Let’s start with the ugly. As I put the finishing touches on my endurance training cycle this week, it’s been tough to mentally want to line up for another 26.2 that I’m not racing. Truth be told, if I wasn’t running for guaranteed entry to NYC, I’m not sure I’d want to close things out with the distance this time. Running Boston put good closure to a cycle that seemingly never ended, but truthfully I don’t enjoy running that far of a distance if I’m not racing. Maybe one day I’ll feel differently, but it’s a long way to go “just for fun”.
That being said, I’ve learned a lot these last 7 months with regards to running and the role it has in my life. I think they can be summarized into a few themes: passion, patience and playing the long game, leaning into what your heart is calling you to do, finding a sense of purpose, and having a hunger for more.
Passion. For as long as I’ve been running, I’ve been chasing times in races. I love setting a goal and doing the work to get there, whether that be in a single training cycle or over a multiple-year span. This was the first time in 12 years of running competitively that I didn’t have something to truly chase after. It’s been hard at times, but I’ve realized that if I never raced again, I’d still be lacing up almost every day because I love it. I love to push myself and I’ve been able to do that in workouts and I can get that same excited feeling after nailing a hard workout as I can crossing the finish line in a new PR.
Patience and Playing the Long Game. After Boston postponed in March, I shifted to a speed focused cycle from May-August. The mile and 5K are uncomfortable for me as I definitely don’t have a lot of fast twitch muscle fiber, but I knew that this type of training could really pay off getting stronger physically and mentally and it would be a mix-up to what I had been doing in the past. I needed something exciting to keep me engaged those first few months of the stay-at-home order but something manageable as I didn’t know what the next few months would look like professionally and personally. I didn’t run as fast as I had hoped during this cycle, but the first lesson in patience was that it’s also hard to expect a huge jump in just a few months when I hadn’t been focusing on speed for many years and I had to remind myself of that (not to mention trying to peak in peak summer conditions isn’t the easiest, either). After speed, I was craving endurance again, and so I entered into an endurance cycle that ran through October. I knew going into this that it wouldn’t be a traditional marathon build as I wasn’t trying to go for time in virtual marathons, but I also knew that the cumulative logging of miles would pay off in a future training cycle since stacking healthy cycles one by one is the best way to make progress. Admittedly it has been tough to be at about 80-85% fitness throughout these last few months where you feel like you’re just starting to get “fit” but not cross over into PR territory, but it allowed me to continue training for months upon months and to stay healthy through it all. When I started my Boston training cycle in January after having run CIM in December, I knew I was already playing the long game with training as it would be really tough to come back in 5 months after a big marathon PR to run another one on the tough Boston course, but it turns out these last 10 months of 2020 have followed a similar theme.
Lean Into What Your Heart Is Calling You to Do. After Boston was postponed in March, I decided to forego the final 6 weeks of marathon training and shifted focus to the mile. My training cycle up to Boston was ok, but I knew nothing special was going to come out of it compared to what had just happened in CIM so I wasn’t excited about continuing it; I think I was a little burned out on the marathon at that point in hindsight. Mile and 5K training was hard but it was what I had wanted to do and so the drive was there. In June I ended up running a small 5-second 5K PR finishing in 19:48 in a solo time trial. I had hoped to improve upon this in August and felt fit and ready to do it, but leaned into what Ross and I were needing at that time, which was some time away from our work in the mountains and my lungs couldn’t hang at higher altitude when trying to race a small local 5K. I still managed 3rd overall female and was simply just excited to have run a real race, even if I was running solo for 99% of it. At this point in August I was also starting to ramp up my mileage for running virtual Boston in mid-September, something I decided I wanted to do to bring some closure to the 2020 Boston cycle. My training has looked a little non-traditional this year, but it was what I wanted and it brought me joy which is most important.
A Sense of Purpose. It’s been hard to get up in the morning feeling like every day is Groundhog Day. My training schedule provided structure and something to look forward to that would change throughout the week. It was also something that I could check off and feel like I was accomplishing something when many of my projects changed scope or priority at work. The training schedule was something that I was choosing to do and not something that was being forced on me, either. In a time when we are getting so much messaging on what to do and what not to do, it was nice to have something that I picked solely for me.
Hunger for More. I am ready to start training hard again once I’ve recovered mentally and physically from the virtual marathon. I am willing to do the work even if it means ultimately running a solo time trial at the end of a training cycle. My heart is pulling me towards a certain distance and I’m excited to lean into that this winter and see where it takes me. More on that in future weeks as I try to remained focused on the 26.2 I’m about to run this weekend, but after many months of no true “goal”, the fire is burning again to chase after one and I can’t wait.
I will be running my virtual NYC Marathon on Halloween in a solo effort. I am so grateful for my friends that I got to run virtual Boston with but for this race I’m feeling more like “suffering in solitude”, as Ryan Hall once said, and jamming out to some great tunes on my Pandora radio station. I’m still firming up my route and keeping an eye on the weather, but I know one thing is for certain – there better be some Reese’s pumpkins waiting for me at the finish line of a Halloween marathon!