Calling it quits half way through my marathon PB attempt at Sydney last Sunday was frustrating and disappointing after months of great training and preparation. But it’s the responses I’ve heard from others on hearing about my failure that have made me pause and reflect today. Mostly they miss the point of me running marathons in the first place, which is for a physical and mental challenge, to see how fair I can push myself. In no way do I run for my health (this stuff isn’t healthy), nor do I run marathons because it is enjoyable (although it is fun to run with a friend). The point of running the Sydney marathon was to beat my personal best, not just to complete the distance. Don’t get me wrong I am far from some pro runner, for starters I am too heavy and would rather run for croissants than medals. But I have run enough marathons now to know that I can finish, the mental and physical challenge is not longer set at that level. Instead the bar is set at completing 42.2km in as short a time as possible, which for me is 3 hours 30 mins.
Ideally training prepares you for race day sufficiently, but you don’t always get the chance to run in different temperatures or avoid getting ill. Sometimes things out of your control prevent you from running the race you prepared for, that’s just life. Despite easing off training, eating well and supplementing my body I started race day with a nice chesty cough. Now hacking up phlegm before you start a marathon isn’t probably the best beginning, but I wanted to give it a go and see how I ran. It turned out I ran pretty well despite the coughing and Andrew and I were clocking sub 4:56/km consistently and comfortably. It wasn’t until somewhere between the 17 & 19km mark that I started to labour a bit more, feeling the inclines as I puffed hard to keep pace up them. As we got to the halfway marker in 1 hour 43 mins we had dropped some time but it was nothing major, we were still faster than target pace. What killed it for me was my mental game, my mind. I thought about how hard it was to breathe at that point and that I still had 21km at the same pace to go in order to hit that personal best. I thought about whether I could maintain the pace I wanted to for the same distance again, it turned out that thought was too strong. In short I gave up and tapped out. Maybe if I was never going to run again I would have tried to push on, but marathons don’t get easier the closer you get to the finish, that much I know too well.
So I stopped and man I felt good for it. I don’t need to make myself ill by completing another marathon to prove a point, I want to run it at a great pace for me, not just finish. I don’t care about the medals or the finishers t-shirts. I just want to push myself to my limits. So now I am trying to get well enough to get back into training and then run Melbourne marathon in 3-4 weeks. I don’t know whether I will get my 3:30 time there, but if I can get well then I stand a chance. If not I’ll live to run another day and work hard over the summer to prepare for next season and Canberra marathon.
I’ll let you know how I get on once I’ve kicked this “man cough”.