This was my thought at mile 8 of the Go! St. Louis Marathon. I needed an immediate do-over, but I wasn’t going to get one. I had sabotaged my race and I knew it, and there was nothing to do but keep running.
Let me preface this with the facts.
1. This was my 21st marathon. This doesn’t mean I’m a pro, but it does mean I ought to know what works for me.
2. My first marathon in 2003 was run in 5 hours and 26 minutes. My best marathon run in 2009 was run 3 hours and 58 minutes.
3. I needed a 3:40 to qualify for the Boston Marathon as a 30 year old female.
Jason thought I could do it so I said, “why not” and I came up with a training plan.
4. I proceeded to train from September 2009 to April 2010. I trained hard. I ran like a fiend. I did pilates 3 times a week to strengthen my core. I had a plan and I followed it closely. I ran more 20 milers than ever before (I usually run 18 once and call it good).
5. I was ready. If not for a Boston qualifying time, then a personal record for sure. It was in the bag. I knew it was going to be a great race.
With those facts in mind, why is it that I needed a do-over by mile 8?
Because I forgot everything I knew about myself and marathons. I got my 3 kisses from Jason. I got teary-eyed by the National Anthem. I said a prayer for Jason, myself, and all of our running companions that day. Then they said, “Go!” and boy did I!
I took off like a shot. My first mile was a 7:52. This is great if I’m running a 10 miler. This is not great for someone at my current level running a marathon. The pace needed for a 3:40 marathon is 8:23 per mile. My first 8 were under that. Miles 9 through 13 were right at 8:23. And at mile 13 I was tired. I was on pace, but I was tired. And I knew that was NOT a good place to be.
There was nothing for it, however, except to keep running. I figured I could slow a bit and still get a personal record. But my 8:30 pace slipped quickly to a 9:00 pace. My 9:00 pace slipped quickly to a 9:30 and then I wavered between 9:30 and 10:00 until I got tired of fighting with myself.
“Run! You can run this pace all day. Run!”
“You only have a 10K. You can run a 10k at 9:30 pace.”
“Come on, Jane, dig deep. You want this.”
“Get mad. Just get mad and run. I’m mad. No, I’m tired. No, I’m mad.”
“Don’t be a wimp. Run!”
And still I got slower and slower. Another issue was unquenchable thirst. My stomach was full of liquid and I didn’t want to fill it more, but I was so thirsty. I also wasn’t sweating. I noticed that other runners around me were wet, but I was not. I didn’t feel bad, though, so I kept running.
Around mile 22, I knew I was losing the personal record and I eventually stopped caring. I met a man named James who was running his first marathon. He was running an 11:30 pace and I wanted to run faster but I was tired of arguing with myself, so when he caught me for the second time, I stuck with him. We talked about running, training, weather, and our homes. We ran slowly, but the miles went by a little faster while we talked.
I saw Jason around mile 26 and shrugged my shoulders. It wasn’t my day. Or maybe it could have been had I run a smarter race. Either way, I was so glad to be done. I crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 4 minutes. Jason was disappointed for me, but glad I was okay. It is hard to wait on your person to run through the finish line as you watch the clock tick past their goal.
On the way home that afternoon we laughed about my crazy race. We wondered what in the world I was thinking starting off like that. The next day I let myself cry. It wasn’t the outcome I’d planned. It didn’t end how it was supposed to. I had worked so hard only to ruin it in the first 8 miles.
The next week was hard. I was unbelievably sore from the hills I had underestimated. I forced myself to run 3 miles a day and the first day it took me 40 minutes. I went to pilates and it made me sad thinking of all the times I’d attended the class to help me achieve a personal record. And for what?
Time has worked on my disappointment, however, and it doesn’t bother me now as much as it did. Triumphs are a wonderful part of this running experience, but that means failures have to be a part of it too. And is it really a failure if I finished the thing? No. It’s great. It’s amazing. It is a long way to run no matter how many times I’ve done it. And for now, that has to be enough. Lord willing, I will get my do-over. I will lace up my shoes early one morning and I will face that 26.2 once again. I will run a smarter, stronger race and I will achieve a new personal record. It’s all part of this adventure and I wouldn’t change that for anything.