I’ve already resigned myself to the expectation that this year’s marathon is going to be substantially more difficult. Physically, I’m coming back from an injury, and I’ve been unable to stay healthy for more than a few weeks at a time all season. Mentally, though I’ve covered this distance before, I’m feeling intimidated and less-prepared than last year; I’m nervous about our early spring, and what it means for race day temperatures; I’m nervous about my inconsistent long runs; I’m nervous about the fact that the last time I covered this distance was, after all, last April.
Boston was a charmed experience for me last year – it was my very first marathon, and horrible winter weather aside, I had been fortunate enough to stay healthy and avoid injury all season long. Race day was all adrenaline and smiles, and though I hurt – of course, how could I not? – I was intact at the end of it all, ready to celebrate and up for work the next day. There were freeze pops. There were high fives. Napoleon ran next to me for a while.
Of course, this is experience is a large part of what made me want to do it all again; at the same time, with several unpleasant long runs under my belt this year, I have to accept the fact that sometimes, things just don’t work out. It’s this possibility that has me nervous.
All of this is to say, I’m not free of apprehension. I’m making sure to sneak it some shorter, faster runs in this freakish warm weather, in an attempt to reacclimate just in case; I’m beginning the process of prepping my gear and my fuel, considering what I might have done differently in marathons past; and, because I know that my mental game can both make and break my race day, I’m taking time to focus on gratitude.
Specifically, I’m taking a cue from Kristen Armstrong, who mentions in her book the idea of gratitude bands for a race, instead of pace bands. Let me back up – pace bands are worn (or written out, or programmed, etc.) to remind a runner of their goal pace for each mile or segment of a race. Kristen’s suggestion, then, was to replace the standard pace band with a reminder of something for which she was grateful – one for each mile. This resonated with me. I like the idea of having something specific to consider for each mile of the marathon, other than how many miles/minutes/footsteps I have to go, and I like the idea of keeping my mind in a positive, thankful place for as much of the race as possible.
And so, with 26 days to go until Marathon Monday, I begin my (gr)attitude adjustment here. I certainly won’t be exhaustive, nor will these daily posts fall in any ranked order, but hopefully the excercise will help to keep myself grounded, focused and optimistic.
Mile One: opportunity.
It seems only fitting that, at the start of the race, in the midst of a massive, roiling bundle of nervous energy, spectacle and excitement, I focus on my gratitude at having this opportunity, again. I’m grateful for the opportunity to toe the line of the world’s most famous marathon, to support a charity whose work in my community I value greatly.
And so it begins.
TL,DR: The focus of the first mile: being grateful for the opportunity.