So. This Boston Marathon thing is happening in ten days.
People keep asking me if I’m excited (only for it to be over) and whether I am enjoying my taper (well, you need a peak in order to have a taper, sooo…). This whole so-called “training cycle” has been a taper. I am comically underprepared for this race.
Nonetheless, I will be at the starting line in Hopkinton a week from Monday. Is this a good idea? No, probably not. I haven’t run more than 40 MPW in months. I did do a slow twenty-miler…in February. My heart just hasn’t been in it. If this were any race other than OMG Boston, I’d have bowed out weeks ago.
I’ve done this before (suffered through a marathon with inadequate prep) and I’ll be fine. But I am not endorsing this style of training. Do as I say, not as I do. (Well, probably don’t do as I say either most of the time. Occasionally I pop a kernel of brilliance like taking the Color Run concept and turning it into a Vodka Squirt Gun Extravaganza, but usually my judgement is, at best, clouded by the wine.)
Anyway. Here are the things that I am not expecting from this Boston Marathon experience:
NOT EXPECTING #1: A PR.
Obviously. At this point, I’d consider a sub-4 finish a victory.
This might be attainable.
Case in point: Back in 2009, I ran the NYC marathon on seven weeks of questionable training after spending an entire summer traveling in Asia. During that trip I spent lots of time scarfing noodles and drinking cheap beer and did not run a single step from July to September. Upon my return to the US, I was chubby and flabby and worked my way up to about 40 MPW with one twenty-miler before it was time to “taper” for the race. I finished in 3:58.
There are certain similarities between then and now. Mostly the chubby-and-flabby part; also, the low-mileage part and the single-twenty-miler part. (There are also certain differences, like the three year age difference between then-me and now-me. Three years may not sound like much, but tell that to my ever-slowing metabolism.)
So: sub-4 or bust. Or not. I don’t really care. Normally I’m not one to run races “just for the FUNSIES!” but in this case, it’s my best option. Since I have no chance of being anywhere near PR range, I may as well run easy and try to enjoy it, right?
(There will be no sparkle skirts involved though. Trust.)
NOT EXPECTING #2: Good race pictures.
Okay, so no one ever expects good race pictures. Raise your hand if you’ve never gasped in horror at the way your mouth looks like a drooly amoeba, or cursed your thigh (which is all muscle! WTF!) for resembling a drumstick made of Jell-O. Generally speaking, running is not a flattering activity.
Race pics make me cringe when I’m in good shape. And right now? I am not in good shape.
I’ll be honest here. I have gained some weight. About 10-15 pounds from my low point last summer. I’m not going to go in to the reasons for this, and I’m not going to complain about it, but I will say that while I am at peace with my clothed self in the mirror, I do not need to see this shit half naked and in motion.
I have considered making a diva-esque sign to hang around on my neck: “NO PHOTOS PLEASE.”
But really…I am not a celebrity ducking the paparazzi. These MarathonFoto people mean me no harm. I just wish they would stick to pictures of, like…my ankles. Or my nose. Yes, ankles and nose photos only, please, MarathonFoto. If we could just avoid the thighs and the midsection and the double-chin danger zone, that would be great.
NOT EXPECTING #3: To ever return.
Mark my words: I am not doing this again. This as in Boston or this as in marathons generally. I’ve marathoned every year for the last 13 years. I am done.
I’ve always enjoyed running but I have not enjoyed it recently. There is nothing fun about feeling daily guilt over not running enough because you have an upcoming race that you’re dreading.
Lately, it’s been hard for me to read running blogs where people are all like, “OMG! I love running so much!” I wonder why I don’t feel that way. But then I remind myself that I’ve been doing this for almost twenty years. Seriously. The travel break that I mentioned earlier? That was the only significant break I’ve taken from running since I was 13. I’m burned out. And it’s okay to feel burned out.
I cannot wait until after this race when I can just, like, go to yoga or whatever. Yes, I am excited about going to goddamn yoga. The times, they change.
I promise, I’m not all negative about Boston, though. There are a few things that I am happily expecting from this experience.
EXPECTING #1: Friends food beer friends food beer!
Our good friends Chris and Annie live on the finish line of the marathon. Literally. I took this picture last year, while spectating Boston Inferno 2012 from their rooftop.
(That white tent is the finish line.)
Being the best hosts ever, they have offered to house us again this year, and after finishing this damn thing, I will be heading straight back down Boylston Street for a shower, a cold beer, and shenanigans.
EXPECTING #2: Decent weather.
Probably jumping the gun, but unless there’s a dramatic change, it looks like highs in the 50s right now. Fucking rad.
(I’m sure I’m jinxing it by writing this. Sorry, everyone.)
EXPECTING #3: To go out on a high note.
Over the last sixteen weeks, as I’ve beat myself up for ditching my training plan, wallowed in self-loathing over my lack of motivation, and bemoaned my body-fat percentage, I’ve also entertained kind of a nice thought: after thirteen years of running marathons, Boston could be my last, and that would be kind of nice. I could just do it for the high-fives. A twenty-six mile victory lap.
I won’t lie and say that Boston was never on my mind during the decade that I marathoned annually and failed to qualify. On my very first try, at age 20, I came within three minutes of the standard. That 3:42:XX was my PR until age 31. During the ten races between, while I was never obsessed with Boston…it was there, in the back of my mind. I guess I assumed that I’d qualify eventually. Fortunately, I was right.
In some ways, my current situation reminds me of track season my senior year of high school. I’d worked all season to qualify for a spot in the 3200M at the state championships. Which I did. But I was seeded tenth in a field of sixteen, and the top three girls were, like, a full minute (or more) ahead of me. I had zero shot at a podium. Did it really matter whether I finished sixth or sixteenth? Was it worth sacrificing the end of my senior year (missing parties and, uh, other important stuff) for this race?
(It didn’t end up mattering, as I got mono and finished second to last. Yay.)
But the point remains: I made it to the big dance. The making it was what mattered. Everything else was icing on the cake.
If Boston is my icing, then I intend to just enjoy it for what it is: that last bite of sugar when the plate is empty. As I said earlier, I really think I’m done with marathons after this. It would be lovely to end the era by floating happily over the finish line with a smile on my face.
I know. Good luck, right? It’s still a marathon. Even at an easy pace, it’s hard. I know this. I’ll get through it, and I’m looking forward to closing this chapter and moving in to other things.
End note to an already long post: I know I should be happy to be running Boston. I know there are lots of people who would gladly take my place. I feel like an ungrateful shithead for being so negative. I do think that qualifying for and running Boston is an achievement, and I wish I were as stoked about it as I should be! But I won’t fake it…and honestly, this is one of many reasons that I haven’t posted much recently. (So if you’re still here reading…well, thank you.)