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Where I discuss my nervousness over an upcoming run

by John on October 5th, 2011

Eleven days.

Why the heck am I so damn nervous?

See, I’m running a half-marathon in 11 days. I’ve run two full marathons, and I’m training for a third (that one is in 39 days). If I have a few hours with nothing to do? I’ll just go run 13 miles & change. I’ve conditioned my body for this distance.

I shouldn’t be nervous.

But, I am.

The first reason for this sudden bout of nerves is the most obvious. I’m running with my sister. She’s the better-looking, smarter, funnier, more-put-together version of me (but with boobs and long hair). We all know that I’ll stop, mid-race, to help a fleet of old ladies cross the street and then rescue a clowder of cats from a flaming apartment building, and that will be the reason why she’ll cross the line before me.

Even with my good-samaritan duties waylaying me, affecting my end time, I’m really afraid of rolling my ankle or something and not finishing. My sister and I weren’t always great friends growing up – but we’ve become very, very good friends as soon as we discovered we weren’t living under the same roof. She started to grow interested in running when I ran my first 5k, and despite several races that we were supposed to run together, it’s never panned out. Either the race would have to be moved and one of us wasn’t available on the new date or something would come up, and we just never managed to get something together.

It would be horrible to have one of us not be able to finish our first race together . . . especially if I get injured in my heroic cat-saving feats.

The next reason I’m nervous, though, I don’t want to admit. You see, I’m aiming for a time.

When I started running, it was just me – push myself, get myself tired, make myself go further and further. And I do that, regularly. But, a funny thing happened through all of that. I became a dad, and the time I had available to run disappeared. This meant that, if I wanted to really push myself, I couldn’t, “simply,” extend my runs. No – I had to make myself go harder as I ran.

Last October, I ran a 5k as I trained for a marathon. I don’t want to belittle anyone who is currently training for a 5k, but running 3 miles, when you’re used to running 12-15 per run, is “no big thing.” As long as something unforeseen didn’t happen, I was going to finish. So, I pushed myself a little. I started with the pack, and then I slowly pushed myself and pushed myself. My end time was nothing to write home about – but it was a good two minutes per mile faster than most of my training runs.

If you’re not a runner, two minutes per mile is significant.

I’ve never run that fast over that distance since, but I’ve come close.

Then, a few weeks ago, I had a few hours on a Saturday morning & I went for a run. I did one of my normal loops, checked runkeeper to see how I was doing, time-wise (I had to be back by 8:15 at the latest1, and I had plenty of time left. So I did another loop.

When I finished the second loop, I looked down and saw that I had just broken the 13 mile barrier, with a little bit to go. I found my last gear, and sprinted to the house. At the end, I ran 13.14 miles, in a time just north of 2 hours.

If the weather is kind on the 16th, and I don’t take too much time saving kittens from a burning building, and the course isn’t too hilly, and the wind is just right, I hope the adrenaline from the crowd is just enough that I’ll break the two hour limit.

And I hate that I’m even setting that goal. Because it’s not about any other runners, but I totally want to push myself, just to show myself that I can do it.

1 This meant that I had to leave for my run well before 8:15 in the morning. On a Saturday. Because I’m crazy.
  1. I think the half is my favorite distance, and you’re kind of hitting on why that is. I usually have an idea based on the location, weather, and how I feel about whether I have a shot at a PR during a 5K, but once the gun goes off I’m going to run it as fast as I can. Very little is held back. Even less so in the mile (but there’s only one 1 mile race I run each year).

    Meanwhile, I treat a marathon as a long, slow training run. I don’t really care about speed, as long as I get there. In fact, I hope I’ll finish my next marathon faster than my first one by running slower for most of the race and thus not crashing as hard on the wall. For me, it’s ALL about holding back.

    The half’s right in between — it’s the only one where I really need to have a strategy of “push myself, but not too much” and monitor it the whole race, or just run it by feel and decide at some point during the race if I have the energy to push for a specific goal and then kick it.

    I’ve gone just barely under-2 hours once, and it was an awesome feeling. I got to the 10-mile point of the race and knew all I had to do was run kind of a mediocre 5K, except at the end of a half marathon!

