The New York City Marathon is less than two weeks away. That means I’m running reduced mileage, so that when I line up on the Verrazano bridge on November 2, my legs will be fresh and bouncy.
It also means I’m going a little crazy.
I know to expect a variety of physical symptoms to come and go over the next ten days: sniffles, odd twinges, inexplicable lethargy, shoes that just feel wrong.
Hardest to deal with, though, are the doubts. Did I train enough? Did I train the right way? Was I crazy to top out at long runs of 16-18 miles, when everyone else was going for 20 or even more? Will my 53-year-old body hold up for 26.2 miles, or will the endless hill that is Fifth Avenue between 120th and 90th streets turn me into a shuffling, deeply ashamed, zombie?
Like many women in my cohort, I was a late-onset runner. I came up just behind the pioneering generation of women distance runners, and while girls cross country existed at my high school in the late 1970s, I wanted nothing to do with it: I was a debater and quiz bowler and student journalist, utterly uninterested in (even hostile to) sports of all kinds.
As a consequence, when I finally took up running in my mid-30s – and became serious about it in my 40s – I had no experience of training. The idea that running more miles, even at a moderate pace, would eventually make me faster seemed absurd (it still strikes me as magical). I’ve since learned to accept, if not to entirely understand, the science of the various physiological adaptations that running at various paces for various distances produces.
The truly important lesson that I missed by not participating in sports during my high school and college years is the one about trusting your coach. That lesson doesn’t come easily, or naturally, or comfortably in adulthood. In fact, it sounds more than a little retrograde. (A “Question Authority” button is pinned to the bulletin board behind me even as I type this.) All the same, the only way to train for a marathon without actually running a marathon is to trust that your coach (real or virtual) knows what he* is doing.
On November 3,** I will return to my usual, skeptical self. I’ll quote Gramsci about pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will, etc. etc.. But until then, I’m setting all doubt aside. I am blindly, completely, fervently, even desperately trusting Keith and Kevin Hanson and my training.
Because, really, what else can you do?
*I write “he” advisedly, because all of the marathon plans I can think of are by men. Unfortunately.
**Just in time for Election Day, appropriately enough.