Measuring Success in Running: The Providence Marathon negates my Boston performance or does it?

If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again…

In running, as happens often in life, there appear to be more failures than successes. As a runner, it’s quite likely that for every good race you have, you may experience two bad ones. How do you reconcile this with a competitive, burgeoning spirit that thrives on success? A slightly baffling quandary if ever there was one, since on one hand you need success to push you and to make it all worthwhile, while on the other hand, failures are what pushes your dig deep, press on, try harder buttons. It is also what causes frustrations, despair, and those doggone dry spells that have you questioning yourself and doubting your ability.

What if I told you last Sunday I ran the Providence Marathon and BQ’d. I kinda totally did. Two weeks after a horrible race experience in Boston, I bowed to internal pressure, of my own design, and ran a race out in Rhode Island that was the antithesis of Boston in so far as the weather was concerned. It was a pretty course with some hills here and there though mostly flat and required a steady approach with incremental increases over time. I’m afraid I was exhausted by mile sixteen, from the week prior, and didn’t really do it justice. Still, I was able to stay within goal range and that meant something. A bit of redemption if you will.

I began this year of running with two major race disappointments, which leads me to the question that’s been on quite a few peoples’ minds – what is it that keeps me going back for more? Doesn’t successive disappointments make me less-inclined to lace up for another race?The simple answer is obviously not and unequivocally no. On a more complex level, I can argue for the feeling of having accomplished something that was challenging, exacting, and totally out there. There’s no feeling quite like it for someone with a competitive nature such as mine. The daredevil in me will never pack up and go home when failure knocks, but sees (and seizes) the opportunity to push boundaries, overcome limits, and redefine the impossible. This is what motivated me to run last Sunday at a moment’s notice, it is what has motivated me to run the Boston Marathon three times and has me heading for, quite possibly, a fourth. Boston and I, we have unfinished business. Maybe it’s engraved in my DNA, but I refuse to stop until I have conquered that course.

In all honesty, that’s how I live and treat with any challenge that life throws my way. I dust off failures as missed opportunities and consider the next step that will take me closer to my goal. And everytime that I run a race and it doesn’t turn out like I hoped it would, which is often enough, I shake off the disappointment, turn off the self recriminations, dig deep, and muscle up for the next time. So if anything, I’ve learnt that goals are simply benchmarks we put in place to help us navigate this life with some accountability and a modicum of affirmation, challenge, and encouragement. Perspective allows us to see each step of the journey as just another move forward to realising our true potential. As Des Linden, female winner of the Boston Marathon 2018 likes to say, “keep showing up.”

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A Recap of Running The Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon

 

The Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon 2015

The Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon 2015

Last Sunday dawned awash with color across the New Jersey sky, the beautiful face of sunshine setting the tone for a stellar day weather-wise and otherwise. We stood at the start wrapped in our heat sheets, an anticipated chill in the air. The buzz was high. Many were expecting to do good here; rumor had it the course was a fast one. Having observed no worrisome inclines on my review the evening before, I was excited to see how it would pan out. Part of my excitement stemmed from the “unknown factor.” I enjoy discovering a course while running. My adventurous spirit revels in the uncertainty and mystery of what will come next and I was not disappointed. I had heard a bit about the twists and turns following mile 13 but I wasn’t concerned, as long as there was some variety to be had, I had nothing to fear from monotony.

As it turned out, our 3:30 pace group leader was a veteran marathoner with 50+ marathons under his “shoes,” most recently Boston two Monday’s ago. His humor was trying at best as he attempted to entertain us early in the race; though on a marathon course, you learn to appreciate anyone who tries. He did however, marshal us into maintaining a steady 7.5 pace for first half of the race, which had a few of us antsy considering the burn out issue. Still, there were others who were interested in upping the ante, feeling strong then I guess. I’m headstrong yes, but not stupid, and I am fully aware of the idiom – marry in haste, repent at leisure – no way was I even interested in trying to outdo myself at such an early stage. Good sense prevailed and we stayed together and strong. You can tell New Yorker’s anywhere you go and that was true of those running in the group; chatty, competitive, brash even but open and warm. Some willingly carried the pacer’s sign, which he promised to ditch early on, right to the end. For much of the way, miles 1 through 16, we poked fun, had the odd conversation, commented on pace and fed off the crowd, which was a surprise in itself – there were quite a bit of cheer going on. We were thankful for that and showed our appreciation with waves and mouthfuls of thank you. The volunteers, as instrumental to the race as ever were a beautiful bunch; filled with encouragement and fuel, they were with us every couple of miles along the way.

