Tomorrow morning, Eric and I will board a Northeast Regional train so that I can join the 121st running of the Boston marathon (the 46th in which women have been officially allowed to compete) on Monday. It’s kind of a big deal – and yet, have I ever been so nonchalant about a marathon?
Here are a few indicators:
- I waited until Tuesday night to load Boston and Hopkinton onto my phone’s weather app, and I’ve only checked it once since then. Maybe twice.
- I have yet to study an elevation profile of the course.
- I’m not experiencing any phantom injuries.
- I have only the vaguest idea of where the Expo is being held and no idea how to get there from our hotel.
- I’ve skimmed the participant guide, but don’t plan to actually read it until we’re on the train . . . if I read it at all.
This is quite a change from 2015, when I blogged obsessively about my quest to qualify for Boston. It’s as though that effort – which landed me in the medical tent – also sapped my desire to blog about marathon training forevermore. Which is a shame, in a way. Training through the winter for a spring marathon poses some special challenges (even when the winter is mild, as this one was), and there was plenty of blog fodder in my long runs through north Brooklyn and Queens. But instead, I chose to shut up, put my head down, and plow on through.
My training was definitely more relaxed than my 2015 regimen, but I managed to get in decent workouts and respectable mileage. A weekly session of three miles of fast repeats in different permutations (12x400m, 4x1200m, etc.) over the first month, upped to 5-6 miles at a slightly slower pace beginning in February. Weekly marathon-pace tempo runs of six to ten miles. Three 16 mile runs, one 18 mile run, and one 20-miler. A five-week stretch in which my weekly mileage topped 60 (biggest week: 67 miles). Two long races six weeks apart – a hilly 10 miles in 1:23:17 and a windy half marathon in 1:50:11.
All of which would seem to indicate that cracking 4 hours one last time is a reasonable goal.
On the other hand, a lot of things I’d promised to do better this time fell by the wayside. My hand weights stayed dusty and secure in their hidey place beneath the bookshelf. Core work – are you kidding? I ate as much meat and fat and sugar and crusty white bread as ever. I was inconsistent in my use of energy gels on long runs (I even managed to lose the one I’d brought along on my 20-miler). And while I’m off booze this week (well, except for a taste – by which I mean, half a glass – of wine with dinner on Tuesday), the same cannot be said of the last three months as a whole. (In fact, my belated discovery of a fantastic cocktail lounge just a few blocks from me probably upped my alcohol intake compared to past training cycles.)
My (very loose) race plan is to start out conservatively, running no faster than 9:10 miles for the first 10, and then either sustaining that pace or picking it up a bit (with the Newton hills a wild card). Goals? I would like to break 4 hours; I would definitely like to beat Paul Ryan’s real marathon time of 4:01:25 (the Speaker’s time is about as impressive as his vaunted policy wonkery); if you were to twist my arm (not even very hard), you could probably get me to confess that a finish slower than 4:15 would be a disappointment. That said, my priority is to finish upright, smiling, under my own power, and fully aware of my surroundings.
The most humbling aspect of the very humbling process of getting to the starting line was learning that I would be starting in Wave 4 of the race – ahead of the charity runners, but behind pretty much everyone else. That means that when I cross the start in Hopkinton a little after 11:15, the leaders will be 16 miles down the road, approaching Newton. When the finish tape is broken, I’ll be well short of the 10K mark, slogging my way over the discarded water cups and gel packets of more than 22,000 faster runners. (Let’s not even contemplate the likely state of the port-a-johns.) To be doing this in the middle of the day (did I train during the middle of the day? no, of course not), after the cheering crowds, thirsty and hoarse, have headed home – well, it’s not the Boston of arrogant, youthful dreams. It’s the Boston of determined middle age.
And I’m looking forward to it.
I may do a quick pre-race update from Boston (which, if I manage it, will be my first all-iPhone post) – if not, expect a race report next week.