A different marathon goal

My friend Chelsea recently posted an excellent report of the Marine Corps Marathon (her fifth marathon! Congrats, Chelsea!). I love hearing how my friends feel every mile and feeling the excitement as they build to the finish, but in this case, it was her summary at the end that really stood out:

My finish time was not my best by far… But just the fact that I finished this thing, that I overcame all of those mental struggles that plagued me so early in this race, was enough satisfaction for me. The marathon will always be there – it’s the ultimate mental test. Not all races are created equal, and I have learned that just from doing a handful of these bad boys. I will ALWAYS be challenged and forever changed by the 26.2.

I was so excited to see that Chelsea’s philosophy is so similar to my own. I believe that a race can be measured many different ways, not just by time.

To me, most races are measured by how hard you pushed yourself. If it’s a tough course, bad weather, or just not your lucky day, it can be an accomplishment just to finish. A few years ago, I ran a marathon called Running With the Devil – and achieved a pretty unspectacular finish time of 7:02:51. But I still call that race an achievement because I was so proud that I toughed it out and finished. The race was run at midday in June in the Mojave Desert, and starting temps were 119F! I may have had a miserable time in that blistering heat, but I look back on it and am proud that I didn’t give up.

There are other races that are special to me because of how beautiful they are and how alive they make me feel. I may have PRed a few months ago at the Wineglass Marathon, but I think I finished the Niagara Falls Marathon even happier, just because of what a gorgeous day it was and how it made me remember why I love running. Finishing on a sunny, blue sky day with a rainbow overhead? That’s a pretty incredible experience, no matter what the finish time.

The beautifully perfect day also inspired me to again push myself – this time, to go fast in the second half of the race. Even though fast wasn’t going to get me a PR, I still came up with a challenging time goal for where I was at that point in the race, and pushed myself to achieve it. In life, there are always going to be great races, but then there are going to be ones that we just get through. Those aren’t throwaways; they are equally important. I think it’s more a testament to your strength when you aren’t having the best day and you still manage to tough it out and do something that you’re proud of.

I have to admit, I am not the best example of someone who always gives it everything I have. There are a lot of marathons where I take it easy and set other goals (like meeting people or enjoying the scenery). This weekend, in fact, I am running a race that I absolutely don’t expect to PR or even give it my all – the Fort Worth Marathon.

The Fort Worth Marathon is not a particularly tough course, so why not go for a PR? Well, instead of running it as a race, I’m running it as a training run. Next Saturday, I am running the NYRR 60K, and since I haven’t at all trained for an ultramarathon, I figure I can kind of prepare by running this Sunday’s 26.2 on very, very tired legs. (Hopefully, one weekend of preparation is what the NYRR means when they write on the entry page, “Please make sure that you’re properly trained for this challenging distance.”) So this weekend, I am basically doing my best to trash my legs before I even get to the starting line… not what most marathoners do!

The original plan for this weekend was to run 10-15 miles in New York on Saturday morning before flying back to Dallas/Fort Worth that afternoon for the marathon on Sunday. However, Blizzard Athena (since when do snowstorms have names like hurricanes?) caused some major flight cancellations and delays to my original Thursday night flight home, so I shifted my plans and now am sticking around in Texas for the whole weekend while BF comes down to visit. Time to show him all my favorite Texas workouts!

Tomorrow morning will start with an intense Tread Fitness class at 8:15am. The Saturday classes focus on back/shoulders, so I figure that will get me super sweaty and help me practice endurance training but probably not shred my legs. For that, I’m headed to a Flywheel Texas class at 9:30am with my favorite instructor, Mark Shipman. I’m also dragging BF along – he’s never tried spinning before, and he can be very competitive, so he’s psyched to check out the Torqboard. Guys always knock girls out of the park on the Torqboard, but I am still going to do my best to keep up! Finally, I’m thinking of tossing in a short 2-3 mile shakeout run on the Katy Trail before we head to a big carb-loading brunch.

Ambitious? Yes. Possible to run a marathon on Sunday after such a schedule? Hopefully. But either way, it’s a challenge I’m putting out there for myself, and I’m excited to see how it goes.

Have a great weekend, everyone :)


  1. I really needed to read this post. I’ve kind of been freaking out about running 3 marathons each three weeks apart thing — like just afraid I will be so slow or miserable in at least one of these last two. However, I know I need your approach. You have been an inspiration with your many marathons and having such a great attitude. I know I should not kill myself doing Philly next weekend…I should do an “enjoyable” marathon this time around and maybe push it more in Rehobath. It’s going to be a learning experience that’s for sure. Great post for my mindset today!

  2. Ericka, I haven’t run Philly, so you may want to take this opinion with a grain of salt. BUT, Philly is such a big race that I would guess it’s a tough one to PR – too many people to weave around, congested water stops, etc. I ran fast in both New York and Boston (yay crowd support!) but was still pretty far off my PR in both places, and I think it’s because of the race size. On the other hand, I have run Rehoboth before, and I think it would be a great spot to PR.

    That said, I think the best approach is to go into each of them with your only expectation being to have fun. Don’t look at your watch for the first 3 miles or so, and then see what your pace is like. If you’re keeping a fast pace and it’s easy, then consider pushing it. If not, just focus on having fun!

  3. You are so sweet for that mention! I needed to read this today :) Can’t wait to celebrate with you tomorrow! Rest well tonite and GOOD LUCK!!!

  4. I love this philosophy on racing. Sometimes it’s about going out and enjoying the day and not putting a ton of pressure on yourself. That’s my goal for Rehoboth Beach. I just want to run a happy race and enjoy the accomplishment when I cross the finish line, no matter what the time on the clock says.

  5. Thanks, Jess! I can’t wait for Rehoboth – it’s going to be a 26.2 mile party :)

  6. girl i have zero doubt you can do it, you are one of the toughest bad ass running chicks I’ve ever read…and will some day meet :)

  7. Thanks, Amanda! And yeah – how crazy is it that we haven’t met yet???

  8. I’ve completed two marathons, a 50K, and this weekend I will be running my first 50 miler. I follow a similar goal for my running. While setting a PR is always awesome, to me, it’s more about the journey. Enjoying the run and finishing uninjured are my primary goals. I like to follow John Bingham’s philosophy. To paraphrase, you pay good money to run a race, why finish it as fast as you can, go slow and enjoy the experience!

  9. James, GOOD LUCK this weekend at your 50 miler! And I love that Bingham philosophy :)

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