I’m not a quitter, but last year I decided that I was done with racing marathons.
When I was in high school, I was the captain of the swim team, even though I was a terrible swimmer. I spent four years trying to improve but it never really happened. After the league championships senior year, I threw my goggles across the gym floor and swore I’d never swim another lap.
In similar fashion, I’ve spent the last year consoling myself with the thought that I’m just not cut out for marathons. A marathon is too time-consuming to train for, anyway. And I always end up injured when training for one. We all have our strengths, and I’m pretty decent at the half marathon. I’ve told myself that I should just focus on improving my half time instead of forcing myself to get better at the full.
My history with the marathon is not quite as long and torrid as much as it is disappointing and heartbreaking. By 2013, I took my first half marathon time of 2:07 and, within just a few short years, got my PR down to 1:34. I decided that the next logical goal was a full marathon.
I trained for the Baltimore marathon, thinking that my 1:34 half-marathon time would get me into Boston no problem. Instead, I finished with a 3:35:44, narrowly missing the qualifier. Discouraged, I decided I needed a coach. I trained for an entire year for the 2015 Houston marathon with the expectation of running a 3:15, a time my coach and I agreed was achievable. But dreams of that 3:15 were crushed, when one week before the race, I injured my hamstring doing one last tempo run. (PSA: you don’t need a year to train for a marathon).
Not one to walk away easily, I recovered, fixed my form, and set my sights on the Napa Valley Marathon in 2016. This time, my training times were so impressive to me that my coach and I thought a 3:10 was within reach. Instead, yet again, I overtrained and finished disappointed with a 3:25. Sure, I qualified for Boston, but I thought I was capable of a much faster time.
And that’s when I’d had enough and I gave up on marathons. Yet, lately I can’t get a fast marathon time out of my mind.
I ran a half PR in November after some laid-back training; who’s to say that I don’t have a marathon PR in me too? Is it possible that the third time is a charm? I’m ok walking away from a goal if I feel like I’ve reached my potential, but I don’t have the feeling that I’ve reached the pinnacle of my marathon career. I feel like a great time might still be out there for me, and I just have to try once more to get it. After all, two attempts might just not be enough to determine whether or not I’m successful at something. Even though I had success in the half after two tries, I can’t assume that will hold true for me at every distance.
On the other hand, it is true that I don’t enjoy training for a marathon as much as I do shorter races. I love running, but running for three hours every Saturday isn’t my favorite. The recovery from a half is much easier, and I could run one every weekend if I wanted to. There are more half marathon races nearby, and I’ve done so many of them that I can usually finish somewhere near the front of the pack. My husband has encouraged me to walk away from the marathon distance as well, saying that it’s too hard on my body and he’s tired of watching me get hurt (emotionally and physically).
That time I threw my goggles and swore I was done swimming? I picked them back up. I went on to swim in college, and though I wasn’t breaking any records, I swam faster times than I thought I was capable of and went on to become the captain of the team my junior year. I wonder if a fast marathon is out there too.
Have you broken up with the marathon? Or do you have a great make-up story for me?