When I tell people I’m training for the New York City Marathon, I get one of four responses.
- Cool. Is this your first? (Nope, it’s my second NYC and my fourth overall. Please don’t let your face drop in disappointment when I reveal I’ve done this before: I’m still excited like a butterball turkey who makes it to see Black Friday. Be excited with me, even if I’m a repeat offender.)
- Wow. I could never do that. (Yes, you could. If you start incrementally and build up, your body could do this, too, but only if you want it to. Running a marathon isn’t the only sign of physical fitness, and as long as you’re getting out and moving in some way, shape or form, you’re doing just fine. We all need to stop comparing ourselves to each other, myself included.)
- Neat! Are you going to win? (Either you’ve never heard of Kenya or you’re a real jokester. Hey, here’s a little joke I just wrote for you: Knock knock! [Who’s there?] Kenya! [Kenya who?] Kenya picture me beating defending 2014 champion Mary Keitany’s 2:25:07 finishing time on Nov. 1? Thank you folks, I’m here all night.)
The fourth response I sometimes get when I announce I’m running the marathon is this: Woah. Are you ready?
Maybe I’m reading into it, but this question always feels a bit loaded to me. You’re seriously asking me if I’m ready for the marathon? Do you know how many things I had to do in order to secure a spot in this coveted race? Last year, I had to run at least nine New York Road Runner races, and then stand outside volunteering at a tenth one at an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning. Next, I had to pay $216 to turn that guaranteed spot into an actual registration, and to top it all off, I’ve woken up before the sun six out of seven days of the week for the last four months to work my body into good enough shape to make it through all five boroughs on the first Sunday in November without my legs giving out. I’m working my butt off over here, folks. How dare you imply I might not be ready?
Luckily, before I say all of that out loud, I usually realize they meant well and I’m just projecting. Because, if I’m really honest with myself, despite all the time I’ve put into this, it’s certainly possible I’m not actually ready. Let’s be honest here: I haven’t gotten down to my goal weight where I know I’ll race my fastest. I’ve barely done any speed or strength work in the months since my training began. My knees are still achy, my hip flexors are still tight, and I somehow still can’t make it up to my fifth floor walkup without huffing and puffing. And let’s not forget the amazing family wedding fast approaching next weekend that I know will see me throw all caution to the wind and trade in my training regimen for mimosas and mini gyros. (You DID choose the mini gyros Tom, didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU?!)
These periods of pre-marathon self-doubt nearly always rear their ugly heads during the final few weeks of training. Fortunately, this year, I think I’ve devised the perfect defense: I’m only focusing on the positives. And, oh boy, have there been a lot of positives these last few weeks:
- I raced the eternally boring 18-mile New York Road Runner’s marathon tune-up in late September – three unending, monotonous loops around Central Park – and finished just 10 seconds slower than I did in 2012, the year I ran my fastest marathon ever.
- I did my first 20 miler last week, during which I ran four city bridges in both directions, and at mile 8 – no big deal – spotted the pope.
- I ran Grete’s Great Gallop half marathon this morning – it’s amazing how two laps of the park feels like a gift from the pontiff himself after doing three just two weeks before – and maintained my marathon goal pace of 8:35 a mile. It wasn’t my fastest half marathon, but I also wasn’t aiming for it to be. It was a chance to practice my hydration strategy, do some race-pace speed work, hone my weaving skills and make sure I’m ready for the marathon that’s just four weeks away.
And you know what? After these three semi-major accomplishments, I think I can finally answer that question the way I want to. Am I ready for this thing? You betcha. Let’s do this, New York.