Sunday, November 13, 2011

From Confidence in 2010 to a Desire in 2011

One thing I’ve learned this year about running – you can pretty much achieve anything if you really want it.  Of course, I say this wild statement realizing I’ve by no means broken the sound barrier, or any kind of record.  I haven’t won any races.  I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary really.  The only records I did manage to break were my own personal records.  So even though I didn’t set out at the beginning of this year to become an elite/pro runner, I did set out to conquer some fears, run a lot of miles to a personal best, and qualify for Boston.  With a few speed bumps along the way, I achieved what I set out to do.

It is exhilarating, exciting, relieving, fulfilling, and satisfying to run the fastest race of one’s lifetime.  And that feeling may persist for some time.  But gradually the snow falls to the earth, the dust settles, and life returns to normal.  Everything’s not all exactly the same again, but it’s close.  There’s another medal on the wall, a race bib in a box, a timing chip or D-tag that eventually gets removed from the shoe, a tee-shirt that you wear with pride that gets worn and washed, worn and washed. 

You can pretty much achieve anything, but life always returns to normal, and you start wondering what to do next…

Some runners will move to race in new distances.  That could simply be making the transition from 5k to 10k, or going from the half marathon to the marathon, or the marathon to the 50k and longer.  Others go from running and move into triathlons, but there is the next goal.  But we don’t sit there and remain happy and proud of what we just accomplished for the rest of our lives.

I finished my 2010 season by setting a new marathon PR of 3 hours and 38 minutes at the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis-St. Paul.  I was quite proud of that finish time.  I dropped roughly 19 minutes from my previous PR I set 5 years earlier in 2005 at the Chicago Marathon.  It was a blast and that feeling of accomplishment stayed with me for a long time.  I still regularly wear my blue Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon cap that I bought at the race expo.  I don’t run with it, but I wear it everywhere else.  Going from 3:57 to 3:38 felt major.  On top of that, I truly had an enjoyable race experience in Minnesota, where my aunt, uncle and grandparents lived.  I had family cheering me on as the race wound through parks, over gently rolling hills, along tree-lined streets, past rivers, down city streets, finishing in the capital with roaring crowds.  The environment and atmosphere were perfect for marathoning and creating a great and lasting memory.

The best thing that came out of that race in 2010 wasn’t my PR; it was a little confidence.  Dropping chunks of time off of a PR is a great motivator.  Reaching any goal, of course, builds confidence and enables you to look down the road and picture new goals as tangible as the one you just conquered.  So, with the close of 2010, the stage was set for 2011.  My Twin Cities experience injected a potent, concentrated substance into my veins.  There is something to be said for the experience you gain from running multiple marathons, but nothing propels you ever faster forward than a little bit of confidence.  

2010 Twin Cities: Confidence Booster

I didn’t have to sit down and think too hard about what I wanted to achieve in 2011.  It seemed natural; two words.  Qualify.  Boston.  Of course. 

…Yeah, that whole ‘Boston’ thing.  You know it already, Boston’s up there with great events like the Tour de France, the Superbowl, etc.  With one exception: it’s a world-class event where not just the pros compete; regular runners can also participate.  At least those who qualify.  Sure, other events are out there like this, but for the runner, this one’s unique.  For many, it’s the classic runner’s goal to one day run the Boston marathon.  Whether because of its qualification process, mystique or long-standing tradition, it’s a special race and a special achievement.  Certainly a lot of it is hype, and that may be a turnoff to quite a few, but a majority must have it on their bucket list.

I created a new training plan with more miles and added specific speed work, and got busy.  After a rocky start with an injury early in the year (could have seen that one coming), and a smaller injury midway through the year, I finally got to run my first marathon of 2011 at Beaver Island, MI.  Well I won’t go through all that again (if you want to read about it, just see some of the older posts), but I qualified for Boston.  It wasn’t a spectacular time, but I was able to register for Boston 2012.  And then I received:

“Dear Kennard:

Thank you for submitting your application for entry into the 2012 Boston Marathon. Regrettably, we are unable to accept your application due to field size limitations and the large number of applications we received from qualified runners.

Name of Applicant
Age on
Qualifying Time
Kennard Wilson

Entries from applicants in your age group were accepted through and including the time 3:13:46…”

I was not accepted because they selected the fastest runners, and my official time from Beaver Island was 12 seconds slower than the cut.  Ouch.  Double ouch.  Damn.

Hmm, well, there is always the next running of Boston (2013); I would just have to run faster in my next race…

Only the way I calculated it, I would have to run quite a bit faster.  The BAA changed the qualifying times for 2013, dropping them 5 minutes, and in addition would no longer allow the additional 59 seconds for a given time.  So what was once a 3:15:59 qualifying time for me, was now 3:10:00; it was 6 minutes faster.  On top of that, I just learned the hard way that just barely making the qualifying time probably wouldn’t be enough to get accepted given that the large field size will always include faster runners.  That translates to running at least 2 minutes below qualifying time, but 3 minutes would be safer, so a 3 hour and 7 minute marathon might get me to Boston.  I decided five minutes below would be a much more comfortable safe zone, yielding a 3:05 marathon time, or faster.  The time on my watch from Beaver Island actually read 3:15:38 (a bit off from the faster official time) – could I drop another 10 minutes from my latest PR?  I knew I could…

2011 Beaver Island

I just kept running.  I knew I could run the time, I had the confidence.  I was pretty sure I had put in the training.  But Chicago Marathon came and went.  It wasn’t a bad run getting down to 3:11; it was a respectable time and a respectable improvement, but it was now no longer even a qualifying time for Boston 2013.  I had an off day and paid the price.  At that point, I was a little worn out and a little weary after Chicago, but I knew I was still capable of finishing the season the way I wanted.

2011 Chicago Marathon

Confidence was starting to get shaky, but I kept running.  Indy Monumental would be in November.  I would have more training time, and cooler weather was almost a guarantee.  Things came together and I didn’t have an off day.  I ran the time I knew I could – a sub 3:05 – of course I went in with some doubt.  If that doubt had lingered, I would not have run as well.  I have my pacer to thank for pulling me out of a hole I started digging.  Maybe his confidence simply infected me.  It probably didn’t take much – a small push or a little reminder; I was still plenty hungry to go after my goal.  In the end, I believe confidence and desire pulled me along, straight to the finish line.  The outcome was something special to me, but I’ve learned this process is not a unique thing; as the saying goes, “If I can do it, anybody can do it.”  You just have to want it bad enough.

At the same time I realized my biggest achievement of the year, I also came to the understanding that setting new goals is an unending and essential activity that naturally follows.  At least for some people.  To continue improving and reaching new goals certainly seems a part of human nature, and perhaps part of what makes us human.

Racing in 2010 gave me the confidence I needed to set bigger goals in 2011.  I really wanted to achieve them, and so far, I’ve gotten most of the way through them.  Maybe confidence begets confidence and a desire to do more.  With 2011 coming to a close, it will again be time to start the process all over and set a new goal for 2012; I feel confident that I will achieve whatever I set out to do, as long as I want it bad enough to go get it.  Having that faith in yourself is a pretty cool thing, and apparently it spreads to others easily.  So with that, have you encountered a confidence booster lately?  What are your goals?  Nothing’s stopping you, so what’s next? 

Still Love the Marathon

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