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Last October I ran a marathon with my friend Brendan.  We had the same goal, a BQ.  We both felt good going into the race.  In the end however, he fell off the pace a little bit and missed qualifying for Boston by a mere 33 seconds.  A heart breaker.  That’s enough to crush a guy, especially after putting in hours upon hours of sweat and pain.

In November, another friend of mine, Logan, ran a marathon in Georgia, hoping to make his way to Boston in his first marathon.  Through 13 miles he was on pace to hit 3:12, a BQ with room to spare, but part way through the second half, the wheels came off the bus and he had to settle for a 3:54 marathon debut. Having had the exact same devastating experience, I could relate.

Over the past 3-4 months, I’ve watched both of these guys transform themselves.  They are different, stronger, faster.  I recognize their change because I went through it myself after what I perceived were failures as a runner.  Sure, I may still have a BQ on both of them, but at this point, I think that they may both be better and faster runners than I am.

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Running is not necessarily about competition.  A lot of people do it simply for the health benefits, both mental and physical.  But when you enter a race, or follow friends who are runners, there is always a part of you that is comparing what you are doing to what they are.  In a race, the comparison is glaring (you are passing or getting passed, leading or following).  On social networks like dailymile, it’s a little more subtle, but it’s still there.

As I’ve watched both Brendan and Logan evolve, I’ve felt the urge to tweak my training, go a little faster, train a little harder.  They are in a different category than I am when it comes to mileage (I’ve been doing 40 – 55 miles per week, they are in the 50 – 70 range).  The temptation to take it to their level is, well, tempting, BUT I know that although we compare ourselves to each other and each other’s accomplishments, ultimately, we are only racing against one person – ourselves.

Even if your name is Ryan Hall or Kara Goucher, you are still competing with the runner that you want to be.

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And so, somewhat begrudgingly,  I stick with my plan, following the program that is laid before me.  I have a goal for Boston 2011, and that personal goal takes precedent over all other running goals.  If I start chasing the likes of Brendan and Logan, I am likely to crash and burn.

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The reason I write this post is for those just getting into this marathon thing.  Don’t go comparing yourselves to others.  You are racing against you and what you are capable of.  Hopefully you have a few road races under your belt.  If you do, I would suggest going —>>>HERE<<<— to find out what the numbers say.  It is a pretty accurate measure of where you are and what you are capable of.  From here, come up with a plan (I’m happy to help) and then stick with it.

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I am looking forward to seeing how Brendan and Logan do in their Marathons this Spring.  I have no doubt that they will not just BQ (like I did, by a mere 1:40), but will smash through to the other side.  I’ll see you guys in Hopkington in 2012!

And at that point, it’s ON!!!

***UPDATE 02/19/11*** Today Logan smashed his previous marathon PR by 45 minutes, completing the Myrtle Beach Marathon in a scorching 3:09:19 (exactly 10 minutes faster than my BQ at Smuttynose).  A well deserved BQ!  I’ll see you in 2012! Congrats Logan!  Brendan, you are on the clock!

***UPDATE 02/20/11***Today Brendan ran the Hampton Half-Marathon in a blazing 1:29:34, nearly 4 minutes faster than my fastest half-mary.  Now true this does not automatically qualify him for Boston, but it does get him into a race that is even harder to qualify for – New York City, Brother!  I also checked the McMillan’ Race Calculator – his half-marathon time puts him at a 3:08:54, 11+ ahead of a BQ.  Way to rock it today Brendan!

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