Just yesterday, I got my official bib number and corral assignment for the 2017 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. It commemorates the loss of 168 lives, including many children, in the terrible 2001 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. The memorial is a solemn place worth a visit. In a moment of self-reflection, I look back at how I arrive at this point in my life.
Several years ago, I went through a physical and mental transformation that eventually lead me to running. (Why 2ndLifeFit?) This will be my 6th marathon and 8th race of marathon distance or longer, but this is the first time I feel some ownership of myself as a distance runner. It sounds weird even as I type it, but to some extent every time I finished a long race, it felt like a fluke. As if somehow I accidentally finished each race. That little voice in your head that isn’t always the most supportive view of your life. As I embark on this next adventure, this one feels different.
I really started training for this race about 14 months ago. I got it in my head that I was going to run a 50K. I bought a book and started following the recommended training plan. Then life handed me a crazy cool opportunity. I got to take 6 weeks traveling across the United States supporting a coast-to-coast running and cycling relay called United Relay of America. That’s a story for another day, but the experience left me with a new-found confidence in my ability to persevere. Having been able to maintain my fitness level while traveling, I signed up for my first 50K when I got home.
That race went well. It was a crushed gravel, super flat Rails-to-Trails course called the “Angry Bull Sizzling Six Shooter” in Carthage, Missouri. I say it went well in that my only goal was to finish. I continued to train and signed up for my second 50k, the much more technical “Flatrock 50K” in Independence, Kansas. Again, successful in that my only goal was to finish, but I also felt better than expected for a tough race. I began to wonder what was possible if I really committed to my training.
Just after Flatrock, Nathan Sicher, a friend and avid ultra-runner had openings for coaching. This seemed like the next logical step. My ultimate goal for now is to finish a 50 mile race, but Nathan has worked with me to increase my speed by concentrating on the marathon distance for now. After two months with a coach, I took about 17 minutes off my personal best marathon time at “Run for the Ranch” in Springfield, MO. Despite the PR, I made some pacing mistakes early on that resulted in my walking a couple of miles late in the race. I could do better!
So here I sit, four days out from the OKC Marathon. I’m a little nervous, but mostly excited. I’ve put in the training and have seen steady increases in my speed and endurance. On top of that I have several friends from all over the country who participated in One Run For Boston (another story) who are also coming to race. I’m more prepared for this race than any I have ever entered. If all goes well, I’d like to take 30 minutes or so off my previous best. No matter the outcome, I’m extremely happy with my training, and able to take ownership of the title “Marathon Runner” for myself.
Featured image – My first half marathon – April 13, 2013 – Oklahoma City