Redefining Success & Marathon Training When You're Slow As Heck

turtle

I'm in week 12 of marathon training. 

Last Saturday, I hit a new personal record for distance run, pushing my self up to about 28 kilometres—1000 metres for every year of my life. I've never had physical anxiety before a training run, but I did before that one. I had no idea how my legs would fare, or how my brain would cope.

It was a tough-ass-run. Probably about 30 C with 90 per cent humidity. I got rained on—twice. It seemed to stretch on forever, like empires rose and fell while I was struggling those loops.

Shortly after that, I discovered the Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon—my end game, my dream—has a 6-hour time limit. For the rest of the day, I caught myself doing intense running math. If I kept the same pace, would I make it to the finish line on time? How much faster would I need to go to make it without being swept off the course? What about my MEDAL?

I was, for lack of a better word, shook. 

Running Scared

When I expressed this anxiety to friends and family, reactions varied. Most were quick to assure me that I was going to be fine—that I would pull it off. I wanted to believe them but, the truth is, there’s no way to know.

When I started training for this run I told myself there were no guarantees of success—I also told myself I was okay with that. Suddenly, faced with this time limit, it was very clear I wasn't so nobly above wanting a crowd to meet me or a medal.

Fact: runners get hurt. Other fact: start lines can be as hard to get to as finish lines—but a finish line is just that little bit further. Even if you make it through training without injury, you might injured on the day. If you’re too slow, you might be pulled off before you even see that victorious "finish" banner.

So now I'm faced with the fear that every step I take is moving me towards a moment I don't get to see and a finish line that isn't actually mine. I’m honing myself to recognize all the work I'm doing now, just to make it to race day and beyond, as an accomplishment.

A Marathon Is A Marathon

Does this mean I'm going to ease up? Or try less because I'm trying to understand that struggle doesn't just lead to success, struggle itself is success?

Heck no. I'd venture to say I'm probably going to push harder to do the best I can, so no matter my results, I can be proud of my accomplishments.

The best feedback I got about this subject was from a friend and fellow runner: “you might just have to finish on the sidewalk.”

A marathon is a marathon is a marathon.

If I run 42 km, I'm a marathoner, whether there's a huge crowd or there's nobody but me there to see it. I'll be the first to admit that the finish line of my dreams is surrounded by roaring people spurring me to the last few steps... But if that ending is not in the cards, I'm preparing for anything. Everything.