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I sit here one week out from running marathon #6 suffering from a very familiar feeling of immense apprehension. Strike that, let’s call it what it is: fear. Truth be told, the marathon scares me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the race, and I love the distance, but the feelings of self-doubt that are now running through my head seem nearly impossible to ignore. I think about all of the things that can go wrong: will my fueling be sufficient, will the weather cooperate, was my training enough, can I even hold my desired pace? I fear letting my friends and supporters down – lots of people have assured me that a BQ will come, but me, I’m just not that confident. One would think that experience should have banished some of these thoughts, but alas, here I am – one week until I run the Hampton Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon, and I’m already feeling the butterflies awakening in my gut.
Perhaps moreso than anything else, I fear “the wall.” I have run headlong into the wall in four of my five marathons to date, and in no case has it been pleasant. The feeling of a smooth stride devolving into a pained shuffle is one that I cannot forget. Memories of the energy rapidly draining from my body make me tremble. The thought of a colossal bonk preventing me from reaching my goal of a PR or even maybe a BQ is ever-present when I am out training on the road. I’d like to think that these feelings are common, but I don’t know. I just know that they are common for me.
Despite my fears, I have learned a thing or two over my five previous 26.2 mile races. I now understand the importance of proper pacing – if I go out too fast and try to hold on, I’m going to be toast. Disney Marathon 2010 taught me that, as my negative split from the first to second half result in a big PR and my fastest miles occurred in the final six. I have learned that fueling well is important, and that over-hydrating prior to the race can be problematic with respect tip bio-breaks. I have learned that having a relaxed approach to a race can be beneficial – I won’t be poring over course maps and elevation profiles this week – I plan to just take what happens as it comes.
Despite all of these lessons learned, I still worry about how I will do. I’m confident I can avoid the wall if I run negative splits or chug along at a relatively steady pace. The problem is how to know what pace that is? Should I go out at 7:28min/mile BQ pace and risk an inevitable crash since my training has been erratic this summer due to baby related time constraints? Should I just run the race with my friends at a slightly slower pace with the sole goal of having fun and trying to pick up a new PR? How will the cold that nailed me this week and caused me to take four days off affect me? How will my retooled stride hold up over the distance? I’m very comfortable with my midfoot form now, but still don’t think my muscles have fully adapted to the extent that I would like (my calves are now good, but my quads need some more work since they bear more of the brunt of shock absorption now that it has shifted from my leg bones and heel).
As with most of my running experiences, I know the answers to many of these questions somewhere deep down. I know that I am incapable of holding back from shooting for a goal – I’ll probably start the race with my friends, and if feeling good after a few miles make an attempt on the BQ even if it is an unwise choice that will lead to a crash. I want to say that I’m going to go out and rock it, and maybe I will, but self-doubt lingers and is hard to overcome. When I return home after the race, I know that my kids will ask me if I won – they always do. As long as my response is that I did my best and gave it my all, I guess there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I just wish I could content myself with that feeling going in!
How about you? Do you suffer from these same feelings of self doubt with your running? If so, any tips on how to deal with them?