Sarah’s Attitude Adjustment

New circuits are firing in my head

I'm convinced the broiling heat and searing sunlight I endured for nearly 5 hours during last month's Boston Marathon short-circuited some of my circuitry. I mean, what else could have brought on my new attitude toward marathons?

Old way my mind worked: Train hard--including speed work, tempo runs, marathon pace embedded in long runs--so, come race day, body can try to hold hammer down the whole way. (Or break down trying.) Scenery and party atmosphere overlooked or ignored.

New way: Consider adding to the next training cycle one day per week of "choose the workout based on mood," whether it's a bike ride, 3rd morning of boot camp, hill repeats, or maybe even return to rowing. Do all requisite training with usual enthusiasm, but maybe not bust a hump several times/week. Choose next 26.2 based on wanting to take in the sights, sounds, and wonder of a city (actually two--Minneapolis and St. Paul) because I didn't get enough of on a recent weekend visit.

One of the many grand homes I hope to run past this October

While I was running Boston, an idea flashed into my mind: "This should be my last marathon; end on a high note." For the rest of the week, as I drove 1,000+ miles from Connecticut to Georgia, I couldn't think of a single 26.2-mile race I wanted to run. A week later, Dimity and I touched down in the Twin Cities, and all that changed. As she and I drove toward the expo of the Get in Gear race, I wanted to hop out of the car and run for miles along the lovely River Parkway. The next evening, a friend and mother runner, JoAnn, drove me past jaw-droppingly gorgeous homes in St. Paul, telling me ever-so-casually, "You know this is part of the race course of the Twin Cities Marathon," and, "The Twin Cities Marathon goes right down Summit Avenue." Finally, the next morning, Dimity and I ran with some gals around Lake Harriet, and I was enchanted by the interconnected lakes, which--you guessed it--are part of the TC Marathon course.

I was left thinking: I want to come back here and do a long run here. And that's how I'm thinking about Twin Cities Marathon--a 26.2-mile tour of two lovely cities. I now have an overwhelming desire to do a marathon based on the setting and surroundings, not nailing some time on a clock. (Like I said, I think my competitive brain was fried in Boston!)

Add to this: I continue to glow over my 4:43 finish at Boston. It was my slowest marathon time by more than a half-hour, yet based on my effusive, deep pride, you'd think I'd qualified for the 2012 Olympic Team. While it was an oppressively hot day, on the playback of the experience on my mental flatscreen, it's the crowd support and enthusiasm that jumps out. The generosity of proferred bags of ice and the graciousness of spectators who scooped up cubes to put them in my outstretched hat. The joyously rowdy (and probably drunk) Wellesley, B.U., and B.C. students. The throngs of cheering people lining the straightaway to the finish line.

Whatever is at work here, I agree with my good friend Ellison who has seen me through the training of my last three marathons, who emailed me, "I love your attitude!"

Tell me how your approach to races has changed--or if it hasn't.

32 responses to “Sarah’s Attitude Adjustment

  1. Love the new attitude! That is how I’ve changed since motherhood. It used to be all about training by the book and making sure to get all the workouts in for the goal race. Now with 3 little ones, I am limited on what marathons I can do and time to train for them, so it has to be a fun experience with lots to see. As a born and raised Minnesotan, Twin Cities Marathon is my all time favorite of the 16 marathons I’ve finished. Absolutely beautiful especially that time of the year.

  2. That beautiful home looks like it could be in Duluth MN, where I grew up, and host to Grandma’s marathon! After 4 halfs, I’m running my 1st full in Oct (Chicago), and I should adopt your attitude,
    it’s my 1st full after all, I’m going to PR! But I can’t help but feel pressure to finish in a certain time.
    Wish I could get over it and just enjoy myself and not think about time, I’m not going to place after all! It’s just ingrained in us to care I guess!

