When I signed up for my first marathon six years ago, I figured I would start with just doing one and see how it goes. After finishing that one I said I would run the marathon five times. The logic was simple. The 5th marathon would be when I turned 40 and what a better way to celebrate than with five marathons under your belt. (Well … that and beer. 🙂 )
Going into each marathon, Coach Joe always told me that there is just one goal. “To finish. Unless they are physically putting you into the ambulance you keep going.” To this day I tell myself that at the start of every race, no matter what the distance, but deep down I really wanted to run a sub 4 hour marathon. After the first three marathons of 4:30, 4:48 and 4:30 again, that 4 hour mark seemed impossible to get to and the wall keep hitting me at mile 20.
So moving into marathon number four with some much needed prodding from Coach Joe, I started addressing some of the issues around my running: (a) Doing more physical therapy to strengthen my leg muscles to reduce the issues with my knees and (b) Doing a massage every four weeks. (Shout out to Sarah and Experience Massage!) Combining this with the strong running from first three marathons, I was able to crank out 4:11 and 4:04 for marathons four and five, respectively. Still… No sub 4 marathon.
So going into this race season, I signed up for marathon number six just to take another crack at the sub 4. Leading into the race, I can honestly say it was a perfect training season. I PR’d my spring half, completed the majority of my workouts without injury or illness and made it through the 20 mile training run in 3:13.
Race day was also perfect, 40 degree weather and an updated flatter course. I started out and held a perfect 8:38 pace for the first 20 miles. This was much faster than I had trained for but speed was on my side and I was in the zone. Moving into mile 22, I started feeling a ripple in my right calf and by mile 23 both calf muscles kept tightening up. I ran/walked (not by choice) most of miles 24 and 25 to regroup and allow my legs to rest and stretch out. All I wanted to do was walk the rest of the way but I kept telling myself, “If you don’t run, you won’t make that sub 4.” So I hobbled towards the finish line. A quarter mile from the finish line was Coach Joe, screaming at me to run faster! Crossing the finish line, I looked down at my watch, 3:59:59. (Official time: 3:59:54.) I had made it. It wasn’t pretty and not how I planned it, but it was sub 4. 🙂