January 26, 2011

The Marathon: A Fickle Beast

Guest blog post by Becki Ordway of Team Oiselle.


Aboard my flight from Dayton Ohio to Sacramento California, I couldn’t stop my mind from wondering to thoughts of coming through the 20 mile point, feeling poised and ready to cruise to the finish line in 2:36 well under the time I needed to obtain the long sought after Olympic Trials ‘A’ standard.  I knew that would take a very solid effort on my part since only 2 months prior my dreams had come crashing down around me long before reaching even the 12 mile mark in the Twin Cities Marathon.  Since then I had a few more great workouts, and very solid training block under me.  Unlike Twin Cities I felt confident.

Two days and numerous bouts of daydreaming later, I found myself standing on the starting line breathing one last calm breath before the gun fired. It was finally time to do what I had imagined hundreds of times over in my head, RACE!  I settled in quickly just off the back of the lead pack, and plugged away running 5:50’s for the most part.  With each passing mile I kept waiting for the course to flatten out and the lead pack to start breaking up.  Around mile 6 the pack began to break, but not the way I had hoped.  I was the one falling off!  The 5:50 miles had quickly turned into 5:45 miles, and I couldn’t hold on any longer.  I frantically tried to keep myself from imploding, by reevaluating things, and trying to plug away at 6:00 pace.  By 10 miles I was struggling to be under 6:10 pace.  This was not the daydream race I had imagined.  Around mile 14 a friend passed and with a slap on the butt she tried to pull me a long.  We laughed a bit but I couldn’t keep up long.  Mile 16 came in what seemed like 20 miles from mile 14 and another friend had caught up.  She was having a hard time, and I tried to pull her along, but it wasn’t much after that she needed to walk.  I counted my blessings then and realized, “this could be worse”.  Around mile 18 a few men were passing out free beer. I want to tell you I didn’t even notice them because I was plugging away running as hard as I could, I was in the zone…but that would be a bold faced lie!  I desperately wanted to stop, have a beer, laugh, and enjoy, enjoy ANYTHING!!  7 miles later when I finally reached mile 25 a little girl yelled “good news is, you can still break 3 hours”.  Let’s just say she is lucky she was 8 years old because my smile would have been a more grotesque gesture had she been 18.  Finally the finish line!  2 hours 55 minutes, and 15 seconds of dream shattering running behind me, then oddly enough I felt a smile come across my face.

I looked back through my splits, and had to laugh.  I ran like I had no idea what lay ahead.  As if I was stronger than the 26.2 miles of pavement that was ahead of me.  And like the fickle beast it is the marathon had reminded me that all the confidence in the world doesn’t change it’s ability to bring us to our knees.  I was sad to have missed my goal, ashamed of my decisions to run reckless in the first 10 miles of the race, and amazed with how well I was handling the disappointment.  I have never learned so much in a single race during 15 years of running as I did in this one.  Our ability to endure for the sake of something we want is simply incredible.  Mile after endless mile we seek our goals with an unabashed passion, and the really difficult miles make all of the great ones more worth it.  When I think back to the days leading up to the race I realize I couldn’t have possibly understood how much a terrible race could become a terribly amazing experience.  I know I am blessed to fall apart to a 2:55 marathon, and I know that the next time I line up for a marathon, I will bide my time, and have a reverence for the distance before me regardless of how confident I feel, and if all goes well, hopefully I won’t notice the free beer until I cross the finish line with the Olympic Trials ‘A’ standard under my feet.

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Comments

Anonymous | February 18, 2011 at 8:06am

Great Post!

I know how a race like this feels, it's great to learn from, but so hard at the time.

Kelly | January 26, 2011 at 4:08pm

Fickle beast

Nearly 27 years after I chased (unsuccessfully) an Olympic Trials standard in the marathon, I still remember how it felt. I never did make it, falling a minute plus short, even while doing 3 marathons in an insane 7 week period. It's one of my greatest failures, but I learned a lot from the chase. Next time, use what you have learned and remember, you can't fool your body into doing something it is not ready to do. Be patient and trust your intuition - if the early pace seems even a little too fast - it IS too fast and you will pay later. Prepare to race the last 10k, which means you will have to hold back the first 20m. Run within yourself and trust your training. You can run a fast marathon if you let your body tell you what it is ready to do on that day. I look forward to reading your next marathon report because I think you will have a more satisfying race! Good luck!

Buck Jones | February 2, 2011 at 11:38am

Hi Becky,

Hi Becky, That was a great essay, one I can identify with so completely. I've rarely run as hard as I did to finish in 2:56 at Grandma's Marathon in 2003 after passing the half in just over 1:10. Despite being far, far from my goal of the 2:20 standard, I swore I wasn't going home without the finisher's shirt :-) Sometimes it takes a bit to have our blessings made so clear to us. Thank you for sharing your story!