  3. Sarah, after watching runner friends get injured and burn out one right after another, and since I plan on running for a very long time, I went from trying to PR at every race to just enjoying the journey – the training – and celebrating with friends during the race and high fiving all the kids along the way. There are races that I will race to challenge myself, but I also make room for races to run for fun.

  4. One’s running career is an evolution….different strategies, mind frames, and reasons. You’re just writing a different chapter.

  5. My attitude goes in waves. Sometimes I’m super motivated to break PRs, other times I just want to run a race for fun, to try something new or see some new sights. One thing that rings true throughout for me is that the same thing week to week and I get bored fast. I need to try new classes at the gym, throw trails into the mix, or run in an unfamiliar town. I have also been doing more “Discovery Runs”, where I set out to do a general distance or time and just go, no route mapped out. I just let my legs be my transportation and enjoy the scenery.

  6. If you keep up this new attitude you’ll be running an ultra someday–they are very laid back and chill. Think Grateful Dead concert without the drugs!

  7. Sarah TCM was my first marathon last year and it was wonderful.The course is great except for the last two favorite party of the race was a teenage boy playing the start wars theme on his trumpet.great spectators and beautiful.Welcome!

  8. “Choose next 26.2 based on wanting to take in the sights, sounds, and wonder of a city” sums up this post completely. I think (and I haven’t done a full yet, just half) that no matter what, we have to enjoy the races. Sure, the competitive edge is hard to forget, the ever-present need to PR, but after all is said and done, I think one walks away with a total experience the most. Those who tackled Boston this year will always know that regardless of the times (slower for most), the moment of conquering the beast is what mattered. The atmosphere, the moment, knowing everyone was in the same hot boat 🙂 I think after Boston, a definite enjoyable marathon s warranted, definitely pick one that is scenic and beautiful!

  9. I am with you! On April 28, I RACED the Kentucky Derby Marathon. I finished with a 9-minute PR (4:36:11) I didn’t take time to enjoy the sights and sounds of Louisville, KY–I was on a mission. I carefully checked every split (had them written on my arm!). I had a very detailed plan, and I executed it. I finished strong though I nearly threw up in mile 25. The pride I feel about that day—really pushing in miles 16-26.2—will last me forever. But I don’t want the next one to hurt quite that much. I want to run a destination marathon like Big Sur or Hawaii and just take in the sights. In reality, I’m probably going to stay here in Tennessee and pace a friend running her first full and a newly divorced friend running to find herself in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon in December. But the thought of just running with friends, chatting, staying relaxed, seeing the sights of Memphis and those precious children of St. Jude Children’s Hospital along the course–that sounds NICE.

    1. I’ve run with a camera in two of my ‘destination’ marathons. Digital camera, I didn’t care what the photos would look like, I wasn’t setting up/framing the shots, I was just click click clicking away. Those photos of landmarks seen from the middle of the street are much more amazing than one or two professional photos of an incredible landmark.

  10. I love the attitude too. Having endured Boston 4 weeks ago as well, I am still riding the high. I was slower by almost an hour (5:27 finish) but am more proud of that for every reason you mentioned. Soaking it all in rather than worrying about the race will also be my mantra. Plus it’s nice to think “well it can’t get much worse than Boston!”

  11. When I’m finally back in the running saddle post-babies’ birth (and first several harrowing/thrilling months), I’ll set my sights on local races that I can manage with three kids and a career. However, I have long term goals to do races for their location and crowd reputation. Off hand a few include: Wine Country Half-Marathon; Big Sur; Falmouth; an international marathon, perhaps Ireland; Covered Bridges Half, VT… others TBD. And *when* this will be a realistic goal is also very much TBD. But fun to look ahead to enjoying races and places.

  12. If you are looking for a race with atmosphere and crowd support, I don’t think you can do better than the Twin Cities Marathon. Great choice!

