As I have had some downtime over the last couple of weeks, I have been enjoying the holidays and giving my body a break from this running business. Getting away from it all for a few days has provided me the opportunity to reflect on the past year and on all that I have achieved. The point of this review is not to recount my performance in each race – that’s been done in detail already. The point is to take a more holistic view of my performance in relation to my goals and objectives, and think about where I can do better next year. I’ll admit that, over the past twelve months, I have far exceeded any expectations I had going into this endeavor. When I first started running I thought I would struggle to reach a point where I actually enjoyed the activity. Although I still dread the early morning runs and sometimes struggle with heavy legs, I look forward to most of my runs; the long and short training runs act as a form of meditation, whereas the races themselves feed my need for competition and achievement.
Going back to the start of the year, I set myself a few goals:
- Finish 9 NYRR races & qualify for the 2013 NYC Marathon
- Run a Half-Marathon in under 2 hours
- Run a Marathon in under 4 hours
- Run a race in under 8:00 per mile
- Avoid serious injury
Of the five goals I set out for myself at the start of the year, I managed to achieve four of them. In my mind that was pretty remarkable, especially in the context of where I was physically just 18 – 24 months ago. It wasn’t that long ago that the thought of running scared me (I imagined with horror all my wobbly bits, well wobbling!). The first few months at the gym were filled with shame as I wore the results of my over-eating and general laziness for all to see. However, I slowly started to see some changes and in time I was able to run further and faster. At the same time, my clothes started to feel a little looser and I became more comfortable in my own skin. Skip forward a year and the changes in me were much more evident. I was ready to take my running to the streets to really see what I could.
Over the course of the year I registered for 14-15 NYRR races at a cost of $540, all marathon qualifiers. As it turns out, I actually only ran the required nine because of scheduling issues and injury. For the coming year, I will be more selective with the races I sign up for. This year promises to be a busy one, so it’s important I keep in mind the commitment I made to Jess way back at the beginning and make sure that running doesn’t take over my life and dictate my schedule.
I originally planned to run a half-marathon last year, but ended up running three. Each one was a fantastic experience and if I’m being honest, I have to admit that it’s probably my favorite distance. The half-marathon is a real test of both speed and endurance and I enjoy the mental and physical challenge it provides. A friend of mine who also runs mentioned recently that he has a half-marathon personal best of 1:36 – a full 12 minutes better than mine, so I’m looking to continue improving my own time in this distance and hopefully taking a crack at that record by the end of the year. In terms of the marathon, I’m not going to rehash my Philadelphia mistakes, but I am planning to compete in just one this year because of the training commitment required. I qualified for the NYC Marathon in November through the 9+1 program and will make sure to take all my supplements as I look to finish in under four hours this time around.
Average pace is a tricky thing to aim for because different race distances require different levels of effort. However, my first ever race saw me finish with an 8:13 per mile average in just under 4 miles so it wasn’t a stretch to imagine getting under the 8:00 minute mile barrier. At least that’s what I thought. There were times where I really struggled and it was only at the very end of the year, as I peaked from my marathon training that I started to put in the performances necessary to take me under that eight minute mile pace. Now that I managed to break it, my next target is 7:30 per mile!
I read a lot of running materials, whether it’s books, blogs, or magazines. One of the comments that kept coming up was the inevitability of injuries. Apparently it happens to everyone, and although we can take preventative measures to limit their impact, eventually the strain will catch up. Sad to say, it happened to me this past year. Luckily the tendonitis was not extreme and a month’s rest helped my knee recover. I have to be conscious of mixing weights and stretches into my routine to prevent a recurrence and ensure my leg muscles remain strong enough to withstand the constant stress. Despite the injury, I am pretty lucky that it was not serious and so, I hope to continue that trend me monitoring my body and making sure I eat, stretch, and vary my workouts to provide a solid foundation for the next twelve months.
As far as the coming year, my goals have not changed all that much except in my finish times. However, I have added one new one to the list. I’m getting married in May, so the goal is to make sure that running does not interfere with my wedding. I’m pretty sure I can do it – I just have to avoid scheduling any big races or intense training for the weeks leading up to and after the wedding and honeymoon.