Well, this is it folks. In a little over 60 hours I’ll be at the starting line of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. You’d think that after running six marathons, wrapping my brain around that prospect would get easier. But somehow it never does.
As always, it’s been a long and winding road to get to this point.
I started off marathon training season the wrong way: with a hip injury I sustained from falling off a horse. One month of physical therapy and two triathlons later, I was finally ready to focus on running long again.
I’ve logged 470 miles and 10 races, with three of them as specific training runs for this event: the Kaua’i Half Marathon, Direct Edge Newport Liberty Half Marathon, and 20 miles of the Yonkers Marathon. In the process, I’ve notched personal records at 3 miles, 5K, 4 miles, 5 miles, and 10K, the last three of which I nailed during a track workout. I’ve gotten a lot faster this year, especially over the middle distances.
But I hit my training low when I blew up at the Direct Edge Newport Liberty Half Marathon, which was supposed to be my sub-2 hour half-marathon triumph. Instead, I sputtered across the finish feeling defeated and wondering whether I really should be running a marathon at all.
Thankfully, my training high came just a week later during my last 20-mile training run at the Yonkers Marathon. I managed to run a negative split on the hilly course and my fastest 20-miler ever, feeling great in the process. It restored my confidence in my abilities as a runner.
But I’ve been sick the last nine days. And I haven’t run in all this time. It’s frustrating to train so hard for four months, only to see it all come crashing to a halt because of a stupid cold complete with fever and chills. The fact that I haven’t run in 10 days doesn’t really worry me. What worries me is that I still might not be healthy come race day.
Even if I am healthy, will my body really be ready for the challenge that 26.2 miles takes? It reminds me to be grateful for all the days that I am healthy, especially in light of the folks I’m running for.
As I see it, one of two things will happen: My body will be so well rested and full of vitamins from nursing a cold that I’ll be raring to go on race day OR my body will be exhausted from fighting a cold and no amount of vitamins in the world will help it run 26.2 miles.
I really won’t know which is the case until I toe the line. So, I’m altering my expectations for race day.
Here are my goals for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, in order of importance:
1) Just finish. If I get out there and my body is tired, I’ll treat this like an extended training run, not push myself too hard, and maybe look at a late November or early December marathon for a real PR attempt.
2) Run a personal record. That means beating 4:28:06, which I ran at the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon. If I get out there and I’m feeling good, I’ll go for a PR, even if it means beating it by just a minute. After training so hard and missing a half-marathon PR this year, nabbing a marathon PR really would feel good.
3) Run 4:15. This is the goal time I was going for and was on pace for last year when a quad cramp struck at Mile 20 of the Philadelphia Marathon. This is the time I’ve once again trained for this year. I know I have it in me. But it’s got to be a day when all the conditions are in my favor. With the way I feel today, this goal seems like pie in the sky. But I won’t rule it out as a possibility.
My strategy for the race is to go out conservatively the first 10 miles. If I’m feeling good, I’ll start gently pushing the pace until the half. If I’m still feeling good then, I’m going to go for broke.
The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon course is nice and flat with only a few small hills. I just have to remind myself that the course is clocked in kilometers, not miles, so that I don’t get too excited when I see markers flying by. I’ve got to run 42K at this one, not 26 miles.
With any luck, I’ll win the Media Challenge in the women’s marathon category and earn $1,000 for the charity I’m running for, the Sarcoma Cancer Foundation of Canada.
And if not, I’ll be happy just to have fun and take in the excitement of running Canada’s largest city. Running for a cancer charity has a magical way of putting everything into perspective. Cold or no cold, I still get to run. And that’s an amazing thing.
See you on the waterfront, Toronto!