It was nearly a decade ago that I ran my first marathon (Washington's Birthday Marathon, Feb 1999), during my 4th year of medical school. I like to tell people that I was woefully under-trained for that race and too naive to even know it. I ran a couple of ten milers as my long runs and thought I was ready since I knew one way or another, I could make it to the finish. My time of 3:13:53 has haunted me as my marathon PR for the last ten years, despite several attempts when I had followed more traditional training plans.
This year when I got back into running, I knew that I be doing a marathon before the year was out. By April I had already signed up for the October Portland Marathon and in May, I did the Capitol City Marathon (Olympia, WA) for "training." Leading up to Portland, I was doing more mileage than I have done since college and I was certain I'd be setting a new PR at that race. But I was stupid, I didn't stick to my plan, and it cost me. I missed by three and a half minutes.
I wasn't planning to do anymore big races this year, but I couldn't let the marathon go. I just kept thinking I should have been faster in Portland. A few weeks later, I signed up for The California International Marathon. I needed one more shot.
Last Sunday, though, I wasn't feeling so good. I spent much of the night hugging the toilet and woke up Monday feeling like my stomach had been turned inside out. I was weak the rest of the week, didn't feel like eating much, and couldn't even manage easy taper workouts a couple of the days. It didn't instill a lot of confidence for a record breaking performance!
Thursday before the race, my mom called. It's 34 degrees and totally fogged in. It is supposed to be like that all weekend. "I hope you like running in cold." Saturday, when my mom picked me up at the airport, it was just as she said: wet fog and dreadful cold. Sunday morning was more of the same, but somehow, I just wasn't that cold. I had my long sleeve shirt, hat and gloves off by mile three and just ran in shorts and a T-shirt.
I ran steady the whole way, had nearly dead even halves, and managed not to lose it too badly in the end even though my thigh were burning. It's funny because my strategy for running my fastest marathon had three key points, all of which were geared at running SLOWER! The plan was 1) start slow to not be over-exerted by the end of the race. 2)Don't push the uphills. The hills are pretty small so I figured I wouldn't lose much time slowing down a bit on them. 3)Don't get carried away on the downhills - stay in control.
My first two miles were 8:05 and 7:46, so I'd say I did a great job on #1! And during the little rollers in the first milers, I just stayed relaxed. Not too fast up, not too fast down. I came through the half in 1:35:26. By mile 18 I was almost up to the 3:10 pace group and for a minute, I had thoughts of going sub 3:10, but I never did actually catch them and I didn't want to ruin anything by trying. Still, I ran the last half in 1:35:10, with a new PR of 3:10:36 - nearly three and a half minutes better than my old time!
Afterward, I was so excited. All day I kept thinking,"I qualified for Boston on the men's standard!" I wanted to walk up to strangers and tell them what I had done, or maybe get my time tattooed on my body, but I refrained from such foolishness. So instead, I went with something much more socially acceptable: I proudly posted my time on Facebook!