  13. I love this post. Isn’t it funny how running starts out as being all about the experience, the scenery, the joy of the run… but so quickly turns into pr’s and competitiveness? I enjoy setting new records and pushing myself too, but it’s refreshing to remember there’s so much more to running than that.

  14. After a big bout of burnout last summer I’ve definitely adopted a more “go with the flow” attitude. Most people probably wouldn’t be thrilled with a last place (50k) finish and a PW in the marathon. But I knew how both of those runs were going to go and I was mentally prepared for it. I’ve come to terms with using the rest of the year to base build, hopefully finish my second 50k on 1 January (improving on time even if I place the same), and kicking some PR butt in Vancouver next May.

  15. What house is that? I’ve been to the JJ Hill house, wonder if it’s part of the course.

    Don’t think of Boston as being your “slowest marathon time by more than a half-hour” there is a formula to use to compare your time + heat + humidity to = your regular time without the heat/humidity of the day. Maybe others don’t like to think of “without the ____, the race would have meant a time of ____” and to think of it not as a “Oh my gosh I’m so slow” but a “oh my gosh, i am so fabulous, I endured and completed this race in the face of so many obstacles and I conquered it”.

  16. I don’t live there now, but I am proudly from the Twin Cities–you will love it! The course is beautiful and flat. My honey ran it in 2001 and there are tons of fans, lakes, mansions. The weather in early October is ideal for Minnesota marathon running. I am going to run it myself one of these days, though this coming October I’ll be busy tapering for the Marine Corps. Do it, Sarah! You won’t regret it, and congrats on the new attitude 🙂

  17. I’ve gone from run at any cost – ice before, ibuprofen so I can run through the pain, whatever it takes. That was college. To “there is pain for a reason” Solve the reason and you solve the pain. If it means taking 4 months off running, then it means taking months off. I only get one body. I have to take care of it. Of course I also look at that plaque that says “Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways – wine in one hand – chocolate in the other – body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming “WOO HOO, What a Ride!” I DO want to be able to get to the end on my feet you know.

  18. I like this new attitude. It sounds refreshing for you. We do this for fun right? So go with this new inspiration. Participating in the Hippie Chick in Oregon this weekend was highly inspiring for me (my 1st 10k yay!), seeing all those women all shapes and sizes getting out there enjoying the event. As runners who want to do this as long as we can, we need to follow our hearts and find those goals that propel us along (whether its a faster time, a new destination, a new neighborhood route, attempting speed work, attacking hills…). Enjoy the journey!

    ps. if you go for a row let me know and I’ll accompany in my boat or take pics for a blog post 🙂

  19. You are totally making my day here! I was on my run this morning (down Summit, of course) and thought about you as I approached the Cathedral and looked down at the Capital (where TCM finishes) and wondered if you would be running it this year. So glad my devious plan to show you the finest MSP has to offer is paying off! So, I’ll only bore you a little more with TCM accolades….

    Maybe most marathons are this way, but my one and only experience is TCM weekend and that for me gave me the attitude adjustment that you write about. There were times during the race when the spectators were cheering and there were my friends popping up all over the place and here I was w/Tom and AZP at my side and all I could think of was how perfect the day was and how the runners and the crowd were like this microcosm of all the good that’s in the world. That’s sappy but seriously – you are surrounded by a mass of people who have all the good qualities we know runners have (and it’s all on display)and tons of people cheering for us who seem to want nothing more at that moment than for us to succeed. And experiencing that for 5 hours? Changed my attitude about racing completely – I’ll train “hard” and smart so that I can bit fit and healthy and enjoy the race: I don’t need to set records (even a PR) I just want to cross a finish line healthy, happy and with a friend at my side.
    We will welcome you back to MSP with open arms….

  20. Ahhh…SBS….I love your new attitude! As you know, that’s how I run every race. For me a race is a moving party, full of people to high-five, volunteers to thank, and mile markers to cheer. Where else do we get applause for doing something? Certainly takes the pressure off. After all, remember we do this for fun!

