On Saturday morning I ran 10 miles and felt great doing it. And I felt great later, too, though I really wanted a nap and didn't get one (see prior post with mention of small children and their effect on sleep). I wore my current favorite shirt, an orange one that has a picture of a snail and says, "Feeling a bit slow. Run anyway." Not that I want to feel or look slow, but I feel there's a humility in the sentiment that will serve me well when setbacks occur--and give me an added feeling of triumph when something goes unexpectedly well.
Which leads me to the topic of what I've got in my favor as I embark on this perilous quest. It looks paltry compared to the obstacles, but I'll take all the assets I can get.
First some practical matters:
--I'm starting off with decent endurance. Though I didn't run my half-marathon last month as fast as I wanted to, it ensured that I now see 10 miles as an easy long run, a springboard for building up to the longer and longer runs (20-miles plus) that will be necessary once I launch my marathon training. My intermediary goal, because I don't expect to qualify on my first try, will be to beat 4 hours (date as yet unchosen, but June 2011 is my initial thought).
--I am not afraid of speed training (puke-inducing laps on the track) or hills. Trucking up Baseline Hill toward Chautauqua park in Boulder--a steep hill that's nearly 3/4 of a mile long--is now a routine part of my Saturday, as is running the gritty Mesa Trail. Right now I am focusing on the 5K, training for the Colder Bolder on Dec. 4 and hoping to get my time in this speed contest back into the range it typically was before I got pregnant (anywhere between 23 and 24 minutes would put me over the moon, and anything under 25 minutes will be progress). I know hills and speedwork are key to this. Ultimately, a little more speed will also be important to my Boston effort.
--I train at altitude but will run my attempts to qualify at (or closer to) sea level. This doesn't make as big a difference as you might suspect, but hopefully, combined with the aforementioned hills and speedwork, my extra red blood cells will help me come race day(s).
--Knock on wood, I am not easily injured. One good thing about having been a teenage couch potato is that I am not saddled with muscles that have been twingy since 10th grade or tender spots where surgery was performed on my joints. I've spent exactly four nights in a hospital (not counting my own birth), and those were one for a premature labor scare and three following my C-section. Aside from that C-section, the only surgery I've been through was the insertion of tubes in my ears at age nine. It's true that, while I am in better aerobic shape now than I was at 18, I can tell my body isn't as springy and lithe as it once was. But (and please let me stay lucky this way!) the only real chronic pain I deal with is in my lower back, a hangover from pregnancy-weakened abs and carrying toddlers on my left hip. Running actually makes it feel better.
And now some psychological factors:
--Other people who bill themselves as average runners have done this. Check out this blog. Her best marathon time prior to embarking on her quest was 4:16:52, almost three minutes slower than mine. Her first few attempts failed. But she finished by blasting through her qualifying time with 12 or so minutes of cushion--inspiring! Granted, she hired a coach to help her along, something I patently can't afford, and her marathon efforts weren't interrupted by pregnancy. But her story gives me hope. (Her diet scares me a little, but as I've said, that's a whole post of its own some other time.)
--I have lots of support from my family and friends. My husband, Dan, is a runner, and he understands my obsession and gives good, realistic advice. Unlike me, he ran cross-country in high school, so he knows about race strategy and toughness. I know a lot of other runners, too, who will offer sympathy and advice.
--Boulder is a fantastic running town, with lots of races, specialty running stores and running groups like the one I joined in Houston all those years ago. There are trails, roads, and tracks at my disposal. The vibe is pro-runner and literally "pro" runner. You see a lot of sponsored athletes around here, amazing fit specimens; the gold medalist in the last Olympic Marathon lives in a nearby town. I try to let this be inspiring instead of intimidating.
So do those advantages outweigh the obstacles I described in the last post? I'm going to keep putting one foot in front of the other until the big four-oh, by which time we'll have the answer.