This morning was my first race as a part of Team in Training - 4 miles in Central Park. I had a plan, a pace, and a goal: run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute for the whole race; try to keep my miles under 12:30 per mile, and finish under 50 minutes (12:30 pace). I woke up early, anxious that I'd sleep through my alarm (which I've never actually done - no clue where the fear of that came from), got ready, and headed out the door. Central Park on race days is awash with people in running gear, and today was no exception. The herd of participants crept forward to the starting line, and finally, it was go-time. I started my watch and moved forward, fairly confident in my pacing and the energy of the surging crowd of people that would pull me through the first mile. By the second mile, I was feeling a little bit tired, but I knew that was going to happen - I had put in a solid week of training, so I knew I was right where I should be, even though it was a little uncomfortable. As I turned into the third mile, I was really thirsty, and it was starting to get pretty warm out. I fell off my pace a little bit, but stuck to my race plan, but I noticed that all around me people started to walk. I kept telling myself to just keep going, and I would get to the end soon. About halfway into the fourth and last mile, I made up my mind to gut it out and push myself to the end - no more walking. And as I turned the final corner, I saw the finish line, and all of our coaches cheering madly, I got a crazy grin on my pace and upped my pace a little more. For the first time in years, I felt like I was actually racing. Crossing the finish line, I was so wiped out, but felt great. If this is only a microcosm of what the marathon is going to feel like, I can't wait.
Suffice to say the race was successful. I even-split my first and second half, and finished just under 48 minutes, with a per-mile pace of 12:00 even. Goals were met, and I was happy with the way I had set up my race. However, I still have this nagging thought in the back of my head - that was only 4 miles. Will I really be able to finish a marathon?
There are two prongs to my marathon goal. The first, and most important, is to improve my health and fitness levels. This means that any step forward is progress, but that I'm not just going to limp through the finish. I'm going to consciously structure my lifestyle to fit my training needs for the next few months. This has already taken a lot of discipline and time commitment, and I want to see it through to the finish. I knew that taking on this challenge would be big, and would change me, but I had no idea how big, or how much - I'm only now realizing that. But knowing that will make my accomplishment that much greater - knowing that I have made seismic shifts in the manner in which I conduct my day-to-day life in order to train, and that all of those changes and sacrifices have allowed me to push myself mentally to a place that I have never been before. I know I will have more anxiety and more nerves as the season progresses, but right now I just need to remind myself that I am doing the right things, and when the time comes, I will have the mental toughness to gut it out. The second prong is to actually finish the marathon, ideally under 6 hours. Now I have a deeper sense of what it's going to take to get me there....and it's going to likely be one of the biggest challenges of my life. And I am going to take on that challenge.