This blog picked up steam for me back in the spring when I registered for the Twin Cities Marathon. I had a purpose and a focus as I wrote about my early, often discouraging efforts to get into shape. Then, early in the summer, I left the topic behind. The truth is after a series of frustrating runs, I was on the brink of giving up, and I wrote a lengthy, depressing piece on my ambivalence called “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” which I removed from the site shortly after I posted it. Somehow—in part by getting most of my runs in before the heat of the day—I managed to get around that bend that seemed so impossible then; training became rote and didn’t seem to raise any issues that required a written account; and now post time is only five days away.
My other friends who are running Sunday seem to be going through the same thing I am right now. That is to say, we are a bundle of nerves. One of them sent me an email on Sunday saying she had just driven the course. That single sentence caused my stomach to flip and flop for a few minutes. Then yesterday, another friend wanted to know where to go to watch the race, so I popped open my laptop to show her the course, and as the map came on the screen, my stomach headed straight south. Even writing this, which I’m hoping will help exorcise some of these nerves, is causing my stomach to flutter around a bit.
Here’s why we’re all a bit antsy. There’s nothing any of us can do now to prepare ourselves, really. The training is done—and, in most cases, we have undertrained a touch. A friend calls training for a marathon a second job because of the time it entails. Each of us follows a training schedule, but it’s pretty darn difficult to do everything the way it is charted out. Life gets in the way, and you make compromises. I’m taking comfort in Haile Gebrselassie’s comments after his new world record for the marathon that he had to miss an entire week of training shortly before that race. Clearly, the rest of his training was more than sufficient. I am harboring similar hopes for myself. I had a pretty successful 20-miler a few weeks back, and if my taper has been more of a sharp drop off than I would like, perhaps the previous months of training have been enough to make up for that.
The other thing that is difficult right now is the unknown and that which you have no control over. For the last couple weeks, I have been washing my hands constantly, hoping against hope not to contract the common cold at exactly the wrong time. A concern of mine long before I signed up for the race was the weather. The only previous marathon I’ve run, Grandma’s in 2006, was marked (or should I say marred?) by high temperatures and humidity: it was grueling. And the last two Twin Cities Marathons I have attended have been brutally hot. Both times, I kept saying to myself how glad I was to be watching rather than running. At this point, the forecast for Sunday is for mild temperatures, though I have heard talk of a possible headwind. With roughly 10,000 runners though, a person should be able to do a fair amount of drafting.
Then last night, while I was sleeping, my left calf cramped up, and it’s still tender and knotted today. I wrestled with calf problems all through my training for my previous marathon, and they tightened up at the three-mile mark in that one. I was pleased I could tough it out over 23 miles, but it also made the experience less than entirely enjoyable—especially combined with the heat and humidity. Later that summer, I made a mid-life stride change, and I have hardly had a twinge since then—until last night. I don’t think it is going to be a problem, but I’ll admit it has me a little freaked out.