Next Steps

Yesterday I had a good run – a really good run. It was the kind of run where mind, body and weather all cooperate. The kind of run where you dressed exactly right for the temperature. The kind of run where the only other people out are friendly or have cute dogs (or both).  The kind of run that makes you grateful to be a runner. The kind of run that makes you feel invincible. The kind of run that convinces you that you could run a stupid long distance again.

After 8 miles, another 18.2 didn’t feel so out of reach.

The marathon is a brutal, magical race. 26.2 requires grit, discipline and absolute commitment. It’s exhilarating. It’s excruciating.  Each of the six times I’ve completed one, it’s changed my life, and I arguably learned even more from the marathons I failed to complete.  

On my last attempt in April 2019, I injured my foot during my final 20-mile training run and DNS-ed the Eugene Marathon. I spent the next six months rehabbing, and the six months after that rebuilding my stamina to run longer distances. Knowing both the depth of the commitment and also the risks, I’m not positive I’ll ever run another marathon. Six is plenty, plus I’m thrilled to be back to running pain-free.

But between seeing friends recently run the Portland Marathon and then watching the one-two punch of Chicago and Boston has reignited that siren song.

I’ve long told myself that another marathon is not in the cards unless I am enthusiastically on board from Day One. Key word: enthusiastically. Before I even register, I need to be all in. An advantage of being down this road before is I know how much work is required, and how even under the best of circumstances, there are going to be stretches where I simply do not want to do this anymore. If I’m on the fence up front, no way will I survive the trenches of training.

Be honest: could I really put myself through all that again? Am I truly willing to block off several months of weekends for long runs to prepare? Beyond just the running, could I actually commit to sticking with cross training and PT exercises to make sure I don’t get injured again?

After yesterday’s run, I’m catching myself saying yes to at least some of those questions.

Next year with be the 50th anniversary of the Portland Marathon. This race holds both my personal worst and personal best times (in 2014 and 2015, respectively), so something feels extra right to try again on this milestone.

I remain adamant that I won’t run another marathon unless I REALLY feel called to it, and for the last two years I have felt no such calling. But bit by bit, I’m starting to get excited about running again. I’m starting to want to set a bigger goal and chase it. I’m starting to want to go for those long weekend runs and reconnect with my favorite trails, reconnect with my running buddies, and reconnect with the part of myself that can do hard things.

My current goal is to train up to 15 miles, then be brutally honest with myself on what I am physically able to do and what I actually want to do at that point. Half marathons have felt fine on my body, but it’s a massive jump between a half and a full. The slog of full marathon training really hits with the upper teen long runs, so if I’m mentally or physically resisting by 15 at all, I’ll know this is not the right time.

Time will tell if this is the start of Round 7 or if I settle in content where I am, but the seed is planted, and it’s starting to grow roots. I’m nowhere near Yes and not even at Probably, but for the first time in two years, I’m no longer at Absolutely Not.

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