The fight and challenge to finish strong came around mile 18. So far it had been a scenic, flat and full-out sunshine course. The wind was co-operating fully with just the right amount of ruffles to make the sun a pleasure but suddenly it wasn’t so easy anymore. The sun was now head on and hot, the stretches began to seem to long, no one was talking anymore, the pacer appeared to be going too fast, I could hear grunts coming from my far left, where was the guy with the time pick? And the other one who was beside me for much of the way? We appeared to be losing people, a couple were ahead but surely some were behind. Shouldn’t the pacer check to see what was happening to the group. It was then I realized that it was all he could do to remain focused and stay the course. He had set the pace and carried it for three-quarter of the way, it was our job to take it home. I felt we had lost some time, a few seconds of the last two miles maybe, but with four more miles to go and the shore beckoning, it was doable, it was happening. I recall his last words before my heart took over – a hug at the finish.

It’s what is known as heart running. When you feel like there’s nothing left to give. You’ve done all you can, all the training; cross training, speed work, running, has culminated into this moment right here..this is it. With two more left to go, it’s breakaway time. My heart is thumping, my legs are unreal..I don’t even feel them, all I can see is the stretch in front of me, all I can hear is the voice in my head – you’re almost there, over and over – I’ve left them behind, the crowds are thickening, the waves are crashing, my feet are pounding, I can see the finish. This is so happening. With 800 meters to go I stagger and look behind me and there’s my girlfriend who ran the entire way with me, I thrust out my hand to her – “come on, come on,” I say. She reaches out, I grab her hand and we sprint to the finish; huge smiles on our faces for the camera as we cross the finish line. I pull away, retching with my head between my knees and she’s gleefully saying, “we did it! We did it! Sub 3:30! Are you ok?” All in that order. A few minutes and I was fine, the pain would follow in a bit but just then I was super excited to have PR’d and qualified for Boston 2016 by just over ten minutes. We did indeed indulge in those hugs and a few tears following the reciept of our medals. They say pain is temporary, pride is forever. I’m so proud of me.

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This Thankful Running Heart

Photo Credit: Jim McWilliams / The Philadelphia Marathon

To think that it’s Thanksgiving already, that we’re already so close to the year’s end..sometimes I feel as though we’re in this race against time, only we’re getting left despite our best efforts to up the ante and increase our speed. In spite of this, and time’s steady progression, it is important that we take a moment to reflect on what we have been able to achieve thus far and in so doing be better able to continue in our pursuit of excellence and fulfillment.

Thanksgiving provides us the perfect opportunity to look both within and around us to account for our blessings and/or areas in our lives that we are thankful for. For my part, I’m particularly full of running thankfulness, thankful that:

– thus far this year I’ve had very minor running injuries
– I’ve been able to run four marathons within a 12-month period with a faster time each time
– I feel healthy and strong
– I qualified for Boston again
– my knowledge of running grows more and more each day
– I have a running group to train with
– I live and run in beautiful New York
– I’m able to share my running thoughts and dreams with you here on this blog
– I can now appreciate that there are no limits to what I can achieve if I want it badly enough
– through running I have met the most inspirational and dedicated people
– I know and love my body

Of course I’m thankful for a lot more than running; like family, friends, the gym, my job, my faith and yes, completing Philly in 3:34:33! I. Did. It. Last Sunday, I ran the Gore-Tex Philadelphia marathon. Here’s a short recap; downtown Philadelphia is a beautiful and historic city with pretty architecture and happening restaurants. The scenic route of the marathon was pretty cool and saw approximately 30,000 runners take off from center city around 7am. Save for the seemingly endless miles around a reservoir on the course, what can I say – I enjoy variety – this became the most challenging aspect of what was basically a flat and fast course, it would have been a phenomenal sub 3:30 run. Reflecting on my performance, I feel I need to particularly work on my pace in the latter half of a marathon if I’m to really maximize the negative-split concept, which is basically running the second half of the race faster than the first. Around mile 19 the forefront/ underside of my feet began complaining, I am convinced there is an issue there either with my shoes or feet, and I found myself struggling to increase and even keep pace. This led to some challenging moments from which I eventually emerged on top. Still, it was touch and go for a while there and though I’m always up for a challenge, a masochist I am not, so given this is my second time dealing with the same issue, I think this warrants looking into. All in all though, it was a great experience and my fastest marathon thus far, which makes me feel pretty confident moving forward; for this, I am extremely thankful.

Setting goals are great as it provides initiative, momentum and accountability. Realizing your goals are greater still for providing satisfaction, self-confidence, inspiration and a sense of achievement. There’s just over a month left in the year and more than enough time to express our thanks for life’s many blessings while yet keeping our eyes on the goal.

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Fall In Love with Running this Fall

imageI am the eternal optimist. Let me tell you right off that I haven’t always been this way; times past, I have been quite the critique and complainer, what some people call.. high-maintenance, but a couple of years ago I made an important discovery.. my Aha moment if you will. I figured life is full of disappointments and dread but juxtaposed to this is its wonderful surprises and beautiful things.. depends on who’s looking and from where; remember my “perspective is everything” mantra? You see, battling disappointments can be a consuming past-time, who has time for that, so I decided to lean on the side of beautiful things as I really don’t have time for much else. Fast forward today and finding out yesterday that I missed the cut off 1:02 under qualifying mark for Boston 2015 by 22 seconds.

