1. I’m trying to not spend too much time obsessing about the race this weekend, but it’s hard. I’ve said it before, but this is one of the things I hate the most about the Chicago Marathon. It’s less of a race and more of an event, if that makes sense, and as a result the whole thing feels like The Biggest Deal of Your Life. It’s difficult to not put a lot of pressure on yourself to have The Best Day of Your Life when everything around you seems to suggest that that’s the expectation.
I’ve analyzed my mile splits from my past four marathons (the only ones I have. My splits from my first two are lost to some long-forgotten Garmin account.) six ways from Sunday in an effort to try to find patterns so I can predict how my race will go. I’ve used race time predictor calculators to get an estimate of how fast I might finish (and also retroactively used them on three of my past four marathons, to test their accuracy. They were way off on all of my times, estimating that I’d finish anywhere between 10 minutes faster and 11 minutes slower than I’d actual finish.). I’ve used my favorite time calculator to put together untold combinations of mile times in an attempt to devise a race plan.
I’ve worried that all my worrying and analyzing is going to hold me back. I’ve read Let Your Mind Run. I’ve tried to adopt a more positive attitude about running/life in general. I’ve gone to an hour-long visualization session to get me in the right head space for Sunday. I’ve respected the taper like my life depended on it, aiming to get in bed by 9 p.m. every night (and succeeding…occasionally 😛 ), cutting out nearly all dessert, reducing the intensity of my workouts across the board.
I have found it particularly difficult to balance my desire to be realistic about my expectations with my desire to not limit myself by putting expectations on myself at all. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been concerned that my struggle to believe I can actually run a 4:45 marathon will keep me from doing that. There was a point in my running career where I believed that was attainable, but after six years of chasing that goal and never even coming within spitting distance of it, it’s become much more difficult to believe that’s possible. I was reading through my pre-marathon Thursday Things post from 2015 the other day where I talked about intending to run a 4:35 marathon, and I could not believe that I actually hoped to run that fast. After three consecutive 5:00+ marathons, it’s incomprehensible to me that I ever aimed to do a 4:35.
What if it’s all in my head? What if the thing keeping me from doing a 4:45 (or a 4:35, for that matter) is that I can’t convince myself that it’s possible? When I ran my half marathon PR four years ago, the pacing groups were all listed by mile splits rather than by overall finish time. Having no idea what any of those splits translated to in terms of finishing times, I picked one that seemed reasonable. I didn’t know until well into the race that I had selected a pace group that would get me my ultimate dream goal time. If I had known from the start that they were shooting for a 2:05 half, I don’t think I ever would’ve lined up with that pace group. I would’ve been scared I couldn’t hang and would’ve lined up with a 2:10 pace group, thinking that seemed more reasonable. I didn’t think I could run a 2:05 half marathon. I ended up running a 2:02:50.
But what if it’s not? What if I truly am not capable of running a 4:45 marathon? What if the 4:52 I ran a few years back is the best I’ll ever be able to do? What if my marathon fate is to be a permanent member of the 5:00 Club?
You see how good of a job I’m doing not obsessing over the race on Sunday.
With all that being said, my hope/goal/dream for Sunday is to be fearless and limitless. I WILL. Even though I have talked without ceasing about my 4:45 time goal, I would like, ideally, to run without a time goal in mind.
I want to run fearlessly. Instead of holding myself back, worrying about what might happen in the last six to eight miles, I want to run boldly. I want to run responsibly, of course, so when I talk about running boldly, I’m not talking about going out at a 9:00 pace, or even a 10:00 pace, or, honestly, probably even a 10:30 pace. Last year, I went into the race with the plan to run the first half at an 11:30 pace because I knew I could run the whole race at (close to) an 11:30 pace, so if I just started there to begin with, I wouldn’t have too far to fall. It was safe. It was comfortable. But I don’t need a comfortable marathon this year. I felt like I cracked the code on how to run a comfortable marathon last year, and I’m happy with that. This year, I want to run the fastest marathon I’m capable of running, and I don’t expect that to be comfortable. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
I want to run without limits. I don’t want to restrict myself to a 4:45 if I’m able to run faster than that. I don’t want to box myself in, tell myself I don’t have the ability to do better than 4:45. Maybe I don’t! I don’t know! But I’d rather find that out by giving it my best shot rather than by never allowing myself to realize my potential in the first place.
