For my second marathon, I ran Boston. I had planned to run the Chicago Marathon in October, but I ran too long through a hamstring injury and ended up having to take off for about eight to ten weeks. I remember being thrilled to come just a little bit close to my marathon pace at the Thanksgiving Drumstick Dash in Indianapolis. My first ten miler was January 1 and I was slow. I ended up with a training block I could be proud of, but I only had time (in terms of weeks to build up and before the race) to get in two 20- or 22-mile long runs. This season I added heavy lifting twice a week, which helped with rehab and with those Boston hills. Because of the injury, I was slow in my recovery and long runs through the whole block. I saw myself running paces I had never seen before, dipping at times to about three minutes or more off my MGP. I was delighted to hear Nell Rojas say on the Running Rogue podcast that she often does long runs and recovery runs at 3+ her MGP. But it did kind of get in my head. I was still generally hitting paces in workouts, but I don’t think they were quite at the same intensity and it often took more reps to get to the target pace. All this to say, it was a return-from-injury training cycle. I knew that. But also, at the same time, last July, I couldn’t quite see myself in Chicago. Even before the injury took a bad turn, I didn’t see it. But I did see myself in Boston. My teammate from Rogue’s She Squad, Colleen Reutebuch gave me a book, 26.2 to Boston: A Journey into the Heart of the Boston Marathon, when I qualified at CIM. Each chapter is the history and the terrain of each mile. When I read it, I could see myself there. I read it again this winter as well as every other podcast I could get my hand on that described the feel of the race and I could continue to see myself running those streets from Hopkinton to Boyleston.
I had a race plan that I thought was doable, but aggressive. I didn’t quite nail it, but I did BQ at Boston. And now I’m processing what I experienced and what I learned.
The Lead Up to the Race
This report of my running of the California International Marathon actually has to begin earlier in the Fall when I learned that my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Things look good for her now, but because of the diagnosis, I felt a certain responsibility to be with her and family over Thanksgiving. And because it was a week before my first marathon, I thought it would be better to fly to Philadelphia where my parents live. While there, I had a pretty serious flare up of allergies which led to some pretty serious ear pain on the descent into Indianapolis, where I live. My ears did pop when I came home, but it was a little painful. I went on some allergy drugs that I hoped would drain my sinuses without affecting my ability to run. Tuesday after Thanksgiving–the week before the race–I ran a couple miles at MGP and felt pretty good. Then Thursday I did 3 miles easy and some strides and my legs felt good and my lungs felt clear. Then I got on a plane and the descent on the first leg messed my ears up and they still haven’t popped five days later.
On Wednesday before I left for Sacramento, I got a message from my Airbnb host, which I expected to be information about how to check in, and instead was a cancellation of my place. I reach out to my teammate from Rogue She Squad who was also running the race and she very kindly agreed to share her hotel room with me but recommended that I find my own room the first night I would be there. I went on Expedia and I reserved a room at the Hyatt. Then my teammate texts that I should probably get a room for the second night, too, because she is getting in late. I get back on Expedia and see that I can’t add a night to the original reservation, but I can just make a new reservation. First, I try to do that with a customer service person, but the price they quoted me was different from what I saw online, which seemed weird, but comes to make sense later. I go and make my own reservation on Expedia.
I get to Sacramento, unpopped ears and all, and Lyft to the Hyatt Regency, one of the race hotels. I go to check in and the person working the counter tells me that my reservation is in fact at another Hyatt seven blocks away. I ask her about the second night, and she says, you are back in this hotel. I made two different reservations at two different hotels. I kept reminding myself to be grateful. I read Deena Kastor’s Let Your Mind Run this last year, and I try to practice gratitude when I can. I was glad to have a hotel room. I was glad the second night was back in the race hotel because that’s where I would be staying with my teammate. It turned out to be much easier to navigate to the race events from the hotel than it would have been to the Airbnb. I walk the seven blocks to the other hotel, which was right down L Street.
I just finished running the longest run I have ever run – 22 miles. I have a month to go before my first ever marathon, the California International Marathon on December 5 in Sacramento, where my goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:40. This goal feels to me like what Shalane Flanagan recently called her goal of running the six world majors in six weeks: a big hairy scary goal. I think I can do it. My training has been going well. I feel good. I feel strong. I feel capable. (Those three sentences together have become one of my mantras.) But I also don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I can run as fast as I need to for as long as I need to.
This week I’ve been teaching Plato’s Protagoras, one of my favorite dialogues of Plato. Scholars have so much disagreement over this dialogue but on my reading, Socrates is making the case to those listening to the exchange between him and Protagoras that what Protagoras teaches is unable to make them virtuous. His case for this is that Protagoras doesn’t really see virtue to be knowledge and in order for it to be teachable it must be knowledge. The problem is that Protagoras teaches his students how to make claims about what is virtuous, but these claims don’t affect how they live leading his students to occupy the position of seeming to act against what they know to be good. Socrates argues that some knowledge other than propositional claims is required to be virtuous and this knowledge would be a way of measuring what is best — whether construed as most pleasure or good — in an action against what is not good in it — pains. As the discussion comes to a close, Protagoras is continuing to insist that at least one virtue is grounded in something other than knowledge and that virtue is courage.