Pre-Marathon Thoughts

Last night I had a conversation replaying in my head over & over. I picture two miniature Sabrinas, one strong & tall & loud, one fat & cowering & whiny. And then Dustin (the Voice Of Reason) throws open the door, delivers his line, and walks back out, leaving both of their little minds blown.

Whiny Sabrina: What if I can't do this?
Strong Sabrina: I can do this.
Whiny Sabrina:  But what if I can't because my foot hurts or because it's too fast and I tank or because the weather sucks or just because I suck? What if I can't?
Strong Sabrina: Dammit, as long as the foot holds out, I know that I can do this.
Whiny Sabrina:  But what if I can't?!
Dustin: So what if you can't?

And, scene.

If I can't hit 3:30 at Fargo tomorrow, or if I have to walk, or if I can't even finish, it's not the end of the world, now, is it? Planning to run a marathon tomorrow is an accomplishment in & of itself, given how things have gone.

Here's why I have all these doubts, in case you haven't been paying attention to my obsessing:

My goal time is 3:30. This is a pace of 7:55. That's 20 seconds faster than my TC marathon, 7 months ago. In theory, that's plenty of time for me to speed up to the new pace. But my TC marathon training went absolutely perfectly. I trained up to 24 miles, and had no injury issues. Fargo training, however, has been like the polar opposite.

I had hip pain after (and due to) the TC marathon off & on, which got progressively worse until a physical therapist (James) finally fixed me up at the end of February. I then worked my long runs up to 18 miles (on 4/9) and was feeling great!

And then, a new pain hit in my left foot. James & I battled that for ages; in the 4 weeks after my 18-miler, I ran a total of 27.82 miles, most of them less than a mile and cut short due to foot pain. I even at Fargos' website to see whether my entry could be deferred or switched to a shorter race. I honestly didn't think it was going to happen.

Finally, James figured out that orthotics would help. I got them 11 days before the Fargo marathon and tested them with a 2.41-mile run. It didn't hurt while running, but it did ache a little bit afterward. However, on that run I developed a massive blister on my right arch. When I ran the next night, 2.39 miles of run/walk intervals, only the blister bothered me; the foot ache was not better or worse. (After the speedwork, I ran .59m totally barefoot, and felt no pain at all. Curious.)

Two days later, 8 days before Fargo, I needed to test whether I could even expect to do Fargo. I headed out for a run but didn't get 20' from my driveway before the blister stopped me. Feeling dejected and defeated, I returned home. The only other shoe options I had were my old beat-up Nike Frees, which have around 400 miles on them from last summer. I expected to get maybe 2 pain-free miles in, and that Fargo dreams were done.

They don't look this good anymore!

Instead, I somehow ran ten glorious pain-free miles. I only stopped there because I was damn tired, from intentionally starting out fatigued. The next day, my foot wasn't even sore. So I ran another four miles in them, stopping there only to prevent a new blister. The next day, I ran another 5.25 pain-free miles. I cut it short there because it seemed pretty obvious the foot wasn't going to hurt.

This should not have worked, my friend. I don't know what kind of reasons the sweet goddess Nike has for blessing me with this miracle, but I am deeply, deeply grateful. After the Sunday run, I was finally certain I'd be able to run Fargo.

So, that's the whole backstory behind the "But what if I can't?" line of thinking. Because it's really and truly possible that I can't. But the only acceptable reason for me to stop running is if the foot hurts. I cannot control whether my foot fails me, but I can control my brain and prevent it from failing me. As long as the foot holds out, it’s all mental. No matter how tired I am, no matter how blistered & chafed I am (thanks to the weather), I will not stop running.

To help me stay confident, I tried to recruit Dustin's relay team to run with me. I think I've got Dustin convinced (he's first) and Mike is after that, so it's just possible he would hang with me for a while. (Side note: he is actually planning to keep running past his 8-mile leg to make it a long training run - that man is my running idol. I just want to be as awesome as him some day.) I'm also trying to convince Darrin Johnson he can pull off a 3:30. And finally, Kenny Klaudt is planning to line up with me, but I fully expect him to take off and ditch me once we hit halfway and he's still feeling good. Having friends to run with makes everything easier. But if all that fails, I will just have to become bestest buds with Pacer Rich and he can motivate me to my goal!

Spectators will be my wondertastic, fantabulous, superbulous friends Amy & Lisa. I am so grateful to them for planning to be there that I well up with tears when I think about their support. I absolutely love them. Heather is intending to run the half-marathon, but I know she will be thinking of me as she does. Off-course, I know that my parents, husband, and many friends will be anxiously awaiting news. I'm really hoping the online runner tracking is up and running and they can see my progress live! I intend to do them all proud, but I also know this: they are already proud. I am humbled by the immense support I receive from the many wonderful people in my life.

The weather is one thing I can't get too positive about, though. 63 degrees and 70% chance of rain transitioning to a 70% chance of thunderstorms. On the other hand, it beats 95 & humid, and since there's not a damn thing I can do about it, I'm not letting it get to me.

Well, I think that's a full brain-vomit of everything running through my head in these final hours. I'm still super anxious, and I probably will be tomorrow until 7:30am, but in the meantime I’m trying to remember to be grateful that, given all the history I just shared, I am even planning to run tomorrow.


  1. "As long as the foot holds out, it’s all mental. No matter how tired I am, no matter how blistered & chaffed I am (thanks to the weather), I will not stop running."

    Well, "it's all mental" is often true, but there are numerous factors that can affect your race. I don't mean to discourage you, but pay attention to everything. Other physical issues could arise and ignoring or stubbornly pushing through some of them could be dangerous. I saw a man die last week immediately after getting his PR and BQ. Not to say your heart is at risk of giving out for any reason, but wow, there's no doubt we can push ourselves too hard at times. So my point: run hard and go for it, but be wise! Know this particular marathon is one step along the way in your larger life as a runner.

  2. Enjoy the pre-race pasta! I've never run a marathon but always love thinking about having that pre-race meal! Good luck. Be safe.