Friday, April 3, 2015

Chasing A Sub-4 Hour Marathon

I vividly remember my first marathon.

I was in my senior year of college when a lacrosse teammate convinced me to sign up for the 2010 Chicago Marathon.  She told me that with all the running I was doing on the lacrosse field I could manage it.  I played center at the time, which is similar to a midfield player in soccer.  I was constantly going up and down the field and I never wanted to come off the field and take a break.  Never.  I remember playing 3 games in a row and waking up the next morning sore and in so much pain that I couldn’t get out of bed that day.  And yet I kept going.

Based off of my running on the field, I thought training for a marathon would be a piece of cake.  Maybe I’d even break the four hour mark so many runners are desperately chasing after.  I was able to tolerate up to 10 miles and did so at a reasonable time.

What changed for me was when I started running more than what my body was used to.  When I started to push past what were originally my limits, my body and running time slowed.  I had selected a random training plan online (Hal Higdon’s beginner marathon plan) and followed it blindly without understanding what the different types of runs meant.  I skipped runs here and there and never ran more than 18 miles.  20 miles at the time seemed too daunting.

The race crept up quickly and before I knew it I was at the starting line.

I slept in my friend’s apartment in the loop and spent most of the night awake listening to the El drive by every 15 minutes.

I woke in a 3 hour sleep haze, walked out of the building, and followed the rest of the runners gathering on the sidewalks to Grant Park. 

I got the starting line and walked into my corral. I panicked.  Thoughts started running through my head about if I could manage this huge undertaking.  I thought I could even die.  Why did I let a friend talk me into this craziness?

The gun went off and the runners starting moving through the streets of Chicago.  Once my legs started moving my mind quieted down.  I went through the halfway mark without any real mishaps.

I passed mile 18, smiling that I am now running further than I ever have! And then I hit the wall at mile 20.  In the Chicago Marathon, it’s an actual wall.  You hit the 20 mile marker and immediately do under a bridge with large concert walls surrounding it.  How metaphorical. 

I somehow managed the last 10K (without dying), though it was a complete blur that I cannot remember.  Your brain has a wonderful way of hiding trauma from you.  I finished in 4:25:.  I told my then boyfriend (now husband) I would never do it again.  We drove home and I immediately fell asleep.

4 years later I have run 4 more marathons, including two more Chicago Marathons and 3 half marathons.  I was hooked.  It’s extraordinary what the human body can do even under extreme duress.  I gradually worked at shortening my marathon time. From my first 26.2 in 4:25: to my most recent marathon in 2012 in 4:02:03.

I’m so close to breaking four hours I can taste it.

My most recent training is showing me I can push harder than I thought my body was possible.  I can tolerate a few 7:30 miles here and there and I can be comfortable at an 8:30 pace for long periods of time.

From the 2011 Chicago Marathon

My next race, the Chicagoland Spring Marathon, is less than 2 months away on May 17 and I cannot wait!

Always remember...

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