I began 2020 as I do every year, reflecting on the previous 365 days- reviewing my goals, memories, lessons, and moments of joy, peace, and frustration. I am always sure to dedicate time to look back on the year before gearing up for the year to come- setting new goals, or revising old ones, and coming up with a plan of attack.
One of my five goals for the year was to run a new Marathon Personal Best. The first step along that road was to sign up for a race. This step was quite easy.
The next step, a bit more gruelling, was to train. I am quite happy with last year’s running (A new half marathon PB, a Boston PB, and my first ever Ultra Marathon), and knew those miles would make for a strong foundation this season.
An exercise in being Weatherproof, the weather most Saturday mornings this season was grim. An unpleasant sight when the alarm sounded, the weather made the act of rolling out of bed a bit horrible. Nevertheless, I traded my cozy duvet for hours of cold, damp, and windy running- an exercise in character-building, discomfort tolerating, and mental stamina. It is with extreme gratitude that I did not brave the elements and distance alone, as my friend and I committed to the same race and “Legs Feed the Wolf” PB mindset. We faced the elements together and distracted ourselves with the usual good chat and discussion of what foodstuffs would be eaten upon arrival back inside.
Training long runs at a pace that would blow my previous PB way (way, way, waaaaaay) out of the water, I was really excited for the upcoming race and long weekend excursion that would come with it. Knowing this race was to have pacers and good crowds, I was feeling confident in my ability to not only achieve one of my goals for 2020, but quite possibly exceed my expectations.
But then life happened. Amongst its other damages (of which I am sure you are well aware), COVID saw the postponement and cancellation of the world’s spring marathon calendar. A tiny speck in the grand scheme of things, sure, but a significant detail in the lives of those who thrive on the physical and mental benefits of running, as well as its life-affirming community aspects.
The postponement of the race came during peak training- longer than long runs at the weekend, intense mid-week sessions, and the structure and purpose that accompany that regimen. Knowing that I get sick in the couple weeks following a marathon, as a result of relaxing the mileage and intensity, and being on the other side of the the event that I was so looking forward to, I decided it would be in my best health interest (physical and mental) to continue training, so long as it complied with government lockdown regulations.
While I was sad that that meant solo long runs and interval sessions, I was still grateful that I could get outside and continue training. At this time, it was the only thing in my life that I could control, and I was determined to complete the plan and run the marathon distance on what would have been race day.
Makeshift Marathon approached quickly and with the same excitement as an official marathon. I came up with a plan of attack for the 26.2 mile quest. A very different approach than the marathons I’ve run previously, the Makeshift Marathon course consisted of nothing more than one-mile laps around my neighborhood and a bag of water and snacks left of the front steps.
I played around with ideas for the route, but I had no desire to carry 26.2 miles worth of fuel. Further, you don’t always need a toilet when you’re running a marathon, but you do need the knowledge that there’s an accessible toilet nearby. Knowing that there wouldn’t be any options to stop and refill or release, the scale tipped heavily towards the logistical ease of laps. Running laps for hours is definitely a mental game, but the comfort of knowing I wasn’t going to run out of water and had a toilet readily available if need be, is a mental stronghold from the start.
I typically approach long races by breaking them up into manageable segments. Laps lend themselves easily to this approach. It went a little something like this: I’d run three one-mile laps and then 0.2 miles back to my front steps for water, 0.2 miles back to start of the one mile loop, and then repeated until it was over. I did nothing more than count to three, and the Garmin did the rest, and honestly, it wasn’t as terrible as it sounds.
“Wow, when did I run nineteen miles?” I thought to myself when my Garmin chimed in mile number nineteen. It wasn’t until the last 10km that I started to get a bit tired, but that’s pretty much on par with any marathon, so we can’t blame the monotony of laps here!
The run was strong and controlled, yet the pace was challenging and the good kind of uncomfortable. And just like a real race, I finished in the best way possible- feeling like I could not have run any faster. I ran the absolute best time that my body would allow in that moment and under those conditions. In my opinion, that is exactly what it means to win your marathon. Distance running is such a dynamic sport- there are so many variables on race day and so many different factors that affect your training season. Making it to every start line is a different journey, and each race is such a different experience, they can’t be compared mile-for-mile.
I shaved ten minutes off my previous PB, putting a bold check mark next to this goal. This has certainly kept me going, as the other four goals for 2020 have been seriously hindered by this whole COVID thing. Thankfully, marathon running has taught me the skills to adapt, persevere, and endure, which are top skills during a time like this, so thanks, as always, to this great sport that is simple, but hardly ever easy.
Thank You Notes
- Thank you to two wonderful friends from Run Club who stopped by as I was heading into the final set of three laps. Absolutely perfect timing and a much needed, socially distant, morale boost.
- Thank you to Post-Long Run Chocolate Milk for being a delightful recovery tool. Go ahead, Frequent Flyers, roll your eyes at yet another ode to chocolate milk, but I cannot and will not forgo a Choccy Milk TY Note.
- Thank you to everyone who has been following the rules and the science these past few months. Let’s continue to do that and look out for each other as best we can.