It happens every year. Thousands of runners sign up for a race that they are determined to perform well at. They have goals. Whether it’s a personal best, a new distance, or the ever popular Boston Qualifier, they sign up and train to achieve their goals. They battle the long cold winters. They battle the blazing hot summer days. They juggle schedules and injuries. All until race day arrives. Their moment arrives. This is what it’s all been building towards.
Being still fairly young in my running career, I have seen much success. I don’t say that to toot my own horn, but the reality for most runners is that they progress fairly quickly in the early stages of running. Soon you get to a point where you feel you have plateaued. You get to a point where the real work begins. You get to a point where not every race is a PR and it’s a struggle to improve those times. But by this point, it’s too late. The drug has taken hold. You’re hooked, and you can’t stop.
May 28, 2017 had been circled on my calendar for almost a year. Six months out from that date, it became even more significant to me. But May 28 did not produce the vision that I had played in my head over and over again throughout all my training. So what now?
I can honestly say I was not disappointed when I crossed the finish line that day. It was not this crushing defeat. My time is nothing to feel ashamed of and I just finished a marathon. Since that time however, I’ll be honest that my confidence has been bruised a bit. My goal since spring of 2016 has been to qualify for the 2018 Boston Marathon with a time that will assure me acceptance. I want to run the thing. I do have a qualifying time, but if you know anything about the Boston Marathon qualifying standards, a 15 second buffer isn’t going to cut it.
My biggest fear in all this was that I would have to run a fall marathon. I don’t mind running one, I just don’t want to cut it so close. I will be running the Erie Marathon one day before registration opens up. Essentially, this is it. I hit my goal or I don’t. There’s no more chances.
Just typing that makes my stomach a bit uneasy. Yes, I have years to try and qualify for Boston. Yes, I believe I can run fast enough to get in over the next few years. But that’s not the goal. That was never the goal. The goal is before I age up. The goal is 2018.
And now, I have to face my fears. I have to face the prospect of failure.
Early this morning, I rolled out of bed, got my things together, and did something I’ve done dozens of times over the last few months, trained for a race. I’ve run a couple times since Ottawa, but just for the fun of it. No big objectives in front of me. The plan was mostly to just relax, rest up and get ready to do this whole thing again. Today, that started.
In the days that passed after Ottawa, a friend said to me, “this is where people are going to start watching. They are going to watch what you do now. When things don’t go your way, how are you going to react? That’s what people are going to remember.”
To be honest, I don’t care. Ok, I care a little. More than that though, I’m watching me. I’m watching how I’m going to hand adversity. I have complete control over how this story plays out. Sure, I could get injured, have some flukey thing happen to me that inhibits my running, but even if it does, I will know whether or not I gave it my all. That is all I care about at this point.
Whenever I talk to athletes I coach, or just other runners, I remind them, just do all that you can do. That will look different for everyone. I will NEVER be attempting a sub 2:00 marathon, but that’s not who I am. My mark is 3:00. And even though there’s lots of people who can run a marathon faster than that, I’m pushing myself. The fact that I’ve failed to solidify my BQ means that it’s a worthy goal. I didn’t just set some easy feat for myself. I’m challenging myself, and I’m working for it. Remember, even the sub 2:00 guys failed to hit their goal, and NOBODY is looking at them as failures.
Whatever your goals are, remember that our true character, our true selves, come out when we don’t hit them. If we’re always hitting them, then we’re not challenging ourselves, and that says something about us too. In all of this, I haven’t lost sight that this is merely running. It’s a gift that not everyone gets to participate in. To be able to put two working feet on the ground each morning is a privilege, not a right. But there are things about running, about this journey, that show me things about who I am on the inside, and THAT is what I’m really training this summer.