Part 1: The Marathon. How It All Began

I was a surprise. With 7 years between me and my closest sibling, saying I’m the baby of the family is an understatement.  Being the baby didn’t mean I wasn’t going to claw and fight my way into the mischief and general competitiveness of my sisters and brother. Being the baby also didn’t mean I was treated like the baby. (OK, that second part is a lie…)

With older, stronger, taller, smarter, cousins and siblings being my main competitors I didn’t win a lot.  But I did learn a lot. I learned that competition is far more about getting back in the fight than the actual act of winning.  Learning this lesson was a process.  The Inner City Steppers Track Club hosted all comer track meets at Madison High School on Wednesday nights during the summer months.  As a 1st grader I typically ran the distance events, the 200 and the 400 meters, yes distance events (as opposed to the 50 and 100m).  One evening I lined up for the 200, and the starter sent us off.  50 meters in I found my self in last place, 100 meters in I was far behind, at 150 I stepped off the track… before I could sit down in the grass a small hand firmly gripped my arm and in a tone I hadn’t heard before, my Mom said, “You never quit.” Her usually gentle eyes made it clear, I was going to finish the race.

My Dad ran a lot, marathons, Hood to Coast, etc,  and I would make him take me running and to local road races.  My siblings were all moved out and in college by the time I was in middle school, but the local road race scene proved more than enough competition for me to channel my need for competition. In 5th grade I figured out that to make the Sydney Olympic Marathon Team, you had to run the Olympic Trials.  So I dug around on the USATF website and found that to make the Olympic Marathon Trials you had to run a marathon in 2:22, with some quick research on Google I discovered the Cool Running Pace Calculator a tool that would tell you the average pace and splits for any race distance.  I learned that running just over 5:24 per mile 26 times would qualify me for the Olympic Trials.  Considering my mile PR was a stout 5:59, I blindly considered this goal very doable!  I upped my training plan and started every recess with 8 laps on the dirt track at Glencoe Elementary.Train hard, race harder, repeat.  In 2004 I remember spending my lunch break reading Track and Field News in the CCHS Library, I looked at the photos of Alan Culpepper, Meb Keflezighi and Dan Browne racing through the cold streets of Birmingham, Alabama and thought, I’ve got to run this race. Train hard, race harder, repeat. After the 08 trials the qualifying time was lowered to 2:18:30 and after the 2012 Trials I discovered 5:17 pace wasn’t going to be good enough to get into the 2016 Trials, 2:18:00 was the new qualifying time, requiring 5:15 pace for the 26+ mile race… Train hard, race harder, repeat.  Fast forward to California International Marathon last year. You can read that story/blog here.  In 2013 I missed the Trials qualifying time by 26 seconds.   I learned lessons during that race that I applied to my training and racing during 2014, namely, you don’t need to lead the first half of the race, especially in a marathon.  (And for all of you who reminded me of that over the past week, Thank you).

The training segment for the last ten weeks has gone pretty well, not amazing, but got some pretty good quality efforts in.  Based on the previous years workouts I estimated I was about a second a mile or about 20-25 seconds over the course of the marathon better than last year…that would leave me at 2:18.01. A very empty feeling PR. So I did what I’ve done 100 times before, I went for it anyway.

I’ll post Part 2 of this blog…soon, probably tomorrow.


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