On Sunday morning, at a chilly 9 AM, I was smiling as I crossed the finish line of my ninth race of the year. What's so special about my ninth race, you might ask? It means that I qualified for the 2010 NYC Marathon!!!
The road to qualifying was littered with three pairs for running shoes, tough long runs, boring lunch-hour treadmill runs, more than a few upset stomachs, a few picture-esqe Fall runs through Central Park and alarms waking me up for races when I would have rather been sleeping. It wove it's way through my job, school, externship and life.
The taste of victory was sweet (or maybe those were the chocolate chip pancakes?). At least until I remembered that, in this case, victory means a $150 entry fee, four months of training and a 26.2 mile race. Oh.
I approached my last race with no expectations of a finish time I wanted to achieve. Life has been a little hectic with working 14-16 hour days, leaving little time for training. Usually on the weekends, I have just enough energy to walk out to the kitchen, make a big pot of coffee climb back into bed for a few hours. Even when I have the best intentions to do a long run, these usually melt away with my first sip of coffee.
It was a four mile race, which doesn't beg for a regimented training schedule. But the distance was long enough that I was a bit nervous on race day. My "training" had included logging only about 10 miles a week (although I was doing more cross-training), not enough sleep, consuming large amounts of caffeine and not running outside in...awhile. Oh, and I ate Shake Shake the day before and had a heavy beer (Gonzo! On Cask!) before I went to sleep.
I couldn't find my watch before I left for the race and realized that it probably didn't matter too much. I didn't care about my splits. My goal was to finish. I made Mike promise that if I tripped (not unlikely) and broke my leg before I crossed the finish line, he would pull me across so I would still qualify. I think he was happy I didn't trip.
I felt calm and like I was running a good pace - not a PR pace, but definitely a comfortable pace. The hills immediately made it known that I had not visited them enough in the past weeks. The miles seemed to slip by and before I knew it, my iPod was playing "Empire State of Mind" and I could see the finish line.
So imagine my surprise when, later that morning, I opened up my computer to check my finish time and found I had, in fact, set a PR. Four miles in 29 minutes 50 seconds; average split time of 7 minutes 27 seconds.
My worst training routine yielded the fastest average split time by 16 seconds. After a year of training, racing and the surprises all that brings, I guess I shouldn't have been shocked.
It almost makes me want to take the same approach to next year's marathon training. Almost.
Mark it down: November 7, 2010. ING NYC Marathon. I'm in!