If you rewind three months, I had planned to train to run the race in two hours and fifty minutes which seemed ambitious after not running much, but when I started training seemed within reach. But then this season there was a lot going on, and I found myself enjoying riding my bike and foraging such that each morning I'd have a choice. Do my run, or go off foraging on my bike. And each day the choice was obvious, I would do what I wanted to do and go off on my bike. So I literally skipped pretty much every workout, and ran about twenty miles total over the last three weeks, kind of going out of my way to sabotage the race. Big race anxiety was definitely involved. This was an invitation to the elite group based on my run two years ago. It was hard knowing that I wasn't living up to that and probably should have declined the offer. Mainly my fear was that I would totally crash and burn.
H called the night before (he is running the Boston Marathon Monday). I'm sure I sounded miserable but he gave me a great pep talk that helped me a ton during the race. I think just knowing I wasn't alone in having to run a marathon during strange circumstances and had supportive words was a big boost. I paced myself carefully and slowed down as appropriate to get myself through. At mile four I felt like I wasn't working hard at all, and yet my legs were giving strong warnings that they were close to breaking down. At mile ten it felt like I had run a very long way, and asked myself, "How much farther?" and the answer of sixteen miles sounded incredibly daunting. At that moment it was like, "whoa, the marathon is no small feat". But once I got halfway done it seemed less daunting, and increasingly so as miles ticked by. And M, H, S, and B were cheering me on at various points in the race, giving me a huge boost each time.
At mile nineteen there is a turnaround. I thought I was all alone, but as soon as I turned around I realized there was a pack of twenty people directly behind me, chasing. Suddenly all I could hear was the sound of feet running behind me, and that put a competitive spark in my running that I haven't felt in a long time. I stayed ahead of that sound for many miles, working hard, amazed at how well I was running and that the two people behind me were keeping up.
At mile twenty-four, with only two miles to go in the race, all I could wonder was "how am I going to get through these last two miles?". A runner who had been running hard right behind me for the last several miles made a move to pass, but I let that carry me along so we ran side-by-side. We ran this way for a while, one person would push the pace, the other would keep up, then the other would push pace harder. We were going faster and faster. I was so wrecked and tired that I forgot that it wasn't two years ago when I was running the same course in the best shape of my life. And there was extra motivation, it hurt, but if I could ride this wave and get this thing over with quickly let's do that! With a mile-and-a half to go we ran almost forty second faster pace than the rest of the race. For the last half mile I was running faster than I had two years ago. I crossed the finish line after running a big negative split in just over three hours, a time I am incredibly happy with.
I went into the race assuming it was going to be a disaster. I might have been feeling a bit dramatic in my own head, but those weeks of anxiety had taken a toll on me and I was almost hoping it would be a disaster so I could call it the last run of my life and be done with running forever. But boy, I gotta say, the thrill of letting some unforeseen inner strength take over at mile nineteen and carry me along for the last seven miles was pure magic, reminding me of why running marathons is so awesome. Dagonnit! Maybe I need to sign up for 2022 Boston Marathon after all.