For as long as I can remember I’ve been deadline-motivated. Maybe it’s a hold-over from my college days when I worked for the student paper, covering evening City Council meetings, writing as the meeting took place and phoning in the story just before deadline. Whatever the reason, deadlines serve to focus my thinking and energy, pulling together loose threads, and allowing me to accomplish what seemed almost impossible when I had time to spare. This isn’t just true of my academic work. I find it impossible to make any serious headway in packing until hours before a flight. The list could go on and on …
There are times when this seems to carry over into my athletic endeavors. I spent several months working on swimming, but could never make it more than 25 or 50 yards before I had to stop to rest between laps. I signed up for my first triathlon, a beginner tri that started off with a 400-yard pool swim. Registering turned out to be just what I needed – within a week I was swimming 400 yards without stopping.
Most recently (as I’ve been writing about for a while) my Boston Marathon training has been going in fits and starts. After finally recovering from one injury, my other leg started causing me trouble. Last week (just over 3 weeks before race day) I had an 18-20 mile run on my schedule. It was a run I felt I like I needed, but it wasn’t my day. I started slow, and unlike many of my other runs I didn’t manage to work through the pain. Six miles in, my pace was a full minute off my normal training pace. Even worse, my stride was off because of the pain and everything was tightening up. I tried changing my running surface from sidewalk and asphalt to the flat, soft surface of the half-mile running track at the park. Nothing I tried helped – I just kept hurting and slowing down. After 10 miles I decided that running farther wasn’t worth the risk, so I walked home to stretch, ice, and hope for the best.
Over the last week, my coach dialed back my land miles, and added some extra miles running in the pool.We saved most of my mileage for a long run on Saturday. The whole week I felt like I was reading tea leaves, looking for a sign as to how it would go. Following my coach’s advice, I checked out a new (to me) running path along the Chattahoochee River – it’s a nice, flat course on soft-surfaces along the river, with a lot of dirt trails that depart from the main path.
It was just what I needed, just in the nick of time. It was my my first really good long run in over a month. The pace felt easy, my legs were strong. I was able to push past what pain I still had enjoy a beautiful morning running along the river and on shady tree-lined paths. I’m not kidding myself that Boston will be easy – I’m going to have to work hard to push myself through the extra miles. But this weekend’s run reminded me that I’ve got what it takes to do it.