Looking back at my race logs, I think the upcoming Fargo Marathon is my 96th race I’ve run in my life. An overwhelming majority of those races are spectacularly underwhelming. While I have great stories about getting outkicked by a 60+ year old woman in Minnie Mouse ears and a tail in my first marathon and entering and winning a race that turned out to be a kids race (twice!), a lot of the races unfolded very similarly. I’ve probably written up race reports for around half of the races I’ve run in my life. Most of them follow a pretty simple template:
Coming in, I had a goal of running “(insert X for time). I felt great the first few miles. Then, (insert “hills/heat/lack of sleep/lack of training/going out to fast”) caught up with me. Blah blah blah. I was cooked the last few miles. I jogged it in in (insert X + 10-20%). I know I can run faster next time…
A funny thing happened in the past two years. I actually started running decent races (by my admittedly “hobby jogger” standards). Instead of every race being a disappointment, I actually surpassed my expectations! My last two major races (Fargo 2014 – 3:08 and Fargo Mini-Marathon – 1:25) were both times that I honestly thought I would never hit when I first started running.
I grew up a non-runner. More than that, though. I was adamant that I hated running. Once I caught the bug in 2003, I was hooked. It became my identity.
In 2008 and 2009, I was training really well and coming close to breaking a lifelong running goal of breaking 1:30 in the half marathon. Then my first daughter Quinn was bored, I started a new job, and I made a movie. I struggled finding time/motivation to exercise. By 2012, I was frustrated with the state of my fitness. Here I was helping coach one of the most successful small cross country programs in the nation and I’m getting dropped on runs by junior high kids. I made a commitment to try to be consistent. Instead of having an “all in” attitude towards training, I just decided that I wanted to commit to be consistent. Every week didn’t need to be the greatest ever, but as long as they weren’t bad weeks or non-running weeks, eventually I’d improve. In reality, what were my options? I wanted to improve my running and sort of prove to myself that I could be as good in my thirties as I was in my twenties. Plus, it’s not like I could just move to Kenya and commit my life to becoming a better runner. I’m sure most people can relate, but I’m a dad, a husband, a coach, an employee, and about 100 other things in addition to being a runner.
Having children has meant my schedule has had to change completely. Gone were the days of getting home from work, going for a run, making a little supper, and watching a movie or television show, and going to bed kind of whenever. Instead, my days involve my alarm going off at an ungodly early time (4:00 AM? 4:30 AM? 5:00 AM? Those used to be my bedtimes when I was in college), running anywhere from 5 to 15 miles before work, getting the kids off to daycare, going to work, squeezing in a quick few miles at lunch, coaching, and then the nighttime routine of dinner/bedtime/get ready for the next day. If we’re lucky, my wife and I will get a chance to throw on a tv show (that I will mostly likely fall asleep halfway through). Go to bed and wake up at midnight (and 3 AM-ish) because our youngest still hasn’t figured out nights are for sleeping. Rinse/repeat five times until we make it to the weekend.
It’s exhausting. Yet at the same time, I’m really proud of myself. It’d be easy to try to hold on to every minute I could get of sleep and give myself the excuse that I can train once Lille gets to an “easier” age. Instead of choosing the path of least resistance, though, I make myself get up when that miserable alarm clock interrupts my sleep. Every day. No excuses.
I’m not a naturally talented runner. My first marathon was nearly 5 hours. I’ve coached kids who’ve run a faster first ever 5k than I’ve been able to achieve in 12 years of running. I’ve worked really hard to consistently improve. In 2013, I ran a little over 2,000 miles. Last year, I ran a little over 3,000 miles with an average of 60 mpw in the 12 weeks leading up to the Fargo Marathon. This year, I’ve averaged 71 mpw for 15 weeks (not counting taper) heading into the marathon this weekend.
Almost all of my training is done on the treadmill. Part of this is out of necessity – my wife runs at 5 AM with a group of friends, so we figured it’d be nice if one parent was home and we didn’t leave our almost 5 year old and 7 month old to fend for themselves. We also live in MN and I just can’t do the running in the 20-below weather. I’ve also found it’s less time-consuming (no driving around putting out water, etc). I’ve also found it’s my one hour a day I can carve out for myself to do what I want. Listen to the music I want to listen to. Watch a steady diet of NBA basketball and English soccer. I’ve even figured out I can play video games on my easy days.
Coming into the race, I’m feeling fit and ready to go. My goal is to break 3 hours for the marathon. I really want to qualify for Boston which for my age group means I’d have to run a 3:05 (minus the qualifying cutoff time which should be around a minute). So let’s just say 3:03 to be safe.
I don’t know if I’m going to do it. If I’ve learned one thing about running, it’s you can say nothing for certain until you do it. I’m pretty confident of how the first 10-15 miles of the race will go. I’m hoping that I’m strong in the last few miles. I hope I have the strength to fight the last few miles when my body is screaming “SHUT IT DOWN!” I’m hoping that I’m fit enough that the fight comes as late as possible in the race. But if I don’t run well, I’m not going to go into a corner and cry for a week. I’ve put a lot into this race, but I know I’ve prepared as well as I possible could have. If come race day, it’s not there, there’s nothing I can do. When I’m coaching 9th grade basketball, I always preach to my kids that you can only control what you can control. You can’t control whether your shot is falling or not. You can’t control the referees. You CAN control your attitude and your effort. I’m trying to do the same thing with my running. I’m trying to take care of my hydration and nutrition these last few days, but I’m not sweating all of the small things that surround a big race.
I’m excited. I’ve got different race day clothes for every weather possibility. I’ve got my marathon playlist loaded on my phone and a backup iPod shuffle that will be in my pocket (I take my running with music extremely seriously!) I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Now it’s time to patiently wait until 7:30 AM on Saturday to see if I’m able to knock out a goal that not-so-long-ago seemed insurmountable.
If you want to follow my race, click here on Saturday morning to follow my GPS “dot” around the race court. Click on the link that says “Live Track” in the top of the page. Or you can check out where I’ve passed official checkpoints (10k, half marathon, and 20 mi) here.