Two nights ago, I got shot while I was running the Marine Corps Marathon.
There I was, running alongside my brother-in-law (who happens to be a former Marine), to try to help him break 3:30 for the first time. Only I didn’t finish the race, because I got shot in the stomach. And then he didn’t finish in 3:30, and it was all my fault.
As you’ve probably guessed, it was only a dream. But pacing my brother-in-law to a 3:30 is exactly what I’ll be doing this Sunday.
When I mentioned my dream to my fellow Twitter nerds in the morning, someone linked me to an article about how they’re tightening up security at the MCM because of recent shootings. Weird.
More interesting, though, was someone else’s response: “Jungian psychology says we’re everyone in our own dreams, so you’re afraid of sabotaging yourself?”
Could there be any truth to this?
My first thought was, “No way.” I can run a 3:30 marathon. Twenty-six-point-two miles has been around the halfway point of my last two races, not the finish. And the last marathon that took me longer than 3:30 was back in 2007. True, I haven’t done much speedwork since my 3:10 BQ race a year ago, but I’d be shocked if a year of running ultras made me a slower marathoner by more than twenty minutes.
But there’s something else here. This is the first race where if I screw up, it’ll affect someone besides just me.
With that, there’s been more anxiety. To give myself confidence that I still have a 3:30 in me, I intended to take it easy for two weeks after my 50-miler with a few 8-mile runs, then do a fast 15 or so.
Only that fast 15 didn’t happen. First my plan got messed up when someone asked me to fill in for them at the Baltimore Marathon relay, which would be only six miles, but fast enough to make my fast, long run the next day hard. Then I got sick and didn’t run at all that weekend.
Okay, fine. Next weekend then. A little close to the race, but it would work. Except that on a quick four-mile run last week, something in my knee started grabbing. The same feeling I had in the other knee two years ago that ended up being IT-band syndrome.
I haven’t run since then, because I’ve been scared. My knee was sore for the next day or two. I’ve figured that rest is better than testing it again.
So that’s where I am now, and it kinda sucks.
I bet you’ve been here before
I’m not unique in going into a race with some uncertainty—if you’ve trained for a marathon or two, you probably know the feeling. As the training intensity increases and the mileage accumulates, there’s almost always some little injury worrying you before race day.
And it puts a damper on your excitement, sometimes by a lot: Everyone’s gearing up for a big race, with the tapering, the traveling, the expo, and the pre-race meal. And yet there’s this thought in your mind that it’s all going to be for nothing because you might not finish. And that you’ll be stuck with the t-shirt of a race you didn’t really run.
The worst part: It’s not because you haven’t trained well enough, but simply because you’re uncertain as to what kind of mood your ankle/knee/hip is going to be in when it matters.
Let me be clear: Marathon training doesn’t have to be that way. I used to think it did, but I’ve learned in the past two years that it’s very possible to build a solid mileage base, maintain it, and run long distance races without those nagging and more-serious overuse injuries we’re all familiar with.
But in this case, I’m back in that uncertainty boat, even if this knee issue ends up being nothing at all. Going into what should be an awesome, emotional day—how many people get to run the Marine Corps Marathon alongside a former Marine?—it’s hard to really relish the excitement because of the thought that I might not finish.
If my experience with little injuries like this has taught me anything, it’s that playing it super-safe and not running at all isn’t the answer. Before I learned to train correctly and this happened more often, I was successful in managing the pain with adrenaline, walk breaks, and anti-inflammatories. If I’d have chosen to skip those races instead, I’d have missed out on a lot of marathons that turned out perfectly fine.
On Sunday, walk breaks won’t be an option, unless they’re part of my brother-in-law’s plan. Which leaves me with the adrenaline, anti-inflammatories as necessary, and a little faith.
Faith that everything will hold up for 26.2 miles. And faith that I won’t get shot.
Marine Corps Meetup
I’m planning on hanging out after the race for a while and hopefully meeting up with some of you who are running it. Haven’t figured out exactly when and where yet, but I’ll update this post with that information for any who are interested.