There’s a little tag on my keychain that looks from afar like any grocery-store or bookstore discount card. I first clipped it on in
July, to remind myself there was a reason I was suffering through hour-long core- and hip-strengthening workouts a few times a week, and kept it on when I started my training plan a month late thanks to a flareup of an old hip injury.
It reads, simply, “Motivated,” and bears the Marine Corps Marathon logo. Cheesy as it is, that keychain has reminded me why it was important to get out the door for a long run, stop at the pool on my way home to cross-train, skip the glass of wine at dinner and accomplish a number of other small tasks on my way to the starting line.
With less than a week to go, I’m motivated my what the keychain represents to me now: a symbol of the hard work I’ve put in over the past six months or so, all of which has prepared me to tackle the marathon this coming weekend.
Here’s a roundup of the other stuff that’s motivating me this week:
- Remembering all the hard workouts I’ve done in the past few months. I routinely train at 8-minute mile pace, and that’s conversational now (until the end, of course, when I can converse only in gasps and wheezes). My first marathon wasn’t such a speedy one, but I can run faster now because I train faster. Simple, right? I also train to run faster at the end of a run than before, even on long runs. I feel confident I can do the same in the marathon. Most importantly, I’ve focused on making myself a stronger overall athlete, withstanding months of boring leg lifts and humiliating BOSU balance work to make my core and hips less flimsy.
- Knowing “Spirit of the Marathon” is waiting for me on hulu.com. I’ve been saving this one for the week before the race, and I’m anxious to finally dig into it.
- The amazing comments from my friends and family, who are so confident — more so than I am — that I’m gonna kick butt next weekend. My mom told me recently she thinks of me, then adds extra minutes to her morning walk. My friend Courtney asked me to think of her in mile 17, and to imagine her reminding me that whole mile that I OWN this race. Ron, who publishes the highly entertaining and very insightful blog, Punk Rock Tri Guy, told me this marathon should merely serve as a victory lap – my reward for months of hard training. What a wonderful reminder of the sentiment George Sheehan expressed this way: “Some think guts is sprinting at the end of a race. But guts is what got you there to begin with. Guts start back in the hills with 6 miles to go and you’re thinking of how you can get out of this race without anyone noticing.”
- Continuing to visualize the miles of the Marine Corps Marathon on training runs and during cross-training workouts. Last week, I went through miles one through five. Today, I’m imagining miles five through 10. Check out my visualization techniques, borrowed from Runner’s World’s “Guide to Running,” here.
Finally, there was my 10-miler at marathon goal pace on Sunday, my one last “long” run before the real taper for the Marine Corps Marathon began. Though I’ve been winding down for the past two weeks, the real rest comes this week. I’ve got nothing but two easy 3-milers on my training schedule for the week, plus a few chilled-out cross-training days, so this last 10-miler at marathon goal pace, roughly 9-minute miles, was the last item to cross of my training calendar.
Despite forecasts warning of a 100 percent chance of rain this morning, I got a blessed break, and it was cool and dry when I headed out – perfect running weather. I was shocked to find it really, truly difficult to stick to 9-minute-mile pace for the first few miles, and I had to remind myself that I’ll have the long uphills in the first miles of the marathon will hold me back on race day. I also reminded myself that amazingly, it will take all the willpower I’ve got to try to stick with that goal pace in the last miles of the marathon.
So on the 10-miler, I exercised patience, holding back in the beginning, and finishing with 1.5 miles at 8-minute-mile pace or faster, despite a long, slow uphill the last mile and a quad-burner of a steep hill before it. The hard work is done. Let the true taper begin!