Today I clocked in with my sixth marathon completed (2 SF marathons, 2 NIke Women's marathons in SF, 1 Chicago and one at the end of the New Zealand Ironman). Today's was actually a bit of an impromptu marathon for me, in that I just decided on Wednesday to do it and was not tapered at all for it (I've been doing 40 mile weeks the last few weeks, weights, yoga, etc...). I had been planning to do a 30K trail run that got cancelled at the last minute, along with a 10 mile run the day before the 30K. So, when the 30K got cancelled I reasoned that the 26.2 wasn't that different from my original weekend training plans and I figured I could just do it as a mellow supported training run.
My main training goal at the moment is a 50 mile run in April, and along the way I'll be doing the Philadelphia marathon in November and either a 30k or 50k trail run in Sausalito in December. But beyond doing today's race as training for my focus races, what made me happy about jumping in to do the race is that it made me realize that I'm on track towards what my ultimate fitness goal is, which I've been mentally referring to as "Any given Sunday." (Yes, I'm aware that I'm borrowing from the title of the Al Pacino movie).
A few years ago I decided somewhat at the last minute to join a friend in running the SF half marathon. I had done the race a fair number of times before and I just took for granted that I had a good fitness base and while I might not get a PR, surely I would do reasonably well. Suffice it to say I did not (my PR for this course is 1:45, that year I think I struggled across the line in around 2:20). Beyond the clear difference in the time was how completely awful I felt for most of the run. I expect races to feel hard, but I also was accustomed to feeling strong and fit during races. On that day I felt neither of those things and I made the commitment to myself that I wanted to get and stay in good enough shape that on any given Sunday, if the desire and opportunity arose, I could go out and run a strong half marathon. It wouldn't have to be a record pace, but I wanted to always feel strong, not struggling. I realized how easy it is to slide off into a lesser version of ourselves while operating under the illusion that nothing has changed, and I didn't want to delude myself any more.
So, for the last mile of today's race (while listening to my new favorite racing song - I want it all by Queen - I meditated on the fact that today was in fact any given Sunday, and I was meeting my goal.
*As an aside - in retrospect, I will note that I learned there is actually a significant difference between running a marathon and running the 18/10 combo (with the marathon being a far bigger mental and physical challenge).