I anticipate that Sunday’s race will be my last Chicago Marathon for awhile, mostly because I’m tired of committing to a wildly expensive race 10 months before race day. (Though who knows. In typical fashion, the closer I get to the race, the more my conviction to not run Chicago again wavers.) So, darn it, I want to go for it. I want to leave everything I have on the course. I know it’s nearly inevitable to avoid asking yourself, “What if?” after a marathon: what if I had gone out slower, or faster, or pushed a little harder in the middle miles, or sped up my walk breaks, or taken fewer walk breaks, or taken more walk breaks, etc. etc. etc. But the one question I do not want to ask myself is, “What if I had tried harder?” I want to cross that finish line knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I put everything I had into the race, knowing that I never gave up on myself, knowing that I ran the best I possibly could under the circumstances I faced. Whether that gives me a 4:30 finish or a 5:30 finish, that’s what I want: to be proud of the race I ran.
No fear. No limits. No regrets.
2. All that inspirational speech stuff aside, I have spent far too much time this week worrying about the forecast, and I’m annoyed with myself for worrying about it. For one thing, I know both from experience and from actual documentation that just because the forecast says one thing early in the week most certainly does not mean that it’s guaranteed to happen on Sunday. For another thing, I’ve been through this six times before!! I wrote an entire missive last year on the uselessness of worrying about the forecast for a marathon!
I know why I’m worried. I’m worried because the forecast includes thunderstorms, and the five forecasts I’ve been following all week aren’t budging on their inclusion of thunderstorms nearly as much as I’d like. As of Wednesday morning, Weather.com and Weather Underground had at least changed their forecasts to “PM Thunderstorms,” and WGN had dropped down from scattered thunderstorms to a 30 percent chance of showers (WGN had also dropped its predicted high for Sunday from 80 to 69, which I appreciated.). NBC Chicago and AccuWeather both still insist that there’s a chance it’ll storm in the morning. Yes, a chance that it will storm somewhere in the Chicago area Sunday morning is hardly an apocalyptic, damning forecast. But I still can’t help worrying about it, because if it storms during the race, you know they’ll black flag it, and that’ll be it.
I realize it’s not the end of the world by any means if I don’t finish the Chicago Marathon this year because the weather forces a mid-race cancellation, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I want the race to be cancelled in the middle of things. I have backup marathons picked out in case that happens, but that brings a whole other set of stressors, chiefly: what if they sell out between now and Sunday? I’ve come very, very close to registering for one of them “just in case,” because they’re both fairly affordable (compared to Chicago, at least), but I’m not sure if it makes sense to register for a marathon I have no intention of running unless the Chicago Marathon gets called mid-race when I have no way of knowing if the Chicago Marathon will get called mid-race until the day of the race itself.
I hate that I’m so stressed about all of this when I just want to relax in the days leading up to the marathon so I can have the best race possible. I just have these visions of 18 weeks of training harder than I’ve ever trained before going down the drain because it starts thunderstorming at Mile 20, and I can’t get into my backup marathon because it’s sold out. And, again, I realize it’s not the end of the world if that happens. There’s more to life than running marathons. But when there hasn’t been a whole lot more to your life than preparing for a marathon for the past four and a half months, when you’ve put everything else in your life on hold for the sake of preparing for a marathon for four and a half months, the idea of all of it being for nothing is pretty upsetting.
Yay race week.
If anyone has advice regarding registering for a race you hope to not run for the sake of getting in before it sells out, I’m all ears.
Who’ll be in Chicago this weekend for the race??