I find that during many of my marathon training runs I reflect on past races. It seems natural. I find that I often feed off the energy and positive emotions from past races. While I was out for my 20 mile training run last Sunday, I had a very long time to reflect. Several hours to consider past races. And as I start to put together a race day strategy for the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon in a few weeks. I thought a lot about how each race was different, what I learned, how I approached them, etc. So let's ponder the last three 26.2's that I've run over the last 2 years...
Marine Corps Marathon, 2013
This was my first marathon and was, in some ways, a long time coming. I ran my first marathon 10 months after Mom ran her first. I was really thoughtful about my first race. I wanted to know that I was ready for the distance and really want to do it.
The race registration was a nightmare and I nearly didn't get in. But other than that, it was pretty smooth sailing. I had a few bumps along the way during training but I nailed my mileage and had a good taper. I vividly remember my last run before I headed to DC and literally feeling like I was flying. My legs were fresh and I was ready!
Feeling highly nervous about race day, I made my own dinner to eat the night before the race. Yes, you read that right. I was staying with a friend who is an incredible cook but was so nervous that I elected to bring a tupperware with baked chicken and pasta with tomato sauce. It was a silly thing but it calmed my nerves. Race day morning, I had some anxiety about successfully meeting up with Danielle and Lisa. Luckily that concern was unfounded and we easily found each other.
Having an experienced marathoner by my side really helped. When I started to hurt around mile 16, Danielle put my mind at ease and stayed with me. I ugly cried as I approached the finish line and a Marine put a medal around my neck and saluted me. Oh, and I beat my very loose goal time by 22 minutes. You can't ask for a better first marathon experience.
Walt Disney World Marathon, 2014
This race was unlike any other. Mom and I were running this marathon after running 22.4 miles on the previous 3 days...it was the culminating race for the inaugural Dopey Challenge. I had no idea what to expect for this race. I was quite nervous the day before, knowing that Mom had BQ on her brain. I was relieved when she let that goal go.
What I remember from this race was having a lot of fun with Mom. We enjoyed seeing the parks and characters, observing other runners's costumes, and chatting with other runners. I remember reaching halfway and thinking we were really doing well. In true Keenan runner fashion, we negative split the race in a big way. I had a fair bit of energy left so I tried to pump up the crowds as we exited Hollywood Studios toward the end of the race. Mom wasn't too pleased that I was getting ahead of her until she figured out why.
I'm probably most proud of this race. We trained incredibly hard and ran a really strong marathon with great pacing. Even though I had one marathon under by belt going into this race, I still felt like a novice and wasn't sure what to expect. I am so glad that I look back on this weekend with fond memories. And getting 3 medals at the finish line didn't hurt either!
Richmond Marathon, 2014
As you all know, it took me a long time to move past the disappointment that I felt from the Richmond Marathon last fall. It was the first time that I went into a marathon with an aggressive time goal. I trained hard and felt ready to tackle that goal but it just wasn't my day. 28 degree starting line temperatures and several major hills on the front end of the course did me in quickly. I had a lot of moments when I thought I might DNF.
I am forever grateful that Mom was waiting on the side of the course and jumped in to run "a few miles" with me. Little did I know that she would get me across the finish line with a tear-streaked face and a knee that I thought might spontaneously combust. Sidebar - can a joint do that? Because I'm pretty sure that could have happened that day.
With this race almost a year behind me, I've started looking at it a little differently. My mantra that day was "fight for it." And while I didn't achieve the goal time I had set for myself, I fought very hard for the finish. I fought to control my emotions and the thoughts in my head. I take this lesson with me into my next marathon...they won't always be fun or feel great, but I can fight through 26.2 miles even if it sucks.
With my fourth marathon ahead of me, I'm not exactly sure what to expect. You better believe I'm hoping for a day more like the first two than the day I had at Richmond. But the good news is that I'm prepared for a hellish race. I know I can get across the finish line if it sucks. I did it once and I can do it again. I'm approaching Marine Corps with a little more caution and not the reckless abandon of a first timer. I am still working through my goals and know that I will be walking into this race a smarter runner with three very different marathon experiences under my belt.
What is the one thing marathons have taught you?