And from 1990 to 2003, I had 14 consecutive years of settings PRs. I then wasted a good portion of 2004 chasing a PR when I should have been focusing on regaining fitness. I’m not making that mistake again. I’m still going to shoot for PRs this year but I’m not mortgaging the future for them. There’s more to setting up your marathon than just running marathons. If I don’t get myself into sub-2:22 shape by 2007, no 2005 or 2006 races will matter. In past years, I always chased immediate goals with the ultimate goal in the back of my mind. As of now, the ultimate goal is in the forefront of my mind and the immediate goals are being viewed as stepping stones toward that ultimate goal.
Of all the people I have personally talked to and of all the people who were there to witness the conditions on the day I ran 2:45, not a single one has suggested that 2:45 was a reflection of my fitness on that day. Most say that I might as well consider myself a 2:35 runner based on my run that day. Personally, I consider myself a 2:45 runner who was ready for 2:35 but didn’t find the right conditions at the right time.
I’m not going to say what I’m going to do racing wise in 2005 and 2006 because I’m not sure yet. Heck, maybe I’ll swing up by your neighborhood and let you see first hand how things are progressing or maybe I’ll head down to Chicago or go out to New York. Or maybe I’ll do none of those and work on getting closer to that 1:05-1:07 half that I think I will need to get to sub-2:22. What I do know is I’m going to use my racing in the fall of 2005 as a stepping stone. Maybe a 1:0X half marathon, maybe a 2:3X marathon, maybe another distance. What matters most right now, though, as Doc and I have discussed, is that I get in shape to get down to sub-2:22 by 2007. No amount of racing experience over any distance will get me to sub-2:22 if I’m not in shape for that. As Doc and I discussed, running marathons when I should be improving my fitness could be detrimental. There are plenty of stories of guys who have run sub-2:22 their first time out. I have three very significant lessons under my belt and will have more before the beginning of 2007. Right now, though, my number one focus is on taking care of the most important thing and that’s getting myself in good enough shape to make the goal a possibility.
Maybe I will succeed in this attempt, maybe not. I know the cards are stacked against me but I have succeeded with the cards stacked against me before. I want to know whether this is possible and, with the help of people like Doc, I have come to a conclusion about the best way to find that out. I know not a lot of people believe I can do this. Heck, I have my own self-doubt at times, even now at times questioning whether my wasted years of 2003 and 2004 took away my chance, but I wouldn’t keep pushing through this kind of training if I didn’t have an underlying belief that this is possible. I also know that there are some people who would be happy to see me fail. I am looking forward to ruining their fun on one fine day in 2007. However, in the end, I don’t care whether people believe I will fail in qualifying for the Trials or even want me to fail in qualifying for the Trials. No matter what happens, when 2008 rolls around, I will have the satisfaction of knowing I took my shot. Whatever happens, I will have gained many experiences and learned a lot about running and about myself that I would never experience or learn by being satisfied with what I am and disinterested in finding out what I can be.
Would “only” running 2:24 or 2:27 be a failure? In some senses, yes. Running in the Trials has been a goal of mine since I was in high school. In some ways, all I have accomplished since then was just another step toward the ultimate goal. In other senses, absolutely not. I remember not being able to hold an 8:00/mile pace for even a half mile. By chasing an “impossible” goal, I have already accomplished many “impossible” things and had countless experiences I never would have had if I would have just accepted being a back of the pack runner and never tried to catch up and eventually surpass the pack.