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New Target Race

January 4, 2010

My original goal was to race the A1A Marathon in Fort Lauderdale in mid-February of this year. But, coming off my hard-won PR at the 13.1 Fort Lauderdale, I decided to postpone my marathon to give myself more time to recharge and train and fit in more long runs.

I reset my sights on racing the marathon at Gasparilla on February 28th. It was at this race that I ran my first 26.2 last year, and though the weather was absolutely dreadful, I told myself that lightning was unlikely to strike in exactly the same way again, leaving that weekend with almost-guaranteed good weather in 2010.

However, even with the increased training time, my recovery has not been as easy as I had hoped. I’m still running on fairly tired-feeling legs, and I’m not hitting anywhere near the paces I’d have to hit to feel confident of racing the marathon at a 9:10 pace.

I was loath to give up my spring-marathon goal, so this week, after several weeks of woefully low mileage, I dove into a marathon-mileage training plan that I hoped would show me whether I had the endurance, strength, and desire for marathon training*.

I ran 6 miles with Little G on Sunday, rested Monday, ran 8 Tuesday, 5 Wednesday, and another 8 Thursday. I rested again on Friday in preparation for a true long run on Saturday. The goal: my first 20-miler of the season.

It was cold Saturday morning by Florida standards: in the mid-40s and windy along the beachfront road. I prepared as well as I could for the conditions and got ready to set out, only to be told by Garmie as he was still searching for satellites that his battery was low. Oh, well. I got my ipod ready to be used as a stopwatch and set out in a four-mile southern loop from my car. Following that I headed north for another four miles and then returned to my starting place–I had twelve miles in and another long eight if I was to check off my first 20.

Honestly, I probably knew at that point that running 20 was a bad idea. But you know already what I did–I headed back north for the eight-mile loop. It was slow and difficult at more times than I can tell you, but when I felt like quitting I reminded myself how many times I felt tired and sore during the marathon, and pressed myself to move on. When I remembered, I concentrated on using a marathon-shuffling gait, in order to expend less energy.

Finally, at around mile 15, I seriously considered quitting and walking home. I sat on the curb, spent, and considered my options. Almost immediately I knew I needed something to refresh me, and I was thankful that I’d put off taking my long-sleeve top, something I’d done specifically to ward off a moment like this. Having taken off my long-sleeve and returned to my feet, I did feel lighter, immediately better, and newly determined to finish the run.

And finish I did–sore, tired, and firm about not taking one more step than I absolutely had to.

In the end, Garmie-less and blind to pace and mileage, I ended up running 21 miles instead of 20, so I did indeed run many more steps than I had to. But I learned something–that I’m at the point in my running where I can muscle through a previously-unimagined distance, and do so without tears or recriminations.

However, in the hours and days following that run, I’ve been more sore than normal. Even after a rest day yesterday, running was difficult today, and in the end I shelved my scheduled six-miler in favor of a fast two-mile walk.

All this to say that though I’m convinced I could indeed train for and run the marathon at Gasparilla in seven weeks, I’m not entirely sure it would be a good idea for me to do it. Instead, I think I’ll run the Bud Light Challenge, which involves running the 15k and then the 5k Saturday morning and then the half-marathon Sunday. This kind of event, though exhausting in itself, would not require the three-hour training runs the marathon would.

And in October, Little G and I intend to race the Wineglass Marathon in New York. It would be my first out-of-state race, and it’s reputed to be a fast course. I always said in order to do really well at the distance I’d need cool temperatures, and it sure looks like Wineglass will oblige. I’m also thrilled to run with Little G, though I know we won’t be together the whole race, and to make a run at the four-hour mark.

*In case you’re wondering, here are the results. As to the question of whether I have the endurance, strength, and desire for marathon training. Endurance, yes, if meted out carefully and well. Strength of will, in spades; of legs, in increasingly decreasing measure. As for desire, it’s what’s truly lacking in the equation, if I’m honest with myself. And though friends are encouraging me to go ahead and run 26.2 in seven weeks, I find I’m disinclined to train for such an event when I have even the slightest ambivalence about it. Marathons should be run with passion and driving hunger, or not at all.

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