It's true. I'm not a runner. I was always one of the last kids in gym class to finish the mile. I don't feel like it's anything I've got natural talent for. I'm not fast. Some people probably consider what I do jogging. I can't keep up with any of my team mates. I can't keep up with my boyfriend. Of all the blogs I read (and there are a lot of them), I don't know anyone who runs as slowly as I do. I am not a runner.
Yet, here I am about to embark on an endeavor that seems to me like the epitome of being a runner. Running a marathon. How did I end up here? About a month ago I was talking to Drew about the marathon and I asked him this question, "Do you think I have the mental stamina to finish the marathon?" His response was silence, followed by, "Well...", followed by at least another minute of silence.* Which just proves my point. I am not a runner.
I used to hate running. The very first time I went running with Drew, I wanted to trip myself less than a quarter-mile into the run so that hopefully we could stop running. I've come a long way since then. I can now really appreciate running for its simplicity. It's so easy to just throw on your shoes and head out the door and not have to think about all the details that come with biking or swimming.
I've been planning on running a marathon for a while now. I just thought it would be in 2011 and in New York City. That's still the case, but I guess I'm just throwing in the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon as a warm-up? This is what happens when you break your arm and can't bike for a long time, I guess. The funny thing is that this marathon was exactly what I needed. Once it was clear that I wouldn't be able to do Timberman this year, I needed something else to push me to continue working out. I needed a goal.
Now the marathon is just days away and I'm left pondering my race plan. It almost seems funny to have a race plan for a running race. I mean, the plan is to run and not slow down, right? That's sort-of my plan, but of course, it seems more detailed than that. My real plan is to start slow. Really slow. Like 11-minute miles slow.
I've learned that if I go out too quickly, I can't sustain that sort of pace over a long distance. Sure those 4 and 5 miles races in Central Park it's possible, but I'll never make it in the marathon if I do that. If I make it to Mile 2 before 21 minutes (in total time), I'm going to have to force myself to walk early in the race so as to try to avoid walking late in the race. I'm going to have to try not to get swept up in the usual race-day enthusiasm or feeling cold from standing around outside.
After the 2-3 mile marker, I think I can just run at my regular, natural pace. I think by then everyone will have settled down and I shouldn't feel like I'm trying to keep up as much (or warm up) as I will at the start. The other really important thing of note is that I'm going to stop at every aid station and walk through them. Even the early ones. Although I might not think I need a sip of water at Mile 2, I'm going to be wishing at Mile 23 that I had taken the water early in the race.
As far as calories go, since I had a bad experience mixing Gu and Gatorade in my stomach once, I'm going to pass on the Gatorade and just go with Gu and water. I'm planning on having a Gu every 5 miles for Miles 5, 10, 15 and 20 (or near those mile markers depending on where the water stops end up being). I'm going to carry at least one extra Gu (probably two, because I worry) in case I get hungry or think I need one for the last 10K of the race.
That's pretty much it as far as the race plan. Other than I should have fun and I hope to finish smiling. Oh, and time goals? Yeah, I've got one of those too. I'm going to be happy with anything under 5 hours. I think anything under 4:30 is totally unrealistic this time around. I think if I go over 5 hours I'll be disappointed and think that I probably didn't do enough training.
However, I realize that this is my first time at this distance and there is pretty steep learning curve to be had. So, with that in mind, my first goal is to finish. The second goal is the whole timing thing. In just three short days, I'm going to try to prove to myself that I am, in fact, a runner.
* I have to be fair here and say that although it took Drew a painstaking amount of time to come up with a response, when he did respond it was to say that he thinks that I'm really good at setting limits for myself, so even if I had to walk for a minute in the marathon, I would always be able to force myself to run again, which is something that he's not so sure he can do for himself. So, I guess that was a really long way of him saying "YES!", which was what I was really looking for.