Race day. It's a day when all the training, all the hard-work and dedication, all the sacrifice comes to fruition. A day that is filled with anticipation, excitement and nerves. A day that is meticulously planned for. What time are you going to wake up? What does your pre-race meal look like? What does your warm-up look like? What's your nutrition and pace plan for the race? What is your plan to run your best race? All these questions (and many more) are carefully and strategically thought out. Every detail is meticulously planned to make race day go as smooth as possible.
Runners want to control every aspect of the race. We want to make sure we put ourselves in a position to do our best. We want race day to be perfect. Unfortunately, there are times when races don't go as planned; there are a multitude of things that could go wrong. Whether you didn't fully prepare or the weather didn't agree or your legs just don't feel right. The feeling that this isn't going to be your day is something that runners fear. That something went wrong during training and you aren't fully prepared or the weather isn't right and you're running into the wind for 20 of the 26 miles. That it's just not going to be your day. That you need to adjust your plan to just get through the race. The more races you run the more you realize that not every race is going to be your best. That there will be days when you struggle and have to fight every step of the way.
The 2013 marathon was just that. I woke up the morning of the NYC marathon with a sense of calmness. While I was excited that my favorite day of the year had arrived, I knew the task in front of me. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. I knew that my training had been interrupted to the point where it wasn't going to be pretty. I'd picked up a lung infection in late August and it took its toll on my body. My lung function dropped, my cough had increased, my chest was tight, and the mucus I was bringing up was thicker and more colorful than normal. After a couple of visits to the doctor, I was admitted to the hospital for 8 days and spent an additional two weeks on home IVs.
All I could think about was a saying that Kevin Rosenberg engrained in my brain as a sophomore in high school, "failing to prepare is preparing to fail." No, I didn't think I was going to fail, but I did know that I hadn't properly prepared. The marathon is a grueling, challenging distance. It's a distance that requires proper training. Proper preparation. I knew that I wasn't going to run my fastest. I knew that at some point in the day my legs were going to hurt and I was going to struggle. I knew that there would be pain. I was just hoping that my legs could hold on for as long as they possibly could.
I had a plan. I wanted to stay around an 8:45-9:00 minute mile until the wheels fell off. I was hoping my plan would carry me to the Bronx -- leaving me with the last six miles to fight through. I felt good about this and hoped my body would cooperate. The gun sounded and off we went over the Verrazano Bridge. The ceremonial New York, New York playing in the background. Through Brooklyn -- chills every time you turn a corner and enter a new neighborhood of people screaming, music glaring, and bands playing. The first 14 miles were perfect. But as I ran through Queens things started to turn for the worse. My body had a different plan for me. My legs started to feel heavy. They were tired. They were not prepared to cover 26.2 miles.
As I made it off the bridge and approached my family and friends on 73rd street I knew that the last 9 miles were going to be a struggle. I knew that my body was not properly trained to run the full marathon. I knew it would be the crowd, the energy, and the excitement of the day that was going to carry me to the finish line. I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. I also knew that in some way, shape or form I was going to make it to the finish line. After a slow eight miles I was in the park. Two Miles Remaining. A couple rolling hills, a sharp turn around Columbus Circle, up one last hill and across the finish line.
The end result was far from failure. Was it my best run? No, not even close, but I was not frustrated, upset or disappointed. I knew that on that day I had given it my all. That given the circumstances and the interruptions in training, I'd left everything out there on the road. That I had accomplished what I set out to do -- finish the NYC marathon. And as my college soccer coach told me shortly after, "A good showing is showing up." Because there will be days and races when you aren't fully prepared or things don't go your way. Days when your plan doesn't work out and you have to adjust. Days when you won't run your best or fastest. And on those days there will be nothing you can do except take it for what it is, learn from it, and come back better, faster and stronger.