I’m trying to run under 2:35 today.
Stay with us, we’ll take you there.
I’m in 3rdplace right now, that woman ahead is 2nd.
We’ll get you there. Who are you, where are you from?
I’m Anna from Indiana….and I’m coming back from a long 3 years.
As I approached the 10k mark of the Philadelphia Marathon on November 18th, I found myself with a pack of friendly men who were interested in my goals. Even if we were only ultimately together for another 5 miles, this snippet of conversation helped fuel me the rest of my race.
Since competing in the 2016 Olympic Trials in the marathon I have had a series of misfortunes, missteps, and mystery health problems. Philadelphia marked my 3rdattempt to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Trials.
Anna Weber at the 2016 Olympic Trials
For the first time since early 2016, I was blessed with good racing weather. Temperatures at the start were 33oF, and there was no wind. I shot off the line in 6thplace and knew I was in for a good day. The great weather – plus the fact that the first 10k is slightly downhill – led to blazing early times, with a large pack of us on pace for a course record.
By the time I reached the 10 mile mark I was safely in 2ndplace and running well within my goal time range. I was feeling great, albeit a little cold!
My husband (who rented an awesome peacock-themed bicycle that matched my nail polish, BTW) managed to bike 22 miles of the course on a bike-share bicycle and see me in multiple spots along the way. From reminding me where my elite fluids were located to letting me know where my competitors were on the course, he was a huge help. I saw him at the lonely half marathon mark, and the clock read 1:17:08 as I crossed. I was still on pace for sub-2:35 and feeling amazing.
Except, somewhere between miles 13 and 15 I hit a snag. I was hit with an overwhelming urge to walk off the course and call it a day. I had no reason to feel this way. I was on pace, nothing hurt, and I had been taking my gels and electrolytes on schedule. All I knew was that I wanted to quit.
I was able to convince myself to take a “refresh mile.” I slowed down, relaxed, and tried to work through the problem. I knew I had plenty of time in the bank. I just needed to finish this race and get the OTQ monkey off my back. My “refresh mile” was a 6:15. This put the race back into perspective for me. Even with slowing down, I was still running awfully fast. I gradually got my head back into the game.
The next part of the course was tough. Miles 14 to 26.2 were an out-and-back along the Schuylkill River through some sizeable rolling hills. I love out-and-backs, and I love hills, so I wasn’t expecting this portion to be as mentally challenging as it was. While I had recovered from wanting to quit, I was starting to transition into survival mode.
At the turn-around at mile 20 I saw that I had a 2+ minute lead on 3rdplace and that I “only” had to cover the last 10k in 45 minutes in order to qualify for the Olympic Trials. In past races, this data would have made that last section of the race feel easy. On Sunday, it felt like a death march.
Near 22 miles I noticed a blister on my left foot. I played around with changing my footstrike pattern, which, had I been thinking clearly, I never would have done. Shortly afterward I lost full range of motion in my left leg due to an incredibly tight hamstring.
During my last marathon I dropped out at 22 because of a hamstring injury. I panicked.
I used every mental game trick I have ever learned. I repeated mantras, I said positive things about myself in 3rdperson, I distracted myself, I threatened myself, I bargained with myself. Above all, I was not going to let myself fail.
After what felt like an eternity of focusing on just running to the next landmark and getting through the final 5k one minute at a time, I finally I finished. I earned 2ndplace and with a time of 2:40:11, only 90 seconds off my PR.
In retrospect, I wonder if some of my dark thoughts potentially rose from illness. As soon as I crossed the finish line I could not stop shaking and shivering. Volunteers wrapped me up in as many jackets as they could find and brought me soup and hot chocolate. Despite their efforts, my teeth were still chattering.
Once I made it back to the hotel and took a hot shower, I couldn’t keep food down. With a cramping stomach, chills, and the inability to walk normally, I was a lot of fun to be around Sunday night!
Not being able to take in calories during the most important recovery window has affected how I am recovering. Almost 3 days later, I still feel like I have been hit by a bus.
I will take a full two weeks completely off from running and cross training to give my body an opportunity to rebuild and repair. During those two weeks I will focus on restoring the balance that can be lost when training at a high level by doing things I enjoy, like spending the entire day reading in a coffee shop or checking out a new brewery with my husband.
I’m not sure yet what’s next for me yet. I will either jump on the track in the Spring, or train for a half marathon. After 3 back-to-back marathon training cycles, I am ecstatic to have qualified for my 2ndOlympic Trials and can’t wait to map out the next two years with my coach!