Last spring I decided that I was capable of running a Boston qualifying time. I set that as my goal for the summer and in the weeks before marathon training started, I would run a tempo run at marathon pace. Each week, a mile longer. I set a 10k PR for myself during those runs but never broke 50 minutes, a goal that I thought I would be able to accomplish within the season.
Summer started and marathon training started. I joined a gym and went twice a week to do strength. I did plyometric drills in my back yard. I ran incredible runs and shitty runs. And I started hating my goal. Hating the pressure. Hating the fact that every run was a proving ground to myself: could I do this or not?! Was I capable? Hated how running had become stressful instead of a stress relief. So I took the timeline of the goal. Yes, I am running a marathon this fall (three weeks left of training!!) and yes, I am going to give that race my all. And that is my goal: to give it my all that day. To do all I am capable of on that day.
When I first realized I hated the pressure, I decided two things:
- I would still train for that qualifying pace. Because I love pushing myself in training and while I often did not hit that pace, I was faster than I would be if I didn’t have a crazy pace I was pushing for. You know, reach for the sun & land among the stars.
- I would not decide on my actual race day goal pace til the end of training. Taking the pressure off. Seeing what I am capable of when the time comes.
This sounds like a quick decision on my part but was actually one that took a lot of thought and frustration. But it was worth it because I came out of it physically and mentally stronger.
And note that I never gave up on the goal. I just made the journey more enjoyable by taking the pressure off. It’s all about the journey for me. Life is lived in the infinite series of small moments. If you are feeling bad about yourself in all those small moments, or if you feel pressured to perform or are comparing yourself to other runners in all those small moments, that’s a shitty life. And for what?! A time in a race? Or the social acclaim that comes with qualifying for Boston?
And I realized that I don’t care about the social acclaim. I am a badass runner because I am on the streets gliding over the pavement in the dark mornings all year round. I am a badass runner because I get up at 4:30 AM on Saturdays to fit in long runs that take hours and hours. I am a badass runner because I see the progress I am making year after year in races or in random runs that no one knows about. I don’t need to run a certain time to prove to myself or others that I am a real runner. I already know I am.
And I am making progress. I just cant set a timeline to my goals. I have a journal from 4 years ago where I wrote about my goal to hit 2 hours in a local and hilly half marathon. This past winter I finally did just that, crushing that goal with a 1:54 finishing time. I then broke that time twice within the past few months. It took me years of running to get to that goal but that doesn’t mean it was a bad goal!
That goal of under 50 minutes in a 10k I had this spring? I broke that this morning, 4 months after thinking it would be easy to do. Silly me. My goals are never easy. If they were easy, they would not be fun. They are crazy big goals that take time, effort, early mornings, and sweat. That’s the stuff that makes them badass and makes the feeling of accomplishment so beautiful.
That goal of qualifying for Boston? Its still a goal! And who knows, maybe it will happen in three weeks! But I am so ok with it not! Because training for a marathon is not just about the finishing time but about the confidence, mental strength, strong and healthy body, the brain space…the journey.
This morning my goal was to run 11 miles in the middle of my 20 miler at race pace. For the first 9 of them I was under (under!!) marathon pace. Then I fell apart a bit but still finished the 11 with an average pace just a little over marathon pace. That’s the fastest 11 miles I have ever run in my life. EVER! And for 8 of them, it was pure joy! It felt like flying. My heart is swelling with all the feelings just thinking about it. That run this morning is just as important as marathon day. Just as important.
And it finally made me feel like, yes, I really AM capable of running a Boston Qualifying time. Maybe it will happen within a year. Maybe it won’t happen for lots of years. Maybe I will get bored of that goal and take time off from it to run Ultras. But I love, love, LOVE setting crazy running goals. They show me that I am capable of things that I, deep in my mind, did not think were actually possible for me. That is so motivating. And the crazy insaneness of them is what makes them so fun. I don’t feel destroyed when I don’t achieve them right away because that means I get to keep on the journey towards them! And I LOVE the journey. Love what it does to my mind and body. Love how it teaches me who I am.
So reach for that sun, dammit, because, sure, you will land upon lots of stars but more importantly you will get to explore the outer space and THAT will be tons of fun.