I'm only half kidding. Last year I grossly miscalculated how long it would take me to get to the race and find a place to park. I was almost literally running to the start line just in time for the start gun to go off. So this year, I vowed that that was not going to happen again. So I got up at o'dark thirty ( which was an hour earlier than usual because of the time change) and was in the car and on the road not much later. This craziness allowed me to arrive at the football stadium with more than an hour to spare.
Sunday morning was the coldest morning in months, so I dressed in capris tights, warm long sleeve shirt, and leg warmers.
While I knew I'd be fine while running, I'd be way cold if I stayed outside without moving around much. Luckily, one of the awesome perks of the Marshall race is the opportunity to park right at the start, so I was able to stay toasty warm in the car until almost start time.
The cannon went off and I was on the move. Just like in every race, thoughts of what have I gotten myself into started running through my head. It was a chorus of "this is gonna be tough; you are so not ready for this" competing with the more positive "you've got this; it's just one foot in front of the other" with a few "race day is so awesome!"'s thrown in.
The mental games continued until mile 3 and the water stop at Harris Riverfront park. At this point, my Garmin conveniently decided to tell me its memory was full. Lovely. So I stopped to clear out the memory, deleting all the past runs that I had wrongly assumed had already been deleted and the first 3 miles of the race. My Nike+running app on my phone updated itself the week before the race and I still wasn't familiar with all the changes and how to get it to work the way I wanted it to, so I wasn't using it, and was just using the phone for some musical motivation. So with the Garmin having to start over and losing the first 3 miles, I had no way to personally track my progress and time over the whole race. So with no way to really know what my time was, I basically just said "oh well, guess I'll just run." I used the Garmin for intervals, but from that point on, I didn't pay much attention to how fast or slow I was or wasn't going. I just ran.
If I felt like going fast, I did. If I felt like walking instead of running, I did. If I felt like singing along to my music, I did. It was a race run by what I felt like doing at any given point (not by what I thought I should be doing to finish in a certain time), which is a strategy I usually reserve for Disney races. And, like a Disney race, this one was fun. There was no pressure (self-imposed or otherwise). I enjoyed every step (even the painful ones after mile 10).
Don't get me wrong, I like the challenge of trying to go faster; I enjoy the battle to beat the old time, the fight to be better, faster, stronger; there is certain kind of fun in that for me (if there weren't I wouldn't have done this 9 times). But this race was different. It was simply fun - The joy of running, of moving, of just being out there showed up.
While I doubt I'll employ this strategy with every race ( I'm thinking I'm too self- competitive to let the possibility of a faster, better, stronger, PR of a race elude me for too long), it was the right thing to do for this one. It reminded of why I like to run - because when you strip it down to the bare basics, when you take away all that makes it hard, it's just fun. And who doesn't like fun?
So how did I do? Well....
When it came right down to it, for my pre-race goal, I was just hoping for a finish - yes, there was a part of me that wanted it to be a fast finish, but mostly I just wanted to cross the line (and if I could do it in somewhere between 2:30 and 2:45, well that would be awesome). And I did - just under 2:45 (2:44:55, gun; 2:43:32, chip).
I ran the race I needed to run.