This past spring, when I first began blogging for Salty Running, I wrote a post about getting to the next level in training. I wondered what it felt like to cross a finish line having reached a long term goal that you worked so hard for weeks on end. I wondered when the time would come that I would break through this physical (and mental) barrier that had been around for so long. Ten years to be exact.
20 weeks later with twelve quality long runs, eighteen track workouts, two minor injuries, and over 700 miles logged, I reached the gates of the next level.
The gun went off and I went out with the 3:15 marathon pacing team as marathoners and half marathoners stayed with each other leading up to 13 miles. 7:27 would be a challenging task, but I didn’t think it was out of question. I was also watchless. Going watchless usually lessens my anxiety and makes the race feel like an adventure. I was running by feel with the pace group but not feeling all that good. By the second mile, I had already dropped off.
Loosing the pace group so early was a burden to my mind but instead of getting down, I focused on remaining relaxed and as positive as possible. For all I know, they could’ve had a slow first mile and then picked it up significantly during the second mile.
Curiosity was my best friend. I continued to stay positive and before I knew it, by mile 4 I had caught back up with the pace team. This was just the mental boost I needed. Whatever pace we were going wasn’t feeling so bad now. Through mile 5, I was relaxed and in control.
So relaxed and controlled, I started to get this extra bounce in my step. I felt good enough to pass the group as we approached mile 6. I surely thought this was going to be the day that I would have an even bigger breakthrough than expected.
Speaking of bounce. My form sucks. When my non-runner friends can notice how much I bounce then it’s something I need to work on. I know now for sure that my bouncing form is inhibiting performance because around mile 7, I started to feel blisters forming on the bottom of my feet, the upper area to be exact. The same thing happened at the Perfect 10 Miler.
That extra bounce disappeared, maybe to my benefit, and everything else started to shut down. I still didn’t know my time but I did know that it was going to be a painful march to the finish.
At ten miles, I saw the clock, 1:15:00. Having started 24 seconds from the gun time, I knew I had probably just PR’d at that distance. My mind and heart wrestled with each other. Should I call it a day and jog it home or keep fighting through the pain?
For a few minutes, I began to bag it up. Then I saw two of my wonderful friends, whom James and I stayed with the night before the race. Seeing friends is always a performance enhancer. I then committed to fighting through, even if I had to slog.
Miles eleven and twelve were the most physically painful experiences I’ve ever had in a race. But it wasn’t due to the standard lactic acid or side stitch. My body just felt beaten up. I thought for sure that my socks were going to be drenched in blood at this point.
Running through this pain was the last task I had to do before reaching the next level. At mile 12 the clock read 1:31:xx, and I somehow convinced myself to at least try to pick it up. This lasted about 600 meters. A woman passed me and asked, “When is this over?”
300 slogging meters later, we had our answer. The marathon split off sign flashed before our eyes and we made our turn toward the last .1 miles.
I thought back to all of those track workouts, specifically this one.
For all of the straightaways that were in the race, the finishing chute felt like the longest. I could see the clock ahead but could not yet read the numbers. 38? 39? It definitely didn’t look like a 40.
I picked it up. Different energy level, right?
Shocked at what my eyes could now see, I was going to run at least a 1:39:xx. All that pain went away for a few brief moments and then, I was done. I knew I wasn’t going to see James or my coach (as they were in the elite area) but wanted so badly to hug them both. Tears built up in my eyes as I tried to hold them in. Despite my many personal improvements over these last few months, I still worry about what others think of me. This ended up feeling and looking like an extreme asthma attack as I tried to catch my breath and sniffle at the same time. It was still one of the greatest feelings in the world.
Usually, I don’t care about the medals because everyone gets one. But this time, I gladly walked over to receive mine. And wore it for the rest of the day. It ended up being my ticket to the next level.
I PR’d three times in this race.
10 miles: 74:50ish
13.1 miles: 1:39:21
It was also an eight and half minute PR in the half marathon.
Who also reached that next level in training this fall? Feel free to share your experiences below!