A Goal That Scares Me: Two Marathons in One Weekend
During one of my appointments last week, the person I was meeting with made an offhand but insightful remark that hit me pretty hard. “If your goals don’t scare you,” she said, “they’re not big enough.”
I couldn’t stop thinking about that for the rest of the day. She hadn’t even directed it at me (she had been talking about herself and her own goals) but it definitely had my gears turning. What were my goals lately? Sure, I had professional and artistic goals that I was working toward, and some of them were pretty scary (but that’s another story). As far as physical goals? I run long distances every day, and I’ve already done a few marathons. I hope to swim across the Chesapeake Bay one day, but that event is usually in June and I don’t want to wait that long.
The connection made its way into my mind later that evening: For the past few weeks, I had been mulling over and passively joking about the fact that the Baltimore Marathon and the Atlantic City Marathon are on the same weekend. Baltimore is on Saturday, and Atlantic City on Sunday.
“I think I should just do both,” I would tell myself. After all, I live just outside Baltimore, and my dad and stepmom live just outside Atlantic City. Why not, right?
Well, here’s why not — because it’s two marathons in the same weekend, and you’d have to be crazy to do that. In fact, when I Googled “back to back marathons,” most of the hits were about people who ran marathons on two consecutive weekends, not two consecutive days. As in, they had a week to recover and prep for the next one. And even then, most experts were discouraging it!
Here Goes Nothing
But with only days to go before the weekend of October 19-20, I went on both sites and registered. “What’s the worst that can happen?” I thought. “I don’t finish and I look like an idiot for trying."
I’m sitting here typing this out and feeling a little ashamed to admit those thoughts are floating around in my head. After all, I set this goal — this scary goal — with the intent to accomplish it, not to fall short of it. Is there any sense in having a goal if we plan for failure?
I don’t have a good answer to that. Maybe I’ll fail but I’ll learn something about myself from the whole experience. Maybe I’ll succeed and feel like a total badass for doing so. But either way, I have a feeling it’s about the journey of getting there that matters the most. And either way, I’ll get a good story out of it, and I’m always willing to do just about anything for a good story.
Here’s what I already know even before running the races. I know this goal is really forcing me out of my comfort zone. And I know it’s going to be a whirlwind weekend trying to run the Baltimore Marathon on Saturday, get in the car, hightail it to New Jersey, sleep if I can, then run the Atlantic City Marathon on Sunday. Honestly, the part that intimidates me the most is the thought of sitting in the car for three hours after running a marathon. I’m cramping up just thinking about it.
Reflections on Running
I’m a long-distance runner normally, and this isn’t my first marathon, so it’s not as if I have no clue what I’m getting myself into. It can get a little uncomfortable talking about my running habits because people are always so blown away by them when they find out. It’s not like I’m trying to brag — quite the opposite, actually, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s just a fact of what I do. It’s a routine. Completely commonplace. I understand it’s not normal for most people, but it’s normal for me.
I understand I’m kind of a freak to run as much as I do, but it helps clear my head, stimulate my mind, energize my body, fortify my spirit and just overall make me a better person.
I normally run about 100 miles a week, give or take a little bit. I’ll start with 12 to 15 miles in the morning to start the day. Then, in the evenings, I’ll unwind from the day (and try to give my dog a little bit of exercise) by going for another 2 to 4 miles.
So most people just assume that a marathon is “easy” for me. I hate to break it to people, but a marathon is not easy for anyone. Even if you can run 15 miles, a marathon is another 11 miles after that. That’s almost two-thirds of what you’ve just run.
And even if 26.2 miles were easy, it wouldn’t be easy to do on two consecutive days. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been training for the first time in my life. I didn’t even train for my previous marathons — I just sort of stuck to my routine, did the race on the day of, and went on with my routine the day after. But I feel compelled to prepare my body for this…at least a little bit.
For the past three days, I have run about 17 to 20 miles in the morning and about 5 miles in the evening. It’s felt fairly good, and I’ve discovered that I can do this kind of mileage on consecutive days. I plan to take the next couple of days fairly easily (maybe 12 or 14 miles) so that I have my full strength when Saturday rolls around.
This is going to be an adventure, but I’m excited for it.
Wish me luck — and remember, if your goals aren’t scaring you, they’re not big enough.