When my friend Megan and I decided to sign up for the Lehigh Valley VIA Marathon earlier this year, I was 100% committed. That never wavered throughout the entire training cycle. I never skipped a long run and I never cut a workout short (yes, that is the first time both of those things have been true statements for me). Not only did I never skip a long run, but I also never once even dreaded a long run – that was a true mental breakthrough. I trained more consistently and much harder than I ever have before. I averaged 46mpw through the cycle (small potatoes for most marathoners, but consider I averaged 25mpw prior to Shamrock and 38mpw prior to Wineglass) and hit new paces in workouts that I never would’ve dreamed of last year (long tempos at 7:10-7:15 pace, what the what?!).
On race day? I ran 4:00:38.
Laura (the most amazing friend and race supporter you could ever hope to have) dropped me off at the start line that morning and I as I hung around stretching and hydrating, I realized I was freezing. I also made a mental note of how little I would appreciate that irony later on when I was sweating to death and about to keel over.
At the start, Megan and I agreed we were going for it – that was the whole reason, the entire purpose of choosing Lehigh. It was BQ or bust and we wouldn’t be deterred. I have no regrets about that.
Unfortunately, even from the start it never felt easy. First 6 miles: 8:16, 8:12, 8:13, 8:19, 8:07, 8:07. We saw Laura on the course around this point, and I already knew I was in trouble. The 8:07s were a little aggressive, but make no mistake – I do not believe this was poor pacing. Considering the past two marathons where I set out at 8:00 pace, I was really striving to keep it contained in the first few miles. I was hoping that eventually my legs would just wake up.
They never did.
Temperature at the start was hovering around 64 degrees, the humidity was a brutal 90%. This became readily apparent once we started running. Oh to be freezing at the start line once again!
Somewhere around mile 11 or 12, I let Megan go ahead. I could tell she was feeling a bit better than I was and I needed to start really pulling it back. Around mile 14, I was struggling to get a pack of SportBeans open so I stopped to walk. I pulled myself back together and ran all of mile 15 (8:44). I never saw another 8:xx mile for the rest of the race.
The next 5 miles are just a blur of misery in my brain. Lots of canal path. Lots of other people trying to be encouraging as they ran by. Lots of hating myself and hating marathons.
When I finally saw Laura at mile 20, I just flipped a double bird. My attitude was shit, my quads were absolutely shot, and my hip felt like it was broken. In fact, I’m pretty sure I said “my hip is broken” about 729 times between mile 20 and the finish. I was an absolute delight to be around, I’m sure. If you’ve ever bonked in a major way at a marathon, you know exactly how this feels. If you haven’t … well, I’m not nearly a good enough writer to do it justice. I just hope you never do experience it because your brain can pull some pretty nasty tricks on you. Some of my lowest lows have come in the last 10 miles of a marathon. (That’s entirely a white privilege/first world problems statement right there, but I hope you get what I’m saying.)
I started pushing a bit once I could see the finish, but pushing at that point was roughly equivalent to hobbling with a desperate expression on my face. I crossed at just a smidge over 4 hours and was mildly happy to at least have come in under my CIM time. No personal worst today, I RULE!
I’ll note that Megan, while not having the race she wanted, still managed to PR and come in around 3:48. She is pretty damn awesome.
So where does that all leave me? Blame it on the weather? Well, as I mentioned earlier, that’s tricky and feels a bit like a scapegoat at this point.
If it’s not weather, it’s misjudging my fitness. That’s where I get frustrated. Could I run more miles? Yes – and that’s the goal I’m working towards. I find it hard to believe, though, that I can run a 3:45 on 25mpw but shooting for 3:35 on 45mpw is so aggressive that I bonk as hard I have.
At this point, the only conclusion I can come to is that the training I have been doing is not working for me. If you want to change the results, you have to change the training, right? So in the past few weeks, I have been talking to a few people, researching some things, and trying to figure out a path forward. I know I will run another marathon again and I know that a BQ will happen eventually. I just need to figure out how to get myself there.
If it was easy to run a well-executed marathon, well, it just wouldn’t be that fun, would it?