Sunday, December 20, 2009

My New Year's Resolution (from 2006)

At around this time of year in 2005, I was busy assessing my running goals for the new year.  At that point, I had been running for 16 months and had four marathons under my belt.  In a year's time, I had shaved 20 minutes off of my marathon PR and was pretty excited about my progress.  I had just run 3:20 at CIM and had averaged 26 miles over 4-days per week in 2005.

I look back on this time because it was when I first decided to shoot for an Olympic Trials qualifier (OTQ).  I found the first documentation of this goal in an email from Jan 3, 2006 sent to Batty, now one of my best friends and early girlie training partners.  Here's what I told her:

I'll be focusing on bringing my marathon times down which will in turn mean faster 5k, 10k and 1/2 marathon times.  I hope to run a sub-3 hour marathon by Chicago in October and/or CIM in December.  In 2007, my goal will be to run a sub 2:50 marathon and try to qualify for the Olympic Trials.  

That's right.  I just ran a 3:20 marathon and am ready to try to give an OTQ a shot.  Really?  My personal records at that point in other distances were no more indicative of my potential than my marathon:
  • Road mile:  5:58
  • 5k: 20:41 
  • 8k: 35:13
  • 1/2 marathon: 1:37:33
  • Marathon: 3:20:08
I find this fascinating because I really can't recall why I ever believed, as a middle-of-the-pack marathoner, I had the potential to run as fast as I eventually have.  I think in the beginning I was just doing the math:  I shaved 20 minutes off of my marathon time in 1 year, so I only needed to shave another 33 minutes off of that time in 2 years to qualify.  Easy.  Ah, the ignorance of youth.

Even more impressive is that I was getting support from coaches and fellow runners.  I kept this goal as a little secret, testing it out on a few trusted running friends.  When they didn't laugh in my face (though they may have rolled their eyes and twirled their finger around their ear after I turned away), it gave me hope.  As I told more and more people about my crazy goal, I became more and more confident that I would get there.

Maybe I was waiting for someone to tell me how unrealistic it was for me, a woman in her late thirties, with less than 2 years of running under her belt, to even dream about running that fast.  That never happened.  Instead, I had three coaches during that time period that believed in me and consistently told me that I could do it.  One said this in Feb, 2007: "But if you aren't ready to run 2:47 within 12 months, I'll be very surprised, and if you can't do it within 3 years I'll shit in my hat and eat it, as the saying goes."  Lucky for him, I ran 2:46 within 3 years. 

Of course, I didn't run under 2:47 in time for the 2008 qualifying window.  My fastest marathon time leading up to April 2008 was 2:57.  I gave it everything I had and my coaches worked their hardest to get me there.   After I ran the 2:57 in Eugene in 2007, I had a rough year recovering from low iron stores.  I kept training hard with my eye on that sub-2:47 and basically chased the qualifying time in a couple of marathons before realizing in the winter 2008, that I wasn't going to get there.

Why didn't I give up then?  Again, I don't know.  I felt like I had plateaued from April 2007 to November 2008.  I was whittling away at all of my PRs, but they were going down by a few seconds here and there, it seemed, rather than the leaps and bounds I was used to.  I found this to be a very difficult time to continue to train hard and to believe.  In some ways, I felt like a fool for ever having believed I could run under 2:47.  Worst of all, I had told all of those people what I was trying to do and had to face the cold hard fact that I didn't even come close.

This year, I finally ran under 2:47.  While I still didn't qualify for the Trials, it felt so great to see 2:46 on that clock at the finish line, I didn't really care.  I had believed that I could run that fast for four years and had finally proven to myself that it was possible.

The moral of this story, if there is one, is: to achieve remarkable things you first have to picture yourself doing it which means truly believing that you can.  And, you're much more likely to get there if you surround yourself with people that believe in you and motivate you to achieve that goal.

So, maybe I should set my sights on that A qualifier for 2012?  I only have to shave 7 minutes off of my marathon time, and I have 2 years...  This is how it begins.


  1. Attitude isn't everything, but having the right one certainly helps. You'll get there, no doubt. Also, I wonder which coach said something about eating shit out of a hat. Hmm.

  2. you are so right... great things cannot happen unless you believe they can. infact, one might say that the power of the mind is just as important as the physical training. i can relate to your journey from rookie to potential- trials-qualifying chick. i ran my first marathon in 3:13... but my coach at the time, rich hanna, told me that he thought i could one day run in the oly trials. at the time i barely even knew what the oly trials were, but from that moment on, it was a long term goal. after all, it sounded pretty cool. leonard pushed that goal more aggressively and really got me to believe it would happen. two years after running that 3:13, i did qualify for the 2000 trials. of course, back then the standard was only sub 2:50, so it was much easier to get in as a rookie runner. but the point is... it all starts with a dream, an inner belief that maybe.. just maybe... it can happen. and of course, a mentor or two who help you to make it happen... and believe in you maybe even more then you believe in yourself.

  3. hey stranger! this is one of my favorite posts ever. really gives people something to think about. your friend, TP :)

  4. Julie, I knew you'd figure that one out.

    track-meat, sounds like we've been living parallel running lives. Having someone believe in you is definitely key. Sounds like we've both been very lucky that way.

    TP, I'm glad you liked this one. I hope you have some big plans for yourself as you hit that big 4-0. You have so much potential.

    Thanks, Glorybelle. Sorry I missed you at the Christmas Relays!

  5. Just saw this yesterday...believe. How timely for your thoughts written above.

  6. Thanks for posting that video about Billy Mills. Now THAT is inspiring.

  7. Thanks for this post, you are an inspiration!!! I'm doing my first marathon in May, so I love reading blogs about runners.

  8. Awesome love your post ! What's seven minutes? You can do it :) Good Luck!!

  9. Great post "J"

    I don't really know either how "a middle-of-the-pack marathoner, had the potential to run as fast as (you) eventually have." But I think we have an inate sense of our own potential and just need to hold on to that believe for a long enough time, while our bodies adapt to the task we set them. Sometimes, of course, we are mistaken, butI have seen people with ability but no believe in themselves and they almost always fail to live up to their potential.

    The people who ultimately succeed are those that believe they can. I know a fella who has a 2 hour 25 min marathon PB and is now looking to run sub 2:23. I think that his chances of getting that 2 mins are less than they would be than if he was looking for a sub 2:20. You really have to think a bit bigger, I reckon.

    You are on the right track;)

  10. Welcome, Scott. Thanks for your comments. I think you're right about thinking bigger, but I also think you have to be pretty resilient. If you set big goals, you increase the risk of failure. If you can't handle failure, you will never achieve your goals. Wow, that sounds sort of poetic.

    I quickly browsed through your blog, and it does look like we can help each other out. I look forward to keeping track of your running in 2010.

  11. Sabrina, thanks for your comment. Good luck with your marathon training.

    Benny, thanks for the encouragement.