Nearly seven years ago, I ran what was then my fastest marathon ever. It was one of those rare days when all the stars aligned. I trained my ass off for months, tapered well, and the running gods smiled on me.
I blew through the first half in 1:20 and found myself wondering if perhaps a sub 2:40 might be possible. Shortly after mulling this thought over, my stomach started to complain. As the race progressed, these complaints became more and more pronounced.
I gritted my teeth and tried to fight through the increasing GI distress as I was having the race of my life. At mile 21, I simply couldn't bear it anymore and had to make a pitstop at a portapotty. I was disappointed, but I was already en route to a monster PR and I was confident I'd be back to break 2:40 in short order.
3 years passed before I would toe the line again to run another marathon. In the intervening period, my business boomed and I contracted a terrible case of plantar fasciitis that effectively derailed my running for nearly two years.
When I finally did toe the line again in 2008, I wasn't confident I was ready to run sub 2:40. I settled for a more modest goal of simply running faster than the 2:45 I posted in 2005. I pulled off this goal by posting a 2:43. Once again, I thought I'd be back in 2009 to finally put to rest this goal that had been haunting me for years.
My old nemesis plantar fasciitis returned in 2009 and derailed any serious running for several months. While I did manage to toe the line for another marathon at the end of 2009, I had no illusions that I was in the kind of shape to go after a sub 2:40. Again, I settled for a more modest goal based on my current level of fitness which I achieved, but it was a far cry from the sub 2:40 I wanted.
2010 arrived and my running was going swimmingly. I was hesitant to embark on yet another training cycle for a marathon, but I was feeling strong and confident again. As the spring arrived, I signed up for the Seattle Rock N' Roll Marathon with the idea that I'd finally exorcise the demons and crank out a sub 2:40.
I was in superb shape and my training was coming along nicely. Taper was but a few weeks away. The morning of one of my final long runs, I felt some mild discomfort on the outside of my right leg. I chalked this up to a tight IT band and did some additional stretching before starting my run.
A few miles into my run, the mild discomfort became pronounced pain. Very few things stop me from completing a run, but something was very wrong. I would discover I had incurred a stress fracture in the right femur. My dream of running a sub 2:40 was put on hold yet again. It began to feel as though the fates were simply conspiring against me.
2011 was a year of transition, personally and professionally. Big changes on both fronts effectively prevented me from doing any kind of serious training. But, I hadn't let go of the idea that I would one day run a sub 2:40 marathon. It was no longer simply a goal, it was an obsession.
I shifted gears a bit in the first half of this year and conquered a 50K and 50 mile trail race. I notched a couple 100 mile weeks. I spent more time on my feet than I had in my entire life. I did some things that I never thought I would. I did some things I characterized as ridiculous just a few years ago.
As I spent countless hours alone out on the trail, I wondered if these new journeys would somehow, some way lead me to accomplishing my ultimate goal of running a sub 2:40 marathon. I'd come close so many times, surely my day would come.
It took me a couple months to fully recover from running 50 miles. During this period, I tried to listen to the messages my body sent me. More often than not, the message I received was 'rest'. I listened to this message for the most part and didn't force anything.
July waned and I realized if I was going to take a crack at sub 2:40 this year, I needed to ramp up my training pretty soon. I pulled the trigger and signed up for CIM. Rather than pressure myself into starting a tough training cycle, I tried to ease into things organically.
I started increasing my mileage gradually. I started throwing in a few faster workouts here or there. I logged a few miles at my target pace (6:05). The body hasn't complained much so far. I hesitate to express any confidence about running a sub 2:40 at CIM this year given my history, but I've always been of the belief that you just keep fighting and maybe something good happens.
I'd be lying if I said there isn't a sense of urgency around accomplishing this goal. I don't bounce back as quickly as I used to. I don't feel as spry as I once did. My body complains a bit more than it used to. I feel like my window is closing.
If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. I can live without notching a sub-2:40 marathon. But, I can't live with the knowledge that I didn't try everything I possibly could to make it happen. The window is closing, but it's not closed yet. So, I keep running...