There’s one question that, as a first-time marathoner, I hate. And, of course, it’s one that I am asked, almost inevitably, the moment I mention that I’m soon starting up training for my first marathon. I dread the moment I say the word “marathon” because I have a pretty good idea what are going to be the next words out of the person’s mouth.
Let me preface this by saying that the people who ask me this are not those who barely run a mile. Nope. The people that ask this are the runners. The marathoners. The ones who should know better.
Here’s the question.
“So, what’s your goal time?”
The first time I was asked, I paused, thought a moment, and answered with, “I don’t know, I’ve never done it before. I guess my goal is just to finish.”
And then I got THE LOOK. The look that said “What? You don’t know? How can you train if you don’t know?”
I cringe just thinking about it.
The next time I was asked, I said it again. “My goal is just to finish. I’m sure in my training I will figure out a time that I expect to finish in, but I’m not setting a time goal.”
The third time, I realized that the people asking this question don’t want that answer. They want a number.
So I answered with, “Well, it would be great to finish in around 4:30. It seems reasonable given my half times.”
And instantly, I felt a sinking feeling in the bottom of my stomach. I had stated a time goal. This is something I hadn’t wanted to do. My goal in this marathon is to FINISH. Nothing more. I want to cross the finish line proud of myself, happy in my accomplishment. I do not want to look at my watch and think, “Well, crap. There went my 4:30. I’ve failed.” Or worse, I don’t want to be at mile 20, realize I am running behind my goal, and start to feel like quitting.
I’ve never been a quitter. And I don’t expect that will change in this race.
But, I can only imagine the things that may be running through my head at mile 22. I’ve heard some stories of people really being their own worst enemy on the course. I know this is going to be the single hardest experience of my life. I am pretty sure childbirth was a lot easier. I want to finish feeling good and proud of myself. Whether that’s in 4 hours, 5 hours, or even 6.
So I have decided I have a new goal, for all you future questioners out there.
My goal is to finish strong.
To finish on my feet.
To finish with a smile on my face.
And the rest? Well, it will be whatever it will be. And I’m okay with that.
I had an 8 mile long run in a layer of fresh snow this morning. It was sunny, windy (gusts up to 18mph), and cold (28*). It felt amazing. This was just the confidence boost I needed going into “week 0” of training this next week.