Just Another Sunday Run

I got great final advice from my coach, John Henwood, yesterday. In fact, it’s the same advice he’s given me for years. But this year, I think I’m ready to really heed it: Keep to your goal pace. Don’t let yourself speed up. And what if you find yourself running too fast? Slow down (duh). Easier said than done.
I took two days off from work to rest up – and I’m already stir crazy. I’ve checked the hourly forecast, I’ve pinned my bib on my shirt, I’ve lined up my GUs and my UCAN. I’ve checked my work email several times (and it’s only 8:40 am). I’ve done the crossword puzzle.
Now what?
Now it’s time to remind myself that every run is another adventure. That’s all. It’s not my profession and, despite my type A tendencies, it doesn’t go on my “permanent record” (whatever that is) any more than the sweet potato I ate for dinner last night. Except, of course in the spiritual sense that everything we do, everything we think, every intention is a cause. And every cause generates an effect. The effect of running? Happiness. Health. An evocation of simplicity, of being part of nature, one of the many species in the park. Raccoons, hawks, sparrows, cardinals, dogs, cats, humans, ferrets, squirrels.
That’s the part I like the best. And the sensation of running – when it’s going well and my gait feels smooth and unfettered. I used to feel the same way about singing and, less frequently, about playing classical guitar. Those moments that Otto Scharmer of MIT describes as “presencing.” He defines it as “a movement where we approach ourselves from the emerging future.”

Pain

My coach says not to run through pain. Everyone says that. The hard part is deciding when a minor annoyance, a slight twinge, a tug, an irritation…ok, this damn uncomfortable feeling in my right heel, Achilles’ tendon and ankle becomes pain. A week before the marathon? I refuse to entertain the thought. But the internal argument begins. 

Bib Number 717

The New York Marathon always feels like the last event of the year. Even though two more months of running will follow, the buildup to the race, the park filled with runners – even in the dark of early autumn mornings – feels like a great culmination. Afterwards, the park empties out. People take to the treadmills or even take a few weeks off from running.

In this last week before the marathon, I vacillate between anxiety and excitement. I store up excuses for not making my goal time. I imagine my best training run as the marathon and regain my optimism for a while. I worry about bathrooms. I worry about starting too fast. I worry about my patellar tendonitis and my plantar fasciitis. And then I remind myself that it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the experience.

Plus, each step you run strengthens the neural connections. Each long run makes you a better runner. And the best run I had this fall (so far) was the half marathon I did purely as a training run. My goal was to make sure I didn’t get faster than 9:15 pace. The first mile was so packed, it wasn’t a problem. But then I kept speeding up and consciously having to hold myself back. I took my time at water stations and really drank the water.

After 9 miles or so, I realized I was averaging just over a 2:00 pace – around 9:10. I felt great, so I though, what the hell – go for under 2 hours. So I picked it up a little and did 1:59:53.

I have to remind myself as I head out for my last abbreviated long run.

My bib number is roughly 30,000 lower than usual. I qualified for Local Competitive for the first time in my life. That means I’ll be in the front of the race – Wave One – with people who will run the marathon in under 2:30. The slow people in Wave One will finish in 3:30. If I have an AMAZING race, I might finish in 3:59:59, but more realistically, 4:10 – which would still be an 11 minute PR.

Who cares, though? Really. At the hard parts I’ll call to mind every person I care about and imagine that I am running for them to be happier, healthier. I’ll run as a celebration of the fact that I am able to run. My idealism will keep me going when my legs get wobbly.