So, I've done it. I've gone and signed up for my next marathon. It is a double-double loop course, which could be enjoyable or totally, excruciatingly boring. What I mean is that it is an out and back course that you repeat, so I will pass the same spots four times in my effort to complete 26.2 miles. It is on a trail along the Potomac River, so it could be a great experience if the weather is nice that day. But, if it isn't, or there is too much stuff going on in the surrounding area, I might want to quit well before I reach the end. I guess the key is to forget about the marathon's environment and to just run the miles. I'd like to make some real headway on my quest to qualify for Boston, so I am hoping for a 3:20 or better. If I was going to set three goals, my "reach" would be 3:15, my target would be 3:20, and my "won't cry as long as I do this" would be to break 3:30. What I learned in my first marathon training cycle was that the target I had at the beginning was only related to my fitness level at the moment I started the training. I had hoped for a 4:00, but I realized as I was training that I was building the capacity to do much better than that. So, towards the end, when I ran a better than expected race at the Army Ten Miler (a performance that I hadn't even rested for), I knew that I would be able to do much better than I had originally thought. It is with this in mind that I am setting these three goals. I am pretty sure that I am in 3:20-3:25 shape right now. My recent race performances suggest that anyways. And, since I am going to do some pretty serious training over the next several months, using a training program that is much more rigorous than the one I used last time, I figure that my abilities come the day of the marathon will be higher than they are today. With all that said, I still don't think I am going to qualify for Boston this time around. It is a shame, but I am giving myself until the end of 2008 before I start to feel bad about it. With a strong marathon in the first half of the year, I will then have time for another marathon training cycle and a shot at qualifying for Boston with a fall race.
People ask me why I want to qualify for Boston. Heck, some people ask me why I train for races in the first place. It isn't like I'm going to make the Olympics or ever win a bunch of money or anything like that. I might be able to get myself to be pretty competitive in my age group, but that is about the best I think I can achieve. Truth is, though, that doesn't matter. I am not really competing against any other runners...I'm just competing with myself. I don't need to lower my cholesterol or lose lots of weight or get back in shape, so what is it that I can use to motivate myself to get out and run? I use races as motivation and I strive to run faster at every single race I enter. I don't always do that and there are lots of reasons why, but I try to train to be better at every race and it is my hope that I run a personal best every time I lace up and take off with the pack. I have friends that just run for fun and that never enter races. They think it is kind of nutty that I plan out my running and create a training plan for myself. I wish I could run 5-6 times week without looking towards a race, but it just doesn't work for me. Without a race, it is just too easy for me to let myself slide on my exercise. I think I'll be entering races for a very long time.
And, speaking of races, I plan on running a fair number of them in the run up to the marathon. I want to hone my racing skills and I want to include as much motivation in this plan as reasonable. So, here is my tentative race schedule leading up to the marathon:
Christmas Caper 5K/10K
MADD Red Ribbon Run 5K
GW Birthday Classic 10K
Burke Lake 12K
LAWS Half Marathon
GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler
I haven't signed up for all of these yet, but I intend to do so. If you want to run with me, let me know and we can coordinate. We can even sign up as a team for some of them. I will hit some more races in the summer as well, but I haven't decided on any yet since the listings aren't out. there is some wacky endurance run in Rocky Gap, MD that I am interested, but I don't have any details. If you are into the idea of a 6 hour trail relay run, let me know.