After the initial dread and tears which lasted a few minutes, I cannot allow for days as others who’ve described their past experiences, I smiled. Because I’m proud of me. Proud that I qualified within my first year of trying and that I came so close. While I’m in solidarity with the 1,946 other qualifiers who didn’t get in, I have so much hope for next year. Now to be honest, it is no easy feat to qualify: the sacrifice, commitment and hard work, that went into doing so is a testament to running excellence and is reason enough to be proud of your achievement. For some though, it might be impossible to do so again.. It is for those that my heart goes out; that you will never know the reward of your effort. May it be enough that you qualified. For others like myself, we know that runners never quit. It is the indelible spirit that unifies us, that we will train harder, run faster, do better and we will RUN BOSTON.

So tears aside, the race goes on and there are some great races all over the country to choose from if you’re going ahead with trying for Boston 2016 right away. Just so you know, the qualifying window opened last week, so all qualifying races that you run from here on until next year can count. I’m playing around with ideas such as Philly, New Jersey, Marine Corps DC or Anthem Richmond Marathon; all in beautiful Fall and with good courses to do a fast time. Whichever you choose, don’t forget to make sure it’s a qualifier.

The best things about running in the Fall season is nature and its transforming beauty. I heart its colorful changes, musicality and cool sunshine. And I get to do it from beautiful New York, oftentimes, in lovely Central Park. Therefore, it was only fitting that I ushered in the season with a 12 mile exhilarating run there two days ago. I felt so buoyant, so hopeful, so filled with wonder then and even now. I hold on to that, not allowing the disappointment of yesterday to steal my joy in today and in the promise of some beautiful Fall runs.

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We rocked n’ rolled n’ qualified!

imageAs reviews go, I’ll give this race experience a “very good” if not excellent, only because of the flaring up of my IT Band. The course was doable and scenic, the weather was excellent, the runners phenomenal and there were enough liquids & gels to go around. The music rocked..somewhat..and the cheers while no New York, were great. The truth is out of the three marathons I’ve run so far and based on others opinions, there may not be another marathon cheer-must-have experience such as New York. But, I liked DC, of course it could very well be because I PR’d and did my qualifying time for Boston there, but it’s also a lot more than that. You can probably tell that I’m a people-gal; I love meeting new people and experiencing different cultures and appreciate diversity and art and all those good things The Capitol is known for, It has so much to offer. Each time I visit, I promise myself I’ll be back because there’s no way I can ever get to see or do it all. But I digress, back to my race experience.

The day prior to the race, I got in from New York and went directly to the race expo and spent most of that half of the day hopping around from booth to booth with its various information, activities, running wear and other paraphernalia to be had. As if the hours there weren’t enough, I just had to do some additional external shopping mostly in the context of items missing at the expo. I eventually got to the hotel at 8pm; exhausted, starving and cranky as heck, immediately vowing never to do that again? Which I’ll probably promptly forget the next time, though really, applying some time constraints are mandatory to preserve my sanity. I promptly stuffed my face, paying no mind to by golden rule of no stuffing after 6pm after which, I’m forced to stay up an extra two hours so I don’t kill myself with digestion problems and then spent the most irritating night anyway, getting up every two hours. WTH!!!

The next day was just as tiring, add painful and longer, and you get the picture. It started off cold which was expected, at least on my end, as you wouldn’t think so by the way every one was dressed and shivering but I was wrapped in my blanket and was doing pretty good. Since I had signed up with a pace group at the expo, I was pretty much ready to stick with them for the race, as much as I could anyway, given the uncertainties surrounding an event such as this – who knows what could happen. However, I was pleasantly surprised to meet a beautiful and like-minded runner who shared similar goals as myself and we teamed up and decided to run together and soon left the pace group behind. At that point, I wasn’t so sure it was a good idea, as I was a bit wary about taking off too quickly given I had recently decided to employ the negative-split concept (running the latter half of the marathon at a faster pace than the first half). Anyway, to close without writing my biography, we ran all the way to mile 20 together, encouraging and pace-checking and pointing out how pretty this and that was though I’ll admit I was much quieter after 13 miles, by which time, I was beginning to feel some pain and was not one for complaining when nothing could be done. All of that to say, my new friend made my 20 miles happen the way it did and I believe that helped me across the finish line. A runner needs a runner buddy like that. I really enjoyed the time running with her.

To conclude, the last 5 miles were the toughest 5 miles ever! Pain, comparable to my two previous marathon experiences; though I could have quickly say more if you’d asked me then, in a few weeks I probably wouldn’t think so but it was excruciating. I didn’t stop only because I knew I wouldn’t be able to even walk to the finish. Thank God for a strong mind. I finished, got my medal and spent the better part of 90 minutes in the medical tent. Ninety worthy minutes I’ll say because, call me crazy, but it was worth it. Sucker for punishment, that I am, I spent the rest of the day hobbling around at the Smithsonian museum. Again it was worth it.
DC Rock n’ Roll you get 4.5 stars!

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