    More recently on a 13.1 mile scheduled training run (I guess I was technically probably meant to find a race that day), I was having a great, faster-than usual pace and thought I could break 2 hours, only to hit 10 miles and realize i’d have to come very close to my 5K PR to hit it. It was very frustrating to watch it slip a little further away each mile. Usually I’m around 2:10-2:15 on half-marathon distance training run, but on that day I finished 2:02, something, which I was still happy with.

    Good luck! Let someone else save the kittens this time. They’d leave you in a tree if you were between them and a PR in whatever it is that cats care about.

    • You know, this will be my actual first ever “half marathon.” I mean, I’ve run plenty of 13.1 mile events, by myself, but I’ll actually have a crowd here. When I just “go out to run,” though, I do think this distance is my favorite. I hope to get myself to the point where I’m able to “just run 26.2,” but I don’t know if I’ll get there anytime soon (kids being what they are, plus the love of cycling), but I do love this distance for training. I push myself, but I’m not done for the day – 20-30 minutes after I’m done, I can shower & go about.

      It’s funny about your “just a 5k” comment – because, well, I’ve thought the same. In fact, during a full marathon, I just break it down to 5k segments. The first 8 miles – well, I can “just do” them. Then it’s “just 6, 5ks”.

      I used to think runners were crazy – now I know they are.

  2. I will be rooting for you – sending speedy feet vibes your way & pushing yourself is a good thing – have fun with it though too 🙂

    • I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think it’d be fun – I’ll enjoy it . . . as long as it doesn’t chose to monsoon that day or something.

  3. Man, it’s tough to set these goals for ourselves because we want to push ourselves but don’t want to lose any of the joy of the thing we’re doing. I’m rooting for you and your sister to finish with times that make you both proud.

    P.S. Maybe if you have on something that will block your peripheral vision? So you can’t see the old ladies and stray cats? ; )

    • I’m going to try to always be among a pack, so that I getting to the old ladies & cats in distress will cause me to inconvenience other runners, and that might make me consider leaving the rescues to the professionals.

      If I don’t finish in 2 hours, but do feel that I gave it my all, I’ll be happy – it’s just, well, I know I’ve held back in training runs, yet I’ve come so very close to that milestone. The only thing is that I have the memory of pushing myself too early too fast, and then hitting the wall & having nothing left – it was with a marathon, but that was horrible. I’d hate to get to mile 10 and be forced to walk, only to watch 2:00 turn to 2:10 because I did too much too soon.

      I’m pretty sure I’ll be happy and the end of this run.

  4. As a person who runs 3-miles MAXIMUM, I’m impressed with your endeavors. It sounds to me like you could save a cat AND make the time you’re shooting for. But yeah – don’t roll an ankle. That would suck.

    • Thanks – I’m near certain that I’ll enjoy the run, which, really, is what I’m setting out to do.

  5. Just leave the cats to fend for themselves and you’ll be fine!

    The cats, though….

    I do not run. I did get to the gym yesterday though. And going tomorrow.

    • I meant to wake up this morning to run & slept in . . . I’m kicking myself for that . . . tomorrow, I’ll get out & push myself.

  6. Don’t worry about the cats. They have 9 lives.

    Good luck on the run. I hope you and your sister can both make it to the end.

    • Talking to her, yesterday, we’ll both make it to the end – she’s more determined than me, and that’s saying something.

  7. I’ll be running a half Sunday too and I guarantee you’ll beat me. It’s an all women’s run and I’d step on a puppy to finish faster.

  8. Clearly, I know you survived and no cats were harmed along the way. But a 5k is the same for me. I can go weeks without running and jump back into 5k like nothing. I ran my first half in 2:14 and I’m shooting for under 2:20 this time, given my lack of training and the 2nd kid. Excuses and excuses. Either way, hoping my body doesn’t hate me so maybe I will be physically up for Austin marathon in February. Push me.

    • Consider yourself pushed . . . although I think February is the only time I’d even consider running a marathon in Austin. I have a full in the middle of November that I’m worried about it being “too hot.”

      But, tales of kitten heroics aside, I thought I might get the time I wanted when, during a training run, I ran a 2:04:03 in 98% humidity. I realized, if the weather weren’t truly awful, I’d probably shave, at least, five minutes off my time.

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