By Chris McClung
So, yesterday I completed my 8th marathon in Philadelphia. I was shooting to PR and beat my prior best time of 2:46, but the marathon had different plans as it often does. I ended up with a solid, respectable 2:49:35. I followed the plan, executed perfectly through 19 miles, but my legs tightened up and essentially powered down around mile 20 leading to a long, painful run to the finish and a 5 minute positive split on the second half. There is really not much more to report.
What went wrong? I have theories but I don’t know and may never. The marathon is a harsh companion. You train for months logging week after week of high miles and long runs while trying to stave off injury and illness and bring your best to race on one single day. For this one, I averaged over 60 miles/week for the 23 week program, ran 10 long runs of 20+ miles, and put in more 5:30 am runs than i can count with TeamROGUE. And, in the final weeks, I was on a steady diet of zinc, vitamin C, echinacea, and allergy medicine trying to keep the germs at bay as person after person fell sick around me. That leaves me with lots of hard work done, months of worrying about the details AND now a big fat unmet goal. This leaves me asking: is it all worth it?
Well, I already had the answer even before I lined up on race day. This training cycle has given me the answer and brought me to a new perspective on all of this madness. The answer for me is this: it isn’t all about race day. It’s really about the whole process from start to finish. The training is as much a part of the end as it is the means to it. If i ignored that and focused only on a less than perfect race, then I would overlook the countless cool experiences and moments of insight along the way. So, here are a few of my lessons from training:
1. Running is only an individual sport if you let it be. Yes, for most races, we all run for an individual time. But, in training, it does not have to be that way. Joining Rogue and TeamROGUE has taught me that. I can’t say enough about my training partners. They hold me accountable, they push me on hard workouts, they hold me back on easy days, they give me injury advice when I feel a tweak, they trade pacing duties with me on steady runs and track workouts, they pull me up the Scenic hill on hard repeats, they give me tough love OR encouragement at the right moments, and they kick my ass on a run when i start to get overconfident. In short, we work together… we work as a team to help each other achieve our goals, and I am a better runner for it.
2. Trust your coach and the plan. You never know where it will take you. Brian from TeamROGUE put it best in a forum post: “I have learned that if you’re told to do something, you give it a try. I’ve also learned that Steve is a great coach. He builds you up so you can achieve what he is asking. So I do it.” Yes we do, Brian. Enough said.
3. Relish in the work as much as the race. The race isn’t the only time and place where you can push your limits or have fun. I have struggled with this in the past, sometimes thinking of the training as a chore or as a box to be checked on the way to race day. This cycle I found myself looking forward to the runs and the community that came with them. There is nothing like testing your limits 3 times a week with good friends. Why else would anyone in their right mind run Scenic/Pecos hill loops at steady pace, much less do it twice?!?
4. Invest in people and friendships along the way. And, in hindsight, I still don’t have this one right, but I have learned my lesson (albeit late). I can’t tell you how many hours I have logged running in this group, and admittedly, some I still only know on a superficial running level. And there are people in TeamROGUE who happen to train at different paces, and I still don’t know their names. My bad, my fault, wrong point of focus. Don’t let it happen to you… I won’t again. This community, our community should transcend pace or group.
In the end, you won’t find me crying over 3-4 minutes. I am content with the result and more than blessed to be able to take this kind of journey. I am still driven to push my limits and will no doubt stage another attack on my marathon PR, but I will do so with a renewed determination and a new perspective on the journey to get there.
PS. Special thanks to: my wife and son for putting up with my crazy running hours. Coach Steve for the countless hours and sacrifices you put in to make us better runners and people. Ruth, Carolyn, John and the rest of the Rogue crew for the tireless support. The entire TeamROGUE group for pushing me and each other to not only run faster but have fun doing it (with specific shout-outs to Kamran, Asia, Brent, Corey, Larry, Damon, Niccole, Muz, Paul, Jim, Andrew, Allison, Mike, and Jason).