This is the eve of something big for me. Tomorrow afternoon I leave for New York, where I have the great privilege of running in the ING New York City Marathon! The race is on Sunday, and I hope you’ll follow along with me (remember bib #25094, in a wave starting at 10:10 am, Eastern Standard Time.) Don’t forget to set your clocks.
I’m excited for New York, for sure! It’s huge! It’s epic! The front of the pack is dominated by the stuff of world records, the field is dotted with celebrities, and the course runs through five of the most famous boroughs in the world. My own participation came from good luck in the lottery – which I believe came from good marathon karma: last year, on my way back from Athens (I ran the 2,500th anniversary of the original marathon), I had an overnight layover in New York, with just enough time to go visit the race site, see the leaders, and even step foot into the hallowed finish chute in Central Park. Though I could have walked up to the deserted finish line on that early morning, reverence stopped me: you have to earn it.
My legs are still a bit heavy from the past season that culminated in Ironman Wisconsin just seven weeks ago. NYC training hasn’t been on the very top of my list, but nonetheless I turned around a quick recovery, got my legs back under myself, and feel generally ready to go.
But not sub-4 ready to go. Not faster than ever before. Which has given me pause for some serious consideration: I’m not going to PR. So what? Who cares if you PR? Honestly, I don’t. Except that since my running career began, I have PR’d every race. Granted, my running career only began in 2007 – but it’s been four years.
This is “the streak,” and it’s time to let it go. I’m gonna be free.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about the Streak in these last few weeks. Thinking about what I really value in running. It feels great to PR races – like the big 65-minute decrease at Ironman! Like 23 minutes, then 27 minutes, then TWO minutes off each of the first four marathons. But if I’m going to keep on running, they’re not always going to get faster. Or, they could, but I’d have to intentionally walk away from some opportunities, just to keep the streak alive. Or I’d have to put training before other things that are important to me. I’m not going to walk away from a lottery spot at New York just to maintain a personal statistic.
There are some streaks worth keeping. Fidelity. Truth to one’s self. Compassion. Heck, even safe driving. Many more. Every race, ever? Come on, I’m not even in it for the times.
Lately I found myself adding asterisks. When I ran a race with a friend, with the intention of pacing that friend or just keeping them on track at a pace far off my own best, that didn’t count. So, I ask myself: why even bother with asterisks at all? Why not run races for what they are: some hard, some easy, some fast, some slow? Make a PR a goal at some races, and forgettabout it at some others.
Fuhgettaboutit! I want to see the Big Apple from inside the field of some 50,000! I want to stop and take pictures. I want to run-walk so that my quads don’t burn out, and see if I can’t still run a smart, healthy race with a solid negative-split and a smiling finish. Lamb-o wants to run her first marathon, and hopefully make a movie or book about it (she’s a world-travelling lamb who makes kids’ documentaries, if you haven’t met her!)
So, here’s to the first four years of running – thanks for seeing me through a significant speed-up. Now the name of the game is changing. This marathon’s just for fun, just like they’re supposed to be. New York City, wow. I just want to be a part of it. It is the most expensive one so far, after all: why not get the most value out of it? Sleep in on Sunday. When you get up, I’ll still be running.
See you at the races!