Sunday, June 3, 2012

How did I know I was ready for a marathon?

By the time I committed to run my first marathon, I had been thinking about running a marathon for a while. Well over a year. Something always got in the way, though. I wasn't sure I had the time. I didn't like running outside in the cold. I didn't have the desire or motivation to train for and run a marathon.

Then I completed my first 20-mile run. There was no reason why I ran that 20-mile run. I was training for a fall half marathon. I didn't need to run that far. I went along with friends who were training for marathons. And yet it wasn't awful. I figured I'd run 15 miles and then stop, but at 15 miles, I said, "Eh. What's another 5 miles?" Yes, it was hard at the end. Yes, I was sore the next day. Yes, I had a boost in my confidence. It was time for a marathon.

That confidence boost was probably the biggest reason why I plunked down and committed to a marathon. I believed I could do it.

I briefly considered switching from a half to full marathon that fall, but one great 20-mile run does not mean you are ready for a marathon. It was a smart move. I wasn't physically ready for a marathon, but more importantly I wasn't mentally ready for a marathon. Well, I PRed at the half marathon after PRing at another half marathon two weeks earlier (and one week after the 20 miler). I was pleased with my half marathon performances. It was definitely time.

I decided to pick one of the Rock N Roll marathons. I had another Rock N Roll race already lined up, and I wanted a Heavy Medal. I had a cancelled airline ticket that I had to use up soon. So I picked Rock N Roll Mardi Gras in New Orleans. There were 16 weeks before the race (I started at week 3 of my 18-week plan instead of week 1, and even that was a step back from my half marathon training), it was flat, and there were reasonable reviews on Marathon Guide. I plotted a training plan. I ran all winter. Off I went to New Orleans. Good things happened. I'm not sure I'd recommend Rock N Roll New Orleans as a first marathon (due to changes in the second half of the course that make it very isolated), but it was a good first marathon choice the year I ran. The weather, my race strategy, and the flat course got me to the finish line a full 4 minutes 30 seconds under my perfect day goal.

I was hooked. Yes, I liked marathons. In some ways, the marathon itself was the icing on the cake. It was more about the journey. I learned more from training for marathons that I ever imagined, and definitely more than from marathons themselves. In little more than a year, I now have 5 marathons on the books, 2 BQ marathons, 1 more planned for this year, and at least 1 planned for next spring. Big ones, small ones, and everything in between. Not perfect races, perfect races, and everything in between yet again.

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