It took me forever to call myself a runner. I understand that that is not uncommon. For a long time if someone asked if I was a runner my reply would be “I’m trying to be one.” Now though I have no issue with the moniker.
I still however have a problem calling myself a marathoner, despite the fact that I have completed two. Somehow doing just one, no matter how proud I was of myself, didn’t make me feel like I was truly part of that special group. When my second fell apart due to nausea and dizziness – but I still crossed the finish line – I felt even less like a marathoner. None of this makes any sense at all, and it even makes less sense that I somehow think a third marathon is necessary to change my mind. Somehow though, in the last month or so, the thought of doing another marathon has taken over my running thoughts.
I know I am a better runner than I was when I first tried the marathon distance. I think, maybe, I am a smarter runner. I have realized that slow runs do make me faster, the logic of which still confuses me but I know there is science there to back it up. I also know I spent a rather remarkable amount of time running really, I mean really, slowly this summer and fall and yet I had several P.B’s at races. I have even managed to train myself to take a brief walk at water tables during my half marathons and still finish faster than when I ran with no breaks at all. Though don’t try to tell me to run 10 and ones for a half marathon or marathon, it does nothing more than frustrate me mentally and make me want to walk off the course.
This urge to try again is why I have recently found myself reading everything about a race this weekend that I am not even in. Tomorrow is the Philadelphia Marathon and I am reading everything I can about it, from the Facebook page to previous years’ reviews. At the moment it is my number one choice for another attempt at 42.2 km.
Why Philly? The main reason would be the date. I have no intention of ever running a spring marathon again. Unlike many, the issue is not the winter training. I had no difficulty training in last year’s “polar vortex” and I never once hit the treadmill. The problem with spring is that there is just too much risk of a sudden heat wave. I don’t like running in heat at the best of times, but if it comes suddenly with no time to adjust I am essentially doomed before I even hit the start line. I can live with that risk for a half marathon; if a half falls apart because of heat I will just turn around and run another in two or three weeks to make up for it. That is never, ever going to happen for a marathon!
Philly is not the only marathon I have considered. I have looked at the Niagara Falls International Marathon, but I am not sure I would enjoy the course. The logistics also sound a little too complicated, what with starting in one country and finishing in another. I’m sure the NYC Marathon would be a blast but I don’t feel like dealing with a lottery, it is crazy expensive and again there are the logistics of getting to the start line. I found a couple of other small, low key marathons but at this point I think I still need the excitement of the crowds. Mind you, I learned the hard way last spring way that when a race has gone south, those cheering, energetic spectators, no matter their good intentions, just make you feel worse. I still feel guilty about the number of times I seriously wanted to tell a spectator where to go. But for now I think I will avoid a marathon where there is a potential for me to run entirely alone.
Of course there is the option of doing the Toronto Waterfront, my first marathon, again. It is only just over 4 hours away, it is relatively cheap, the crowds and course were great and I would be able to compare times on the same course. But the downside is it is a month earlier than Philadelphia. Running Toronto means starting to train in the summer. Summer is when I like to keep my runs short and fast. Summer is also when I want to enjoy weekends at the cabin and not have the worry of fitting in a long run. To be blunt, I am very happy being lazy in the summer. I may love running, but when the choice is a long, lonely run in the heat along deserted, hilly Quebec roads, in an area in which I have never, ever seen another runner (though there is no shortage of shirtless older men smoking cigarettes and driving ATVs) or sitting on a dock reading a book and enjoying a cold beverage, well the running is going to lose. Every time.
So I will be searching the internet for the next week, anxiously reading any Philadelphia Marathon reviews I can find, trying to decide if this will be the race that will make me officially feel like a marathoner.
The Philadelphia Marathon, photo from the race website.