It was a whim.
I was watching trash TV and surfing the internet without purpose, so I’m not quite sure what combination of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and Facebook prompted me to find the Cleveland Marathon website. But within a few hours I had cashed in some Marriott points and registered for the half marathon which at that point was only a month away.
The reason? It fit perfectly in both my training schedule and my work schedule, a confluence of good fortune that rarely happens in my world. My marathon training called for a 14 mile run and with the ability to get the weekend off, a drive to Cleveland was pretty much the perfect setup. The race becomes a catered long run with a medal at the end. It’s a chance to practice race day — nutrition, hydration, clothing, pace and mentality. It’s win all around. Booyah and whatnot.
Then came the subtle snag. I sat with my training journal all last week, trying to come up with my race goals.
I kept drawing a blank.
I couldn’t think of what my race goals were. I’ve been on autopilot for a while, happy in my comfort zone. But if I stay in my comfort zone for too long, I get bored and anxious and sucked into flipping between reality TV shows and “Law & Order” episodes I could recite verbatim. The Cleveland Half Marathon presented an opportunity beyond a catered long run. It now was a chance to think about what I really wanted and to start setting a plan in motion.
Themes started to emerge:
1. This race is in service of the marathon. I did not set out to run this race in Cleveland. It’s part of the process to the marathon I’m running in June. Don’t overinflate its importance.
2. Don’t get frustrated. When I’m frustrated, I struggle against myself and that, in all shapes and sizes, is counterproductive. I’m going to get frustrated. The key, for me, is to recognize it and let it go.
3. Keep perspective. I am not running my fastest right now. In fact I am way off my personal best pace. Like tragically off. But pace isn’t the only way to measure success. I’ve been feeling stronger in recent weeks and that counts for something. Actually, it kinda means everything if I step back and look at it from a distance.
4. Challenge myself. I am not going to set a PR which is fine because … hellooooo! I registered for this race a month ago. (See Theme No. 1) But part of keeping perspective and letting frustration go is realizing that I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. Go a little bit harder. I am certain it won’t kill me.
5. Forget everyone else. Comparison leads to critical self judgement which leads to a dark place in my head which, trust me, is not a fun place to be.
So what is my race goal? I always start with “finish” because while I know I am capable of running 13.1 miles, I never take any distance for granted. A lot can happen between now and the finish line. Alongside finish is “fun” –another universal goal. I’m a recreational endurance athlete. If I’m not having fun, if I don’t enjoy what I’m doing, then I’ve completely missed my own point.
Which brings me to my goal for the Cleveland Half Marathon. They may not be goals in the traditional sense. Perhaps more life mantras. It all boils down this:
- Take what the day brings.
- Remember why I started.
- Let me be me.