My friend sent me a video to pump me up and inspire me before Chicago, and the above quote is the one that stuck out to me. When I signed up to run the Chicago Marathon more than a year ago, it wasn't just to run another marathon. After running the distance (and then some) 10 times, I know I'm more than capable of finishing. But this time, that's not enough. In the past, I've focused more on quantity then quality with my marathons, running them for fun, with friends, etc. This time around I wanted to see what I was capable of with focus and more serious training. And more specifically, I want to break 4 hours.
t-minus 9 hours...
Earlier this year I took a break form road running and discovered trail running while I trained for my first ultras. It was during these months that I started to see big changes and improvements in my running from the higher mileage and challenging terrain. When I would run on the roads my paces were naturally faster. It was strange to start seeing numbers that once meant "fast" and now were "easy". In February, on a whim, I ran a half marathon, and not only PRed but broke 2 hours for the first time, something I used to think impossible. I'd also been working at Fleet Feet for several months at that point and had gained a lot of knowledge from my coworkers on training and racing. This past spring I completed my first 50k and 50 miler, and while challenging, they also taught me a lot. Summer brought triathlon season and a cutback from running, but still I found that cycling and swimming made more excellent cross-training and helped maintain my run fitness.
Then it was time to start training for Chicago. With a lofty goal (35 minutes is a lot of time to drop!) I decided to take this one seriously and follow an actual training plan. I picked one that I knew a lot of friends and other bloggers had used with success, and that incorporated some of the elements I knew were responsible for making me faster like higher mileage, speedwork, medium-long runs, and tempos. It was hard to find the time to fit all the workouts in, but I trained harder for this race than I have for any other, including the ultras. I ran my highest weekly and monthly mileage ever, and could feel myself getting stronger. In August I set a new half PR of 1:55, giving me a boost of confidence with Chicago looming in the distance. I ran a half marathon up a mountain, from 0'-4,000'. I hiked for 9 hours on incredibley challenging terrain to summit Half Dome in Yosemite. I did tempos and speedwork in the the heat, long runs before a full shift of work, even commuted to work on foot to get a 10 miler in.
Over the past 11 weeks, I've put in the time and hard work. I know my body is capable of breaking 4 hours. The biggest hurdle standing in my way? My head. We all know how running mental can be, and that can be either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the person. Unfortunately I fall in the latter camp. My mind starts playing games with me from the start. "Oh, this pace feels fast and you're gonna hold it for 26+ miles?", "It would be so much easier to take a walk break right now", "Who did you think you were to go for such a big PR?", " You haven't run a marathon in a while, they're a lot harder than you remember"...
I know I can't let these thoughts get to me. I need to remind myself that I've put in the training, I've had some strong races these last couple few months, and I can do this. And that brings me back to that quote - it all comes down to that moment. When I have to make a decision, to listen to the voices in my head, to let the doubt creep in, or say no. Before most of my races I've set A, B, and C goals. I know that sometimes things just happen on race day and it helps prevent you from being too disappointed. This time, however, there is only one goal: to see the number "3" when I cross that finish line. I know I can do it, so anything else will not be enough.
My race plan is to start with the 4:00 pace group since I notoriously suck at even pacing. I'm going to remind myself that it often takes me 6+ miles to really warm-up and get in a groove. I'm going to enjoy the scenery, feed off the energy of the crowds, and try to stay relaxed. It's going to be a warm one, but I've done long runs and speedwork in much hotter temps, so I've just got to use the aid stations wisely and be consistent with fueling and hydration. Will it be easy? No, but the things that are worth the most usually aren't. I'm going to remind myself of all the time and miles I've put in over the last few months, and believe. Believe that I can do this, I will do this, I am doing this!
p.s. If you're interested, you can go here to track me tomorrow. My bib no. is 38744. FYI, the race starts at 7:30am CST, and it may be almost a half hour til I actually cross the start line!