It is a wet and gray late summer afternoon as I sit here at my desk drinking a Bell's Oracle Double IPA. I have Glasser's "Home" on infinite repeat and there is a dull and persistent ache behind my right knee.
I will not be running the Grand Rapids Marathon on October 17.
Just saying those words lifts a huge weight from my shoulders. I've grappled for weeks with the question of whether to shove onward and do this race, or accept that it wasn't meant to be this time.
I am nothing if not stubborn when it comes to running, and that trait has yielded unfortunate results. I suppose I could say I have finally learned from my past mistakes1. After three years of constant training I have learned to listen to my body, to know when it is telling me enough is enough.
Sharp pain in my hamstring after five miles of slow running does not bode well for a full marathon. I know this as sure as I know that it's raining outside at this very moment.
There's the part of me that cries out, "Quitter! You're giving up this easily? Remember how you lost almost a month of training to IT band syndrome and still bounced back to qualify for Boston?"
I hate that voice, the one that tells me I'm weak and soft for taking the easy way out. I could force myself through these final five weeks before the marathon and then gut out the race itself, but for what? Another Boston qualifying time is completely out of the question. I know that running the full in Grand Rapids would hurt like hell. I'd be wrecked. I don't need that. There is determination and there is stupidity. Forcing myself to run a marathon in my undertrained state is stupid. I don't have to prove anything to anyone. I've completed FOUR marathons. That's 400% more than most people will do in their entire lives.
I ran today, five slow miles, accompanied almost the entire time by my friend, hamstring pain. I thought about the amazing year I had in 2009: setting new personal bests one after the other, qualifying for Boston...2009 would be difficult to improve upon under any circumstances. I ran Boston in April and that was the experience of a lifetime. Perhaps that will have to suffice as my major accomplishment of the year.
Shifting from the full to the half in Grand Rapids means I have 12 weeks until the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte. That has become my focus. 12 weeks is enough time to rehab this irritating muscle injury and rebuild my fitness for the race in December. I have a modest goal in mind for Charlotte: do better than my last two marathons (4:16 and 4:11). Breaking four hours would be even better. Forget about requalifying for Boston. If that ever happens again...wonderful. If it doesn't, well, I did it once, and the memories of that experience will be mine for a lifetime.
Side note: in three years I get another 5 minutes' worth of cushion on my Boston qualifying time...
...which also means that in three years I will be turning 40...
That is so not the way I wish to end this post, all broody and thinking about getting older. No. I'm going to end by saying that I'm going to run the Grand Rapids Half Marathon with my Dad in five weeks, and Spike will be there, and the Redhead too, and I'm going to visit Founders Brewing, and there will be much merriment and good times.
Congratulations to Carolina John on completing a half Ironman today! And to all my buddies slogging through the mud at Dances with Dirt!
1: Add to list: Never sprint the final 30 meters of a Beer Mile.