It's hard to believe this Sunday's race will be my 4th Columbus Marathon and 10th marathon or ultra.
My first marathon was the 2003 Columbus Marathon, which sort of happened by accident. My college roomate had trained all summer for his first marathon and was going into the race with an ambitious goal - qualifying for Boston at his first marathon. I had run some pretty good half marathons in high school, but had literally not run the entire thee years at college. I can't recall whether he asked or I volunteered, but it was determined that I would try and pace him for as long as I could, hoping I could get him to the 1/2 way point. I ran one time a week before the race, a 6 mile jog, and that was all the preperation I did. The day before the race my roomate came back from the expo with bad news. He told me that they were really serious about pulling "bandits" off the course and that I wouldn't be able to help pace him. I don't know what possesed me but I thought, no problem I'll just sign up for the race and drop out at the 1/2 way mark. After forking over $75 and having immediate buyers remorse I told myself no matter what that I would complete the run the next day even if I had to walk the entire second half. Being my typical overconfident self, I didn't think a marathon was really that big of a deal and that I'd be ok. Boy was I wrong. A marathon has a way of humbling even the most confident.
Even though I came in with no plan, it's fair to say that nothing went according to plan. First of all I didn't manage to run more than two miles at 7:00 pace with my friend, I was out of shape and the worlds worst pacer - but I soldiered on. I came through the 1/2 marathon in 1:45, which looking back on things was way too fast but I didn't know that at the time. At mile 14 I ran out of gas and everything began to hurt. The next 3 hours were the toughest 3 hours I'd ever endured. I walked almost the entire 2nd half of the race and finished the marathon in 4:51 - I was in tears as I crossed the finish line. Almost immediately I told myself I'd run this again someday and I'd train property next time.
Flash forward 3 years, and I got the urge to try the marathon again. I had just spend the summer in Europe honeymooning with my wife and for some reason I decided it was time to give this another shot. I really committed myself to my training...for the first week. I had trouble staying motivated. I recall every run I did leading up that marathon, which is pretty easy when you only run 4 times. I did a couple 6 milers after work, I did a 10 mile run, as well as the Homestretch 20 miler. I thought, if I can finish Homestretch I'll be ok, even though I'd let myself down with my committment to the training. I made it about 14 miles in the Homestretch run before I had to resort to a walk/jog routine - it was not the run I had hoped for.
I don't know if it was stubborness or overconfidence this time that led me to go through with the marathon but once again I toed the line at Columbus with little to no training. My goal was to not walk and to try and break 4 hours, which I thought was reasonable. I once again came through the 1/2 in 1:45, which was again too fast and 4 miles later I hit the wall. The last 9 miles were very similar to my first marathon...difficult. I think I finished in 4:12, meaning the only goal I accomplished was finishing, but it was an almost 40 minute PR. I finished that race questioning whether I really had the drive to properly train for a marathon.
Two years later I got the urge to try another marathon and at the urging of my wife's friend I joined a training group, thinking group runs would motivate me to train. MIT it turned out was a great fit for me. Although I ran no milage outside of the group runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays, it was still a lot more than I had done in the previous two attempts. I came in with the same goal as before, finish in 4:00 without walking. This time I accomplished my goal, finishing in 3:27; a 45 minute PR. I still wasn't as dedicated to my training as I should have been but it was a huge improvement.
This years marathon looks to be pretty similar to last years. Even though I have a pretty great year of running behind me, I had a little bit of trouble dedicating myself to training this summer. After Mohican I regressed back to a twice a week running routine, although they were all quality runs. If everything goes according to plan I should be in line for another big Columbus PR, but I think my days of 40-45 minutes PRs are behind me :). My goal is pretty ambitious, sub 3:00, but I know it's well within reach if I'm feeling well on race day. Tune in next week to see if I hit my goal or if I crashed and burned once again on the 2nd half of the Columbus Marathon course.