For nearly five years I have sought a personal best for the marathon in the 2:30's (a 2:39:59 would work just fine). Some goals transcend the elusive and flirt with the impossible. Twice I have come close to achieving this goal and with the third opportunity barely a couple months away I am left wondering if in fact the third time will be the charm.
In 2005, I toed the line at Chicago with no real thought about what kind of time I would run, but I knew I was in the best shape of my life and anticipated obliterating my previous personal best.
I rolled through the first 13.1 miles in 1:20 and everything was clicking except for some GI issues. This insidious discomfort didn't derail me at first, but after gutting it out for over 10 miles, I was forced to take an abrupt pitstop.
While this was frustrating, I was going to post a huge personal best and surely I'd run a marathon in the 2:30's the next time around. I was more than happy with the 2:45 I ran that day. But, I knew a 2:39 would have been possible if not for the pitstop.
12 months later I was hobbled by plantar fasciitis and going under the knife for radio frequency debridement. Not only was I not running a marathon in the 2:30's, I was hardly running at all. My optimism was challenged, but I figured I'd be back on my feet running strong again in six months at the latest.
A year after surgery (2 years removed from my last marathon) I was a mere shadow of the runner I had been in 2005. Piecing together a few pain free miles sporadically was about the best I could do. The idea of running a marathon in the 2:30's seemed as distant as a long dead star.
But, If something isn't working you're left with no choice but to try something different. I rolled the dice and ditched my motion control shoes w/custom orthotics for what was effectively the polar opposite, a pair of Nike Frees.
Six months of solid running later, I found myself feeling something I hadn't felt in a long time, the confidence that I could run a marathon again at a high level. Once again, the idea of posting a time in the 2:30's crept into my head. I threw everything I had into my training with this goal in mind.
Unfortunately, it had been 3+ years since I had trained like this and I could tell in the latter stages of my training that something in the 2:30's wasn't going to happen in all likelihood. A 3 year absence from serious training could not be made up in 4-5 months.
I was confident I could run something at least as fast as what I had posted in 2005 and if the stars aligned, I could post yet another personal best. In what was perhaps the best executed race of my life, I ran to the brink and managed a 2:43. Close, but still a few minutes shy of the ultimate goal once again. Surely, 2009 would be my year and I'd knock this goal out once and for all.
Little did I know what would unfold in 2009. While I did manage to make it to the starting line again for a marathon in 2009, I was not at my best. Wracked by a myriad of frustrating circumstances and barely recovered from yet another bout of plantar fasciitis I once again knew something in the 2:30's was not possible. I was left to simply take pride in finishing the marathon.
The past couple months I have been running at a level that is reminiscent of what I was doing in 2005. I am also five pounds lighter than was in 2009. I was initially going to wait until December to take another crack at the 2:30's, but you've got to strike while the iron is hot.
The question remains....will the third time be the charm?