Training, Sans Carrot
By: Asia Shah
For the past few years I have done a fall marathon, a spring marathon (Boston), and a few random races sprinkled in between. This year will be the first in which there is no fall “A” race, a decision made out of necessity and self preservation. The Philadelphia Marathon was the original plan, which even at its very beginning did little to excite me. Not really my idea of a fun place to go, but no matter, most of our team and coach (yay!) would be running it, so we were on board.
Unfortunately, signing up for a race six months in the future is never without risk, and I’ve been proof of this many times. With the hubz piling up more frequent flyer miles than road miles, and me being in a generally blah state of training and fitness, it was a no brainer to just pull the plug. In fact, it felt great to finally just cancel the thing. A lot of runners think there is not much worse (actually, there are millions of worse things) than bailing on a race like this and letting the bottom drop out from beneath your goals and hopes for the day. It’s like the minute the decision not to race is made training will become meaningless and devoid of purpose. But au contraire mes sweaty amis! It can bring the very life back into your training and take a giant load off your shoulders. At least, this is how it felt for me.
It got me wondering though, why more people are not ok with making the decision to just not race. Most hotels will let you cancel, and flights can be rebooked for a future trip, but I find that a lot of people would rather limp, gimp, cry, and gut their way to a finish line, and for what? Their slowest race ever? A shitty injury? To say they did it? That just does not do it for me. It may come down to the fact that I love training, for training sake. Presumably, most people enjoy their training, otherwise it would be a hell of a lot to put yourself through just to enjoy a few days per year of racing. However, I feel lucky to be the specific type of running nut wherein I just love the process. Even without a race in the near future or a time goal over my head, there is nothing better to me than getting out and pounding myself into the ground at 5:30am (ok, that last part sorta blows). I hope to turn this mentality for hard training towards racing, but with such bad luck (yes, I’m blaming luck at the moment) with racing in the last few years I find that I don’t really expect a good race. I hope for one yes, but expect to race well? Mmmm not yet. I used to KNOW I would race well. A mindset that was born from dominating in high school and performing mildly well in college, but mostly, from gaining such a boost from training that it was difficult to doubt what was possible. Several of the key pieces are in place: a motivating and supportive coach (who truly knows. his. shit.), time to get the work done (still in school, yesss), awesome (and fast) training husbands and partners, and age (getting up there though). Now what remains is keeping my fire going as I move from training to race situations and maintaining that belief without question. My old coach (old as in when I was in college, because he’s not old, just look at his hair!) has a saying that is a propos of this topic: Believe in Belief. Short, simple, done. Well, I can say that I do not have all of my belief back just yet, but I believe I will get there.
Not running in Philly was a great move for my body, mind, and outlook. My goal is not to tout how many marathons I’ve finished, rather my goal is to go into each one with a solid belief that something great is possible. Because when that is the case there is no failure. Disappointment? Maybe, but that I can live with. Boston is about five months down the road, and I plan on getting off that cozy bus with a belly full of oatmeal, and a mind that KNOWS what is possible.