It was a perfect day for a marathon and possibly a new personal best (PB) time. We had great weather with temperatures in the mid-40s at the start. Although we had some wind, it was much less than I had expected for the NJ Marathon which has a significant portion that runs parallel with the ocean. I was healthy, my training went well, and it is a flat course which made me believe something special might happen as I got ready for my 13th marathon on Sunday. However it didn’t go as planned….. or did it?
Learning More from Mistakes than Successes
My main goal during my first marathon was to finish. During my second, I had planned to try an qualify for Boston. However, as I have shared previously, I won a Powerbar raffle and was paced by 3 professional athletes (read the fully story here). The result was that although I missed a rather aggressive goal of 3:10 by 11 minutes, I ran the first 18 miles at a sub-3 hour pace before the wheels came off and I walked and stumbled for the next 8. However, it was this race, more than anything else before, that taught me that I was capable of more than I ever thought possible. Although I missed my goal and experienced pain and frustration, I was motivated by the fact that if I could run 18 miles at that pace without proper training, I could go under 3 hours with some hard work and guidance. It took me 4 years to finally achieve that goal in 2010. The focused effort and careful planning that was required of me to achieve this objective created a methodical approach I embraced as part of training as well as in other areas of my life.
Trying Something New
A few weeks ago my neighbor Joe inquired about my plan for this race. Although he does not run, Joe is very supportive and knew that I had recently set a new personal best of 2:54 in 2012. He asked me why I didn’t just go all out and see what happens since I had nothing to lose at this point. He pointed out that I had run a dozen marathons and always had a very specific game plan going in. The idea appealed to me and I did as he had suggested.
(For the full details from the race, CLICK HERE, or go to the race report tab above)
While I was able to run the first 19 miles at a pace that would have had me finish in around 2:47. I just couldn’t maintain it. The final result was nearly 2 minutes off my last PB with a time of 2:56:09 and a distance of 26.6 miles. Following the race I was not disappointed but rather invigorated. It was much like my experience in 2006 when I am began to ask myself if I have been truly challenging myself enough in my last few races.
I began to reflect on the outcome during my drive home and wondered if my cautious and planned approach has held me back from performing at a higher level in running and in other areas of my personal, professional, and spiritual life. One example that came to mind was when I was asked to be a Ruling Elder at my church. It was something I felt (and still do most of the time) that I was not qualified to serve in this manner. However, I have come to accept and understand that, with God’s help, I am able to do more than I ever thought possible. It was by stepping outside my comfort zone, taking on a responsibility much bigger than myself, and trusting in the Lord that I have grown spiritually and changed in ways I could have never imagined a few years ago. It was these thoughts and the realization that with the support of professional runners in the 2006 New York City Marathon, the encouragement of my congregation and the Holy Spirit, and the race this past Sunday that to truly grow, I must challenge myself.
So do I think we should all throw out our plans and just go for it? No. I do however believe that we must ask ourselves if we have given it our all. Do we have enough experience to take a risk with something we have tried several times without the results we wanted?
My next major race is the very challenging Leadville 100 Mile Ultramarathon in Colorado that begins at 10,200 feet and goes up to nearly 13,000 feet. Given this will be my first race at elevation and that this will only be my second 100 Mile event , I WILL play it smart and conservative (although most people would argue that these adjectives should not be associated with running that far in an oxygen deprived environment). However, I assume there will come a time when I have enough experience at this distance when I must ask myself if I should I give it my all and just see what happens.
I am not sure what is next on your list but I want to ask… Is it time you “stopped playing It safe” and find out what are you truly capable of?