Here’s a long overdue race recap that I wrote on the plane ride home while swearing off the marathon.

This recap isn’t about my race. I’ll be honest, I can recap that in one sentence: I started off at 6:13 pace and boom mile 14 hit and I lost my legs. 6:13 quickly turned to willing one foot in front of the other while warding off the persistent temptation to stop dead in my tracks. With that being said, it isn’t a race worthy of sharing my strategy. Instead, this is about racing with an internal fire – a fire stoked by a love of the sport, a belief in yourself, and feeling joy in each step.

I had the privilege of spending some time with Carrie Mack (from Littlewing) the day before our race, as we both found ourselves awkwardly navigating the professional field for the first time. From our technical meeting, to driving the last six miles of the course, to warming up before the race, it was evident…Carrie was ready. She was the perfect amount of calm but eager. Patient, but hungry. She turned to me on our warmup with an excited smile and said, “Wow, it’s a beautiful day, like a perfect day.” Damn, was that woman right. (Carrie went on to run a >8 min PR and meet the Olympic Trials A standard.)

So, fast forward to my race. Well, it wasn’t a perfect day for me and I may or may not have told a man who tried to start some casual race chat with me at mile 22, advising me I could still qualify if I found my legs…to shut up (honestly, I was so tired that I can’t recall if it was in my head or out loud…and for that, I’m deeply sorry, whoever you were). But as I contemplated quitting, I thought of Carrie and how I was absolutely sure she was having an amazing day. Her desire to be racing burned so bright it was evident to everyone she was around.

Unlike Carrie, my fire wasn’t stoked for Twin Cities. I didn’t have that buzzing feeling as I approached the start. I didn’t feel excited and eager to answer the question: What can I do on this day? Instead, the week leading up I felt some dread, filling my head with “How bad will this hurt?” “How long can I hold on?” “Am I prepared enough?”… Then I worked double-time to counteract those thoughts; meditating, writing, and re-writing my race plan, but I couldn’t shake the feeling.

With that being said, I am happy that on my worst day I could still run 2:54. But what got me down the most is that my fire wasn’t there. I didn’t run with joy and that left me asking myself after the race, What stokes my fire? Deep in my heart I knew that as I grew more fatigued in my training, lonelier in my self-coaching, solo workouts, and long runs…my only source of inspiration to OTQ was affirmation from others. And although that was just enough lighter fluid to get me through a training cycle, let me tell you, it’s a quick burn. When you’re stripped down in the marathon there is not an external force strong enough to lead you to a great race. You have to have the desire for yourself. You need a slow sustainable burn that manifests in running with joy, with confidence, with excitement.

So I’m sure some people will ask if I’ll try to find a December marathon for redemption, and for now my answer to that is no. Not until my fire is carefully built stick by stick on my own accord. Not until I feel it burning bright once again. Not until I 100% know that I’m stepping on the line for the right reasons.

Carrie was proof to me that you have to run when your fire burns bright, when joy permeates from every step, and, most importantly, when you aren’t doing it to prove anything to anyone...except yourself.

So this winter I’ll be getting stoked for fresh lines in the mountains. I’ll see ya at the start line when my fire burns bright.

Turns out I build fires pretty quick… a voice in my head kept creeping up saying, “Give yourself another chance.” So I did some evaluating and realized why the hell not? And with that, (and joining Tacoma City Running Club for some much-needed coaching and training partners), I’ll see you at the Houston Marathon start line.

Alisoune Lee
Tagged: racing