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October 2009 – Manchester, NH. I am running my first marathon. I have aspirations of qualifying for Boston in my first marathon. How cool would that be? Of course, I’ve only been running for a little over 11 months now. My training has been haphazard, AND I’ve had to lay off the miles in the 6 weeks before the marathon due to a possible stress fracture/probably tendinitis in my right foot. But come on! I’m excited! I’m pumped! I’ve found the 3:30 pacer and I am going to follow him for 15 – 20 miles and then drop the hammer and bring home a sub-3:20:59 and a BQ. Did I mention this is my first marathon?
I flew through the first mile in under 6:30; flew through the first half in just under 1:35 (on pace for 3:10 – Woohoo!); and then I crashed and burned, hitting a wall at 16 and halting to a dead stop at mile 20 with frozen quads. I hobbled the final 10K to still finish in 3:54, but it was not the way anyone would want their first marathon to go.
I’ve learned a thing or two in the almost two years since – I even managed to finally qualify for Boston a year later at Smuttynose (my 4th marathon) with a 3:19.
One of the biggest lessons that has stuck with me however, is that if one is running their first marathon and one is not a World Class Athlete like Ryan Hall or Kara Goucher, then one’s goal in a first marathon should be to Just Finish. Sure, it’s good to have time goals. Sure, if you were an All-American in the 10,000 meters in college, maybe a BQ the first time out is not out of the question.
But if you are like me, just a regular guy who happened to fall in love with running because it made you feel good, then embrace that feeling in your first marathon and go out and have fun.
Enjoy the spectacle of the marathon and just finish.
Yesterday morning I signed up for the Vermont 50. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but honestly, it’s become something that I just want to be able to say I did – I want to be able to say that not only am I a marathoner, but I am an ultra-marathoner as well.
Can I do it? Can I cover 50 miles before they shut down the course?
That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
I don’t have aspirations for anything longer (Western States 100? No Frakking Thank You!). Seriously, anything that takes over 12 hours to cover is just insane in my book.
Have I trained for this? Nope.
Have I run trails before? Once – last weekend, and that was only a few miles.
Am I going to get to train for the terrain like I always preach? Hardly. With the end of the summer rapidly approaching, the start of school and some family obligations thrown in for good measure, I will not have an opportunity to head up to the mountains for some training.
What the Hell am I thinking?
At this point, I am thinking this:
Run, jog, walk, waddle, crawl – whatever it takes.
And here’s the thing – I will not be going out fast. In fact, I guarantee that the first several miles will be uncomfortably slow.
But that’s okay, because the idea for me is to Just Finish and not worry about the racing part of it.
If I finish and I feel “too” good? Who knows, maybe next year I’ll come back and try to “race” it, but in the meantime, I will not make the same mistake in my first ultra-marathon that I made in my first marathon.
When I signed up for the Vermont 50, two words crossed my mind: “Uh Oh!”
I have four new words that I will be focusing on over the next 30 days:
Just Finish. Have Fun.