A little more than one year ago, I ran my first marathon. When I crossed that finish line, I was not immediately sure I wanted to do another full 26.2 mile race. And then less than a week later, I wrote a post clearly defining my intentions: “Yes, I’ll Have Another.”
Well, that another came rather quickly, and this past Sunday I ran my second marathon, again at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.
I did not record this training cycle; I don’t have 16 weeks of posts to look back on as an indication of how I felt after each track session or long run. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk about it, or had a bad training. On the contrary, I felt very prepared and satisfied with how well I stuck to my training plan. I ran four times a week for the majority of the the 16 weeks; I ran fast and fatigued at track; and I actually completed those tempo runs that taunted me on last year’s training schedule. This summer I ran in heat and rain, but I also ran with great company and conversation. By the time marathon day came, I felt ready.
So ready, in fact, that I dared to set a high goal for myself: I told myself, “I’m going to try to Boston Qualify.” I told others my intent. With that goal in mind, I had to average an 8:12 min/mile pace. If you asked me months ago if I could have done that, I would have laughed. And yet, I felt like it was possible. So I went for it.
Not to make a long story short, but ultimately I did not BQ. HOWEVER, my finish time surprised me in a way that gave me optimism that a BQ is an accomplishment to come. In my second marathon, I finished at 3:41:17, a nearly 24-min PR from last year’s race. And I felt amazing.
Entering the race, I told myself I would take it easy at the beginning in order to avoid going out too fast and burning out quickly. Even with that approach, I felt like I could push myself harder. So I matched the pace of the BQ time pacer, 3:35. I stayed with him until nearly Mile 18. From there, a few walks through the water stops led to a drop in my pace, but it didn’t wear me out. Rather than slowing down when I ran, those breaks actually helped me maintain my speedy pace.
By Mile 23 or so I knew a BQ was out of reach, yet I realized I still had the opportunity to finish under my second goal: sub-3:45. With that as inspiration, I pushed myself through those final miles. I sang to myself, I remembered the great signs and enthusiasm from my friends who had come out to cheer, and I thought of my parents, waiting for a hug at the finish line.
So I ran.
And I finished.
And now I am officially a two-time marathoner.
And since I’m only 23 and I have until 34 to get a 3:35 to qualify for Boston, this is definitely not the last marathon for me. Not by a long shot.