I was still running high after a successful winter of training and a mammoth marathon PR in April. But an unusually cold spring quickly gave way to an unusually humid summer, and by the second week of July I knew something was wrong.
July 5 was a buildup run: Hold pace for a couple of miles, speed up and hold pace for a couple of miles, speed up again and hold pace again. I burned out after the first section. I just didn’t have it. The next week was the same run and the same result. That weekend, another failure.
Weeks of this turned into months. I stopped enjoying my training. I started hated it.
I was discouraged. I’d never struggled like this in all my years of running. But I was not defeated.
Every running morning, I got up, laced up and headed out. I slogged through many a workout, alternating walking and running after the running part failed. I forgot about my pace. At worst, I could manage only a tenth of a mile of continuous running. I take that back: At worst, I stopped my watch and walked home.
It was the slogging—continuing past the point of needing to walk, of feeling like a failure—that prepared me for where I am now, oddly confident on the eve of the Chicago Marathon. Every run since my 20-mile disaster (it was supposed to be 22) has been good to great. My stride has returned along with the cooler weather, and just in time.
Despite all my failed runs—14 of them, I counted—over the last four months, I am finally (FINALLY!) ready to take on this iconic race, just not how I imagined it. I may not have it in me to achieve my original goal (cut the gap to my Boston qualifying time in half), but I’m feeling good about my fallback plan (PR).
If a new PR isn’t in the cards, that’s OK, too. I’ll forget about my pace like I did in all those failed training runs and simply enjoy racing through one of the country’s greatest cities. Win-win.