‘Twas the Night Before Pittsburgh…

Tomorrow I’m running the Pittsburgh Marathon. I’ve picked up my bib, laid out my clothes, and packed my gels. I’ve set my nutrition and pacing plans and drove the second half of the course to check out the hills. I’ve checked the weather every thirty minutes and watched the chance of rain shift back and forth (low forties, chance of rain 30% as I write).

I’m proud to be here. A month ago after finishing the All Day 20k at the Carlsbad 5000 I didn’t know if would be able to toe the line. I had missed a month of training after injuring my sacroiliac (SI) joint, and after cranking out my first full week’s worth of training and four 5k’s in a day I felt a lot of pain.

Carefully I came back over the next few weeks, ramping up my mileage and workouts until I could get in two full weeks of high mileage hitting most of the pace targets my coach set.  I feel like my fitness level has returned, but I know I missed a segment of training designed to build leg strength for the marathon. If I had chosen to run the half I would feel more than prepared for a PR. But I decided (after discussing with my coach) to keep my plan to run the full.

Maybe it’s because I spent so much energy deciding if I felt ready to run, but up until this late hour I have struggled to set specific goals for tomorrow. In my two previous marathons, my goals centered on finish times (at A, B, and C levels). This time, outside of my long term goal to qualify for Boston, I d not have my eyes on specific times. Some of that is based on my doubts. I don’t want to make excuses before I have tried, but I also don’t want to set myself up for disappointment because I lost touch with reality (I missed a month of training for injury, the course is hilly, and it may be raining).

However, I also think that this time around I am more interested in how I handle the mental challenges of the race. I expect a lot of tough conversations with myself through the hills tomorrow. I know my body will hurt. I know I will doubt myself. I know I will run alone for chunks of the race and have to push myself.

That’s the case in all marathons, but this is the first time I’m ready to have that conversation and see how I handle it. I don’t think I can set a metric for this and I don’t know if I will be successful. I want to try, though, and as a result I hope I can look back and say that I ran wisely and bravely.

Good luck to all those running tomorrow.

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