And just as many of you are hitting the register button for the Boston Marathon 2014, I am planning a very different journey than the one from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.
My plan is to beat all my marathon demons down into a hole and come out the other side a very different runner than the one who ran that day back in April.
To do that I do not need to travel to Boston next year. Even though I understand the reason that so many runners who experienced the chaos and mayhem of that tragedy feel the need to return to prove something, both to themselves and to the rest of the world, I am not ready to do so.
When the wheels of my plane back to Los Angeles left the soil of Boston, Massachusetts, I felt elated. I was happy to be able to get out of harm’s way and back to my children, who, due to their mom’s “hobby,” were forced to spend a few uncertain hours waiting to hear whether or not I was okay.
Oldest heard the news from a kid at school who found out about the bombing on his smartphone. Fortunately MFP texted him soon after he heard from me, so that he could ease back into his day without worry about my safety.
I don’t often travel away from my kids, so when I do we are all a bit ill-at-ease. Since MFP’s career has been all-consuming from the start, I have been the rock, the one that the kids count on for support.
In addition, my journey to Boston was quite accidental, as I had, on a fluke of sorts, qualified on my first marathon attempt. Therefore, I never really felt like I belonged amongst the crowd of determined runners who had marathon dreams waiting along that 26 mile course.
When I do go back to Boston, because I know I will some day, I want to have earned it. I want more marathons and a few, stronger personal bests under my belt.
I want to go with a group of runners and make it a collective effort. I want the kids to be ready to send me off to Boston again without a grain of doubt about my safety.
And quite selfishly, I want a much better qualifying time. I want to be closer to the front of the pack. I want to take off from Hopkinton with the fast crowd.
To that end, I have been itching to get back out and run a marathon again.
After my spring injury, I have worked all summer to acclimate to two days of speed work plus a long run while keeping my mileage right around 60 miles per week.
I ran a personal best, quite on accident, in a half marathon.
I began running with a group, and with a training partner who keeps my pace honest on my long runs.
I have grown a lot as a runner since Boston, and I believe I am ready to tackle my goals again.
This time last year I thought I had it all figured out. I thought that running a 12-mile tempo at 7:30 pace was all I needed to indicate that I would PR in the Long Beach Marathon. Boy was I wrong.
I am a much humbler runner now. I know that working hard in a few speed workouts is not enough.
I have to be fast, yes. But more importantly, I have to be strong.
I have to fuel properly. I have to do strength work. I have to get out there and do both the mental and physical work.
So with all of this in mind, I am going to go for it.
Since the 10k I had been training for was cancelled, I do not want to flail about for the next month looking for another shorter race to run.
So if I am able to get in six really strong long runs over the next eight weeks, then I will jump into a local November marathon. (Cross country season, a weekend-long coaching clinic, a visit from my parents, and a half-marathon in San Francisco are coming up, so I will have to be quite creative to fit it all in.)
If I cannot fit 20-milers into my schedule, or if this “normal heat wave we get every year” doesn’t break soon enough, I will still at least run two half-marathons this fall, and I will race a marathon in both the early and late spring of next year. (Likely the L.A. Marathon and Mountains to Beaches in Ojai.)
Part of my journey has been learning when to throw in the towel. If marathon training this fall starts to feel like I am banging my head against the wall, or letting my responsibilities slide, I will not sign up. Luckily the local marathons don’t fill up quickly so I will have some wiggle room with the November race.
So while all of you are heading back to Boston, I will be slowly building myself back up, running local races and taking my own, very personal route back to Beantown.
It might take me a while, but I will be back…