that I completed a marathon closer to 6 hours than 7. I can’t explain it, but I think I will always feel “less than” as a marathoner if I don’t try to tackle a course with a 6-hour limit. Her post captures all the joy of running, and I want to experience running through the twin cities that have seen the birth of me as a runner, slow though I might be.
Some of you are undoubtedly thinking that I need a little more confidence. That I completed a marathon and other distances and I need to give myself some credit. Don’t get me wrong. I am a marathoner. I completed 26.2 miles that day in June just like all the other finishers. But it hasn’t felt like enough. I have a marathon under my belt. That achievement is unlocked. What’s left but to do it faster? There’s nothing wrong with that goal, in my book.
Interestingly, Jeff Galloway has a race pace predictor that falls in line for me. He says that someone who takes 38 minutes to complete a 5k (I commonly do it in 38:30)) would do 13.1 in 3:03 (which I have, twice now). That would be a 6:40 marathon. I was only 6 minutes slower than that estimate at Grandma’s in June.
So, my goal for next September is to do a half-marathon in 2:58. I would need to do a 5k reliably in 36:45. Shouldn’t be too hard to do that. And to get to a 6:01 marathon time, I need a 34:48 5k (which would be a 2:48 half).
I’m going to go back to the basics. Last year, I said that 2012 was about distance (just wanted to finish them, and I have), and 2013 would be about trying to get faster. I’m going to work through Jeff Galloway’s 5k program again, trying for a 36:30 consistent 5k time. That’s cutting about 2 minutes off of my 5k time. Then I can work on faster 10K times, with the ultimate goal of doing 2:58 or better at the 2013 Maine Half-Marathon.
If successful there, then I can work on more speed for the 2014 Twin Cities Marathon. And if the speed isn’t there for 2014, there’s always 2015!
I may not make the goals I set, but if I don’t set them, I have nothing to work toward. This is the first part of my personal mantra: to dream. For the second part, to strive means that it is time for me to buckle down, over a cold Minnesota fall and winter, and try to teach myself what 3.1 consecutive 12 minute miles feels like, over and over and over again. And, with any luck, around 4 months from now, I’ll succeed with a few 5ks of 36:30 or better. Then I can focus on solid 75 or 76 minute 10Ks (my best is 77 min, my average is 80 min) 4 months after that, and then the 2:58 or better 13.1 in late September/early October. Those will be my successes for 2013.