“If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”
–my youth pastor (!) when I was in middle school
As bizarre or comical as that quote may be, it seems that that’s the mantra for many athletes, professional or amateur, who try to cut corners in their training or performance days and claim that they’re the cat’s pajamas at their sport. Running, luckily, doesn’t really permit that to happen. We put one foot in front of the other. If we lie and say that we took two steps, instead of 1, it’s obvious. If we say we can run faster than we really can, it shows. Our sport’s brutal honesty humbles us and, perhaps more importantly, keeps us grounded.
This week is my last pre-Akron Marathon “peak” week, since school starts on 9/9 and the race is on 9/26. I had a pleasant run home on Tuesday, a speed work-out with an old coach and his new training group last night (800m repeats), and this morning, ran to work along the lakefront amidst a fresh sunset. Most of my speed this summer has consisted of running fartleks during an otherwise relaxed run or doing end-of-run strides or pick-ups, so I thought I’d vary it this week and aim to do a fast mile in the middle of my relaxed runs. Tuesday afternoon that meant running a 7:30 mile; this morning, a 7:29 mile. It was liberating.
Though I haven’t cut corners in this summer’s training, I definitely scaled back substantially from my winter/spring training, when I was training to run my first Boston. Post-Boston, I did simple maintenance work to prepare myself for Rockford — this meant long, slow runs and relaxed mid-week runs, but not much in the way of formal speedwork — and I quickly bounced back from my 3:47 in Boston to a 3:39 in Rockford (placing me in the top 10 women finishers– 8th, I think–and earning me 3rd place age-group honors, booyah!). In the days leading up to Rockford, I continually doubted myself, thinking that I hadn’t trained enough for that specific race (even though I had come off the heels of my Boston training), and at times, I seriously considered not running it. I’m so glad I decided otherwise.
I’m looking forward to running Akron in 23 days, and my primary goal is to improve last year’s 3:55 performance, when I made some stupid mistakes and caused myself to bonk. I’m not having it this year. I plan to run with the 3:40s and hang on for as long as I can. It’d be wonderful to BQ on the home course, but if it doesn’t happen, I’ll just shoot for it a month later, when I run the MCM.
Perhaps what I love, more than anything, about running is that I’m responsible for my performance. I can’t blame anyone else for how I do on race day but myself. I choose my clothes, I handle my nutrition, I’m the one putting one foot in front of the other… and in a way, on bad days, knowing that I’m the sole agent responsible for my performance can be irritating. Most days, though, it’s exhilarating, especially when I’m in the throes of a good run or, even better, long-term-goal planning. Make your experience that which you want. Lying about it doesn’t help anyone… especially not you!
I’ll be venturing back to NE OH this Labor Day weekend to shack-up with my sister and her 6-week-old son. I’m stoked. 🙂 I’ll also be running 20 miles of the Akron course, which also gives me something else to look forward to. And the weather looks promising, too. A mink can’t complain.
Run on, and run happy.