Achieving Goals: The Cake, and The Icing

I'm running the BMO Vancouver Marathon in 8 days. All the work is done until race day: now the focus is on tapering my mileage and run intensity in order to recover from 3 months of hard training, and to get back what I like to think of as "bouncy legs". I am a goal-driven person, so what gets me through the training - aside from the fact that I just really love running - is knowing what I am working towards. I always have goals for races I am heading into (assuming I have some experience with the distance and/or course); these are essentially based on what time I really want to be able to run, tempered by how my training cycle has gone. I was at a bit of a disadvantage coming into this training after a 3-month layoff, but I am pleased with how my fitness has progressed. 2 weeks ago I ran my highest ever mileage week (91k), and my pace-specific workouts have mostly gone well - with a couple inevitable exceptions when I had less-than-stellar days out there.

So, what are my goals for this race? Last week I sat down and pored over my training log to see where I thought my fitness was, and to write down three goals, for what I'll call my "A" "B" and "C" race. Which one I ultimately achieve will depend on those impossible to predict race-day factors like weather and simply how I'm feeling on May 3rd. My big wish (the A goal - and, of course, the hardest to reach) for this marathon is to run a personal best time. This means I would need to dip under 3:24, which I ran in the Montreal Marathon in 2007 (8 years ago, yikes!). This equates to a pace per kilometre under 4.50, which is no easy task for me over 42.2 k. I've had some encouraging workouts where I have sustained this pace; but, of course, these runs have all been (relatively) short and it remains to be seen whether I can maintain this over the entire marathon. I'm sure going to go out there and try my hardest, but there is a good chance it won't be pretty.

Stanley Park Seawall, 8k from the Finish
My B outcome will be going sub-3:30. This is no walk in the park either, but I think this goal is slightly more realistic while still being a time I'd be very happy with running. I've only gone under 3:30 in 2 out of the 9 marathons I've run, but my training has gone more smoothly than for most of those other races (mind you, I am not getting any younger!). And speaking of which, my C goal is to re-qualify for the Boston Marathon, for which I need to run sub-3:45 (this is my first year in the 40-45 age group; my qualifying time has been bumped up by 5 minutes! I once read that the only group of people who are happy to get older are marathon runners trying to qualify for Boston). 

Once I had written and was reviewing these goals I was struck with the realization that they are, understandably, all time-based. That is pretty much par for the course with running, but when I look deeper down I know I have had some bigger picture, more important goals for this race as well - most of which I am proud to have already achieved. I set this target of running a marathon 7 months (to the day) after my surgery for several reasons: because I wanted to see if I could; because it gave me something challenging yet life-affirming to focus on; and because I know that running heals me from the inside-out. Now, a week before the race, I am confident that I can do it - and am so incredibly thankful to feel like myself again, which is something that a cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatment takes away from you, for a while. Running helps me to reclaim control of my body and to honour what it can do, as opposed to fearing what can happen to it. 

5 days post-surgery, October 2014
Mid-15k run, April 2015
I'm reminded of this quote by one of my favourite philosophers, Henry David Thoreau: 

"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals". 

By training for this marathon, by chasing these running goals as well as other goals in my life since that diagnosis, I have once more become the person I want to see in the mirror. I feel confident, strong, and healthy - and have let go of (most of) the fear, sadness and pain I held 7 months ago. 

So, my most important goals for the BMO Vancouver Marathon: To enjoy and appreciate every single step of it, even when I am hurting and feel like I can't possibly go one step farther. To celebrate that by running to that finish line (no matter how long it takes me), I am achieving something pretty awesome. As for A, B, and C? Well, those will be icing on the cake.


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