I have always had a tough time running in the fall. Between going back to work and getting my boys organized with school, sports and music, it takes a while for me to get full control over my personal agenda. This week, even with two busy nights and another staying at school until 8:00, was the first since September that I really feel like I’ve had a grasp on things.
When I planned my November marathon, I knew that training in September would be hard. October can be even trickier, as kids get sick (my own and my students, who send their germs in my direction) and you never know what Mother Nature may have in store. But, I needed the time for my long runs; a September or October marathon were simply not in the cards.
And, as it turns out, neither is a November marathon. Today I headed out for my 20 miler, my first long run in two weeks. I felt great heading out, and I ran well. Skipper, who decided at the last minute to join me, commented that I was running fast. “Seriously, Mom,” he said, “you’ve been ahead of me most of the way and I’m on my bike. Usually, you’re behind me.” He was right; when I got home and calculated my distance and pace, I realized that I was running just over 7 minutes per mile.
But, during my run, I just didn’t feel right. I felt tired – not cardio or muscle tired – just plain tired. After 8 miles, I started to wonder how much further (as if I didn’t know) and struck off every subsequent mile with a sigh of relief.
By the time I got to 11 miles, I started to notice a cramp in the back of my right calf. I’m sure this is driving-related, a result of the stop and go driving that happens in the city. And, I remembered how that same calf muscle seized up on me last November, resulting in a DNF at a 10K. The only thing that made sense at the time was to slow down my pace and that annoyed me.
I didn’t want a slow run (remember, I run naked so I really had no idea how fast I was going) and I don’t want a slow marathon on November 7th. Sure, I can probably run and finish 26.2 miles respectably, but I want to feel good about how I finish. I want to run a 3:30 time and, with the way I felt I was running today, that seemed unattainable in Hamilton. So, somewhere between Miles 11 and 13, I decided to bail on a fall marathon.
There are two truths behind my decision. First, I respect the marathon distance. I know what I need to do to get what I want from it, and that means several more months of training. A few weeks ago, while running with Shawn, I commented, “In an ideal world, I’d get 6 to 8 twenty milers in and I’d be able to do them every other week. I’d have more rest time and that’s important for us aging runners.” While I have 4 more weeks to go, I don’t feel that I’ve logged enough miles to run the way I want to run; I feel like I would just be running myself into the ground.
Secondly, I am a mom. I am 47 years old and have two young children, aged 4 and 9. They have to come first. They need me strong and healthy; running myself down, both literally and figuratively, is not fair to them when they want me to help with their homework, curl up in front of the t.v. or sit on the floor and play Superheroes.
So, at Mile 13, Skipper spotted the Superman phone booth across the street. We stopped our 20-miler and called Daddy to pick us up.
As soon as I got home, I e-mailed the race director to request my entry be transferred to the half-marathon. I’m hoping it won’t be difficult.
Does this decision upset me? Not at all. In fact, I feel relieved because I have many more months to train for the full marathon, whether it is in the spring or early fall. I have a solid base and can slowly build to run several, not just 3 or 4, long runs over the winter. Hubby commented that I probably won’t feel like running long on some winter days; that’s okay because I have time on my side.
The one thing that does make me sad, though, is The Book. Melinda Hinson Neely had selected me as one of the marathon runners she was writing about in her upcoming book on first-time marathoners. I felt especially honoured to be in it because I’m not a first-timer, but a returning marathon runner. Now that I’m not running a marathon for many more months, I’ll probably be out of the book.
But, I will be running that marathon and, now, it won’t be my first in 19 years; it will be my first in twenty. That sounds so much better, don’t you think?