I forgot how good it feels to be in shape.
My five-year-old wedding suit is suddenly fitting like the tailor intended it to. But beyond the physical manifestation, the mind is getting back to its old self. It scares me to go back eight weeks and read my original announcement that I was running the New York City Marathon — oh how things have changed!
The intention then was just to have fun out there, savor the experience, and experiment with something new. It was supposed to be a ceremonious dipping of toes into a different world, just to see how it feels. And if the water was warm then I’d consider diving in at some point in the future. But instead, I inched my way down from the shallow end of the pool until all of a sudden I was floating in the deep end. How did I end up here?
During a conversation this week, a friend asked what had happened: “It seems like you are taking it way more seriously than you planned.” And that’s the truth.
First, I agreed to represent Bandit — the only brand that believed in me! But in reality, I think it’s a pretty cool short-term partnership that intertwines social media, the newsletter, and some community events. It’s a win-win and has been a ton of fun, especially the part where my wardrobe was totally revamped.
But then I also keep encouraging people to predict my time because it’s a fun thing to do and there’s nothing on the line for me. But every now and then that giant ego of mine rears its ugly head and vows to take revenge should someone unknowingly predict a time that I think is too slow. As if someone who has never trained for a marathon, doesn’t know my workouts, and has no idea what pace adds up to at the finish has put any thought into their response. But it is bulletin board material!
And finally, I am addicted to the tangible improvement. When I used to give speeches at schools and camps I’d go on this riff talking about being addicted to smaller numbers. An hour after each workout, I’ll look at the splits and hypothesize about how I could have gone faster or at least how I will soon.
It wasn’t the plan to try this hard, though once you’re laced up and running it’s tough to not. I’m not quite willing to stretch, warm up, stop drinking, do strides, change my diet, or go to the gym, but I’ll do everything else, like run.
It took me a couple of days to recover from last week’s hard long run, so I waited until Thursday to work out again. Initially, the plan was to run 2.5 sets of two miles in around 10:30 and 4 x 400 in 1:12, but the guys from RabbitWolf were shooting a video for Bandit and the extra company had me fired up. During the first tempo portion on the roads, I knew the goal pace was out the window. The final tally had me doing three full sets averaging 5:04s and 69s, which is incredible considering the size of my head by the end.
Throughout the build-up, I have been talking a lot with my high school-rival-turned-college-teammate-turned-physical-therapist, Brendan Martin. As one of the smartest and most consistent marathoners I know, he’s been a great sounding board. Although he was impressed by some of the stuff I have been doing, he encouraged me to join him in Central Park to get on some real hills, and I think, size me up in person.
Although he just ran 2:16:02 in Berlin a few weeks ago (despite falling), he joined me for a session of two six mile pushes in the middle of my 22-mile long run. My thought was to run 5:20s then 5:15s, but we ultimately ended up averaging 5:16 and 5:09 for the two sets. Halfway through, he shared that his confidence in me was growing with each mile we passed — as was mine. Hitting my second-highest mileage week (82) of the training block also didn’t hurt my confidence, either.
Although I am not issuing my official goal yet, it doesn’t take much effort to look at a marathon pace chart and make an educated guess as to what sort of shape I think I’m, were I to race on a less undulating course. And while I occasionally do let my mind dream big when feeling spry during the 4:58 mile at the end of a tempo, it is important to remind myself of my original goal and to stay true to them — it’s supposed to be fun and low stress… unless I feel really good!
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