The Final Countdown

A lot can change in a month.

One month is enough time for the moon to orbit the entire Earth, or so my advanced degree in astrophysics has led me to believe.

One month is enough time for — count ’em — eleven magazines to pile up next to my bed in the vain hope I’ll read more than the Approval Matrix this time around.

One month is enough time to refill your prescriptions, mail your rent check, visit your parole officer and check in with all your werewolf friends.

Heck, just one month ago, the sun was setting at 7:30 p.m., the Orioles still had a shot at the playoffs and this heartbreaker was begging me to relocate her to New York City post-beach trip.

Really! You won't even notice me! I'll be waiting in your suitcase!
Really! You won’t even notice me! I’ll be waiting in your suitcase!

This picture was taken one month ago exactly. One month from today will be a completely different story.

One month from today, I’ll have completed the ING New York City Marathon.

When I first signed up for the race on April 24th, November 3rd was an elusive goal in the far-off future. With the marathon two seasons away, I knew I had all the time in the world to prepare for a record-breaking PR. I’ll get caught up on sleep closer to the race, I told myself all summer long. I’ll do speedwork come autumn. I promise to start strength training and do yoga and eat quinoa and save orphans but not yet. There’s still plenty of time.

And now I’m 30 days away, and — my god — I feel woefully unprepared.

I haven’t said these numbers outloud yet because I didn’t want to jinx myself, but what do I have to lose? I’d originally hoped to cross the finish line at 3:45 this year, shaving a challenging but achievable six minutes off my previous PR. As the summer progressed but my fitness did not, I revised that goal to matching — not exceeding — my 3:51 personal best. But as I struggled to hold even a 9:00 pace during last night’s 8-mile tempo run, I wondered whether I need to temper my November 3rd expectations further still. Maybe I should be targeting a more realistic 4:00 time. Maybe I should be aiming only to finish. Maybe I should forgo the race altogether and attend the mid-marathon brunch that’s being held in my honor instead. Mimosa race, anyone? Bloody Mary-thon?

That, my friends, was a RiledUpRunner original. RiledUp … Punner original? And I’m done.

The truth is, it shouldn’t matter what time I cross the finish line in one month’s time. But I’ve been training for this specific event so long that the extended build-up has allowed me to put entirely too much importance on this single race’s outcome. I officially started marathon training July 1, but I preceded that with eight weeks of base-building triathlon training, an April half and ten thousand climbs to my fifth-floor apartment. I feel like I’ve been in training mode since the day I left India.

Fact: This elephant also asked to come home in my suitcase.
Fact: This elephant also asked to come home in my suitcase.

That means for all intents and purposes I’ve been training for this goddamn race for six+ entire months. That’s six+ months of missed happy hours, six+ months of Saturday morning alarm clocks, six+ months of steady complaining (sorry, Ben.) As a result, I’ll feel like those six+ months of sacrifice will have been wasted if I don’t perform to the best of my abilities come race day, especially because I’m not wholly sure if I have it in me to do it all again.

Yes, I love running, but do I love running enough to dedicate a third straight summer to marathon training? At this very second, I’d say no.

But who knows how I’ll feel come November 3rd? A lot can change in a month.

And just in case it turns out I do, in fact, want to compete in a third marathon, I’ve just taken my girl Meredith’s suggestion and entered the highly unlikely lottery for the Berlin 2014 marathon. Because while it’s true a lot can change in a month, something tells me even more can change in a year. Twelve times more, to be precise, which I, as an astrophysicist, always am.

What are your fall race goals and how optimistic are you you’ll meet them?


4 thoughts on “The Final Countdown

  1. My fall marathon goals crashed and burned in the Pinelands last Saturday. Hard to PR with a broken collarbone. There’s always next year!

    You’re almost to taper time. That’s when you’re most mentally and physically fatigued. Get through the taper crazies and I’m sure you’ll do great!

    My friend just ran Berlin and absolutely loved it. Definitely a bucket list marathon.

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