  21. I started running at 36 and have now run 2 marathons. I’ve never really “raced” a marathon, but rather love taking in the crowds and all the spectators. I don’t think I’d finish without them. Maybe someday I’ll “compete” more, but for now I really love just being part of the whole marathon event. I never knew how much fun being surrounded by thousands of complete strangers could be.

  22. I too love this season of attitude for you SBS! Your posts post Boston have been some of my favorite yet! My approach to races seems to change often and I know now I need to ‘go with it’ when it feels right because it could change quickly. The time and energy it takes to train for a healthy marathon seems to increase with age and kids so if you are in a place that ‘feels right’ – go get em’ and I’ll be doing the same!

  23. I am not a very competitive person and will never win a race, at least I don’t think so anyway. So to make my races more exciting, I always look at where they are and is it a cool city. I live in a beautiful area and all the races I have done so far have been along the water. My new plan is one destination race a year. This year will be the NWM in San Fran, and I can’t wait!

  24. My attitude has changed from “there is NO way I would ever be able to do a full” to ” I’m going to do a full” and maybe even ” which full am I going to do next”. I probably should finish my first (Chicago, this Oct.) before I decide on my 2nd. But I LOVE the feeling of meeting my goals. Setting running goals and reaching them has done so much for me it is hard to describe. 3 halfs in 6 months and 3 PRs makes me feel like a rock star! Thats my runners high! Love your attitude SBS! My only goal for Chicago is to finish and enjoy the race experience….of course a sub 5 hour finish would be awesome too.

  25. I live in Minnesota and have run a few runs in the Twin Cities. My first half marathon was there just last October for the Monster Dash 1/2. There are some fabulous views rolling hills and a great crowd! I am proud of my state and I am honored that you are so excited to run here!!! We welcome you!!!!!

  26. Your post made me smile ear to ear! Although I have absolutely no frame for comparison (I have run many half marathons, but only ONE full marathon…the absolutely gorgeous and amazingly fantastic Twin Cities Marathon) — in my opinion you could not pick a better race! I set my sights on TCM last year as a bucket list item. Signed up as soon as registration opened, ran with a charity team (MS Society…my Mom had MS and so does one of my BFFs from high school), trained and focused for 9 months (there were a few halfs along the way), met some amazing people (who became virtually instant BRFs) along the long run trails, and crossed that one off my bucket list last October 2. The weather was gorgeous (imagine those streets, trails, and lakes surrounded with amazing fall colors and blue skies), the crowd is amazing, and it is extremely well organized. I WILL run it again…but not this year…but I WILL be there for the 10 mile (fingers crossed for a lottery spot!) and Moms on the Run plans to host a water stop as well. It was my hometown marathon, but I’ve talked to so many people (who have run several marathons) who have said it’s their favorite. I think I smiled for about 24.2 miles of the race (I won’t sugar coat the gradual, tough hill from about mile 22-24!). We would LOVE to have you come and run the TCM, and you will NOT be disappointed! Can’t wait to see you and cheer you on!

  27. After running a personal best in Providence last week, I faced some post-race blues and found myself saying you were so close to XX, next time you should be able to break that. I’m not an elite athlete, but you would think I was based on how hard I am on myself sometimes. I need to remind myself (over and over) that I run and race because it gives me joy and makes me feel good. If I’m not having fun, there really is no point. Time to try a marathon over in Europe! Thanks for a great post.

  28. I was just telling my friend at Hippie Chick that I want to go run Twin Cities someday. So, will you be flying? How long will you stay? If you find a cheap flight from Portland, let me know…I just might make a last minute Twin Cities decision and jump on a plane with you. 🙂 I’m not sure if my approach to races has changed but I am thankful for than ever for every run I can go on because we never know when we can get injured and not have the choice. Even my slow runs are a treasure now. After Boston 2012, every other marathon will feel easier I think.

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