April 10, 2012

On focus, determination & self-belief

There are 25 days left until the 2012 Vancouver marathon on May 6. Overall, my training has been superb. I have clear evidence of my progress, with two half marathon PBs. I am on track to achieve my goal to run 2:59 on May 6. Confidence doesn't guarantee success, however.

1970s Adler Triumph Tippa
For me, running and writing go very much hand in hand, though one is a hobby and the other is my profession. If you think I am serious about my running, I am far more ambitious with my writing.

Training to improve one's performance in marathon running is a breeze compared with working on becoming a better writer. One reason I am so determined to achieve the Sub-3 marathon is that it will sustain my ambition as a writer to aim for lofty goals. I want to become a household name, a bestselling and award-winning author.

But I have been struggling in the past six months in my attempts to work on the manuscript for my seventh book. I have been working very hard to discover what the book is that I am trying to write, but the manuscript remains elusive. And I worry about my lack of progress, which concerns me more as each week passes.

Tim told me yesterday he wants me to focus on one thing this month—running Sub-3.

While a manuscript has not yet taken shape, I write daily. A week ago, I was looking for a way to turn all the posts from my Blogger site into a one big text file. After some Googling, I came across Blog2Print.com and used it to create a PDF-file of my blog ($7.95) and then turned it into a Word document with text only.

The document has more than 200,000 words that chronicle much of my running over the past four years. I am cleaning it up so I can create a paperback record of it, just for me. As I have been working on it for the past week, it has already turned up memories I had forgotten, and brought others crystal-clear into focus.

Nothing is clearer from my blog than that the Sub-3 marathon has been on my mind for more than five years. In a post on January 13, 2009, I wrote about my goals for the year ahead.

While the start of the New Year is a great time to rethink your major goals, my athletic objectives don't change that often as I believe in big dreams.
            When I first broke 3:15 in the Gold Coast Marathon in July 2006, I was able to think that perhaps, possibly, one day I could run a marathon in less than 3 hours.
            Today—2-1/2 years and four marathons later—my main goal is still the same. I'm a lot closer now, having finished the [2008] Victoria Marathon in 3:07 three months ago.
            To run a marathon in just under 3 hours, you have to cover each of the 42.195K in 4 minutes 16 seconds. I am 7 minutes and 11 seconds away from 2:59:59, which at that pace is a distance of 1.69K.
            Based on my current fastest marathon pace, which was 4:26 per kilometre in Victoria, I need to speed up by 10 seconds per kilometre for each of the 42K. That's a BIG goal. And, while I'll never say never, I am not sure if I'll have gained that much additional speed come the Vancouver marathon on May 3  [2009]. It may take another four marathons, or maybe more.
Since that post three years ago, I have run another six marathons, three ultras (two 50-milers and one 100K), as well as a bunch of shorter races, and I am only 65 seconds closer to my goal with a marathon PB of 3:06:06. Yet I still believe, more than ever, that I will run a Sub-3 marathon. I have never felt more confident about my ability to do so.

There are no guarantees, just the desire and determination to keep training and trying.

In the superb Run to Overcome, Meb Keflezighi writes, "As every marathoner knows, you must prepare yourself for the journey. Without proper training, you will never finish. And even with proper training, you never know what will happen on race day. The weather, the course conditions, your own body—all may seem to conspire against you. 'If there is no struggle, there is no progress,' said the great American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. What an apt description of the marathon.

"Nothing is guaranteed, no matter how hard you've worked. Injuries are part of running; disappointments and setbacks are part of everyday life. But if you keep doing the right things, eventually the results will go your way. Winning in life doesn't happen when you overcome just one thing—do or die. It's persevering, knowing that difficulties are bumps in the road, not the end of the world. It's continuing to do the right things, knowing your time will come.

"Expect to succeed if you are committed and persevere."

Meb's book chronicles his life up until the 2009 New York City marathon; if you're a runner and/or marathoner, it is a must-read for sure. Meb, born in Eritrea in 1975, arrived with his family in the US at the age of 12. Showing great promise as a runner in high school, he won an Olympic silver medal in the 2004 Games in Athens.

Despite a stellar career he had yet to win a major marathon until he became the NYC marathon champion in 2009, defying some naysayers who had suggested he'd better think about retiring; he used the doubters to fuel his ambition on race day.

"At times I was fixated on the race [2009 NYC marathon], thinking mechanics, mechanics, mechanics. I wanted my shoulders down and back, my stride crisp, my body tall. Other times I was having nothing but career flashbacks. It was similar to Athens, where all my running acquaintances and experiences were passing through my mind. And there was a new dimension this time. I was also thinking of all the doubters and all the slights I had received."

Run to Overcome was released in October 2010, and Meb clearly believed he wasn't done yet. "I know I can run faster in the marathon, half marathon, and 10K. If those things don't happen though, so be it. I'll still be content with my productive and consistent career," he says in his book.

Since then, he ran his fastest marathon yet in the 2011 NYC marathon and then won the US Olympic Trial Marathon in January 2012 where he set another PB of 2:09:08 and, at age 36, became the oldest winner of the trials.

"... winning doesn't always mean getting first place; it means getting the best out of yourself," Meb says in Run to Overcome.

I will keep this in mind as I prepare for today's training session. It is a big one; a total of 19K, including 6 X 1200 metres at 5K pace. I'll run the 12K from home to the track to warm up for these repeats which I need to do in 4:30 each. This session scares me, in a good way. It's good to challenge yourself regularly.

It's a privilege to be able to pursue your dreams, whether on a global stage or a more modest one. In Advanced Marathoning, Deena Kastor who won a bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympic marathon and, like Meb, lives and trains in Mammoth Lakes, says, "We don't make sacrifices. If we truly love this sport, and we have these goals and dreams, they're not sacrifices. They're choices that we make to fulfill our goals and dreams." 

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