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Laying out the game plan

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff  April 10, 2013 04:32 PM

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100chrissyhoran.jpg Chrissy Horan is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
A little over four months ago I began training for a race that is now just four days away.

How am I feeling? So excited. A little nervous. Restless. Sluggish. As prepared as I have