Road to the Hamilton Marathon: Success begets success

I have never been so excited about marathon training.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how maturity and experience have a positive impact on my training. But I also realized how much a great race begets more great races.

At the 2014 Chicago Marathon, I ran a smart and gutsy race to earn a 45-second PR. The personal best was small, but it was one of the best races I’ve ever run. My early miles were very consistent and smart, and I ran with my heart in the final 10 kilometers. This performance was No. 2 all-time for me, after my massive half marathon PR in 2013.

My previous three marathons were near disasters; I very nearly bonked in two of them. While these are essential learning experiences (the importance of pacing and learning how to deal with poor races), heading into this marathon on a high has done wonders for me.

I trust myself to succeed because I have succeeded. My training is more focused and on point than it’s ever been. That’s not to say it’s easy; I’m fighting fatigue, but that’s part of my plan. Workouts are tough, but I’m managing them.

This is the first marathon training segment in which I haven’t felt burned out. Each run, I’m thinking of the starting line and the excitement of clicking off the kilometers (hey, my race is in Canada) and what it’ll be like to get to kilometer 32 and give everything I have left for the final 10K.

Much of my 16-year running career has been a struggle. In high school, I was running distances that weren’t right for me (because they don’t exist at that level), and I was frustrated when I could hardly improve my times from freshman year to senior year. In 2010 and 2011, after four years of running for fitness rather that competition, I struggled with injuries as I did way too much too soon. Exercise-induced asthma and allergies are a massive struggle for me each spring that prevent me from my training and sometimes from running altogether. I also faced a challenge from my own high expectations; for a long time, I expected more of myself than I was physically and mentally prepared to give, and that’s incredibly frustrating.

These experiences have taught me not to give up, but they also provided me with a LOT of emotional baggage and self doubt. Could I actually achieve these goals I dream of, such as qualifying for Boston and becoming an Ironman triathlete? This weighed me down. When you’re full of fear and anxiety, it’s tough to push yourself enough in training.

I feared trying hard because I feared if I tried as hard as I could, I would still fail.

But I persevered and held on to the moments that showed glimpses of my potential. My half marathon PR from 2013 was one of them. After solid training, I ran a 14-minute PR to run 1:39:25, smashing my goal of running sub-1:45. Early on in the race, I took an intelligent risk and it paid off.

Then again at the 2014 Chicago Marathon, I showed that with a smart race I could have a good marathon even on semi-decent training.

The success of that race allowed me to clear the emotional cobwebs and truly believe I have what it takes to get to Hopkinton. There are going to be bumps in the road; success is not linear.

But now I understand: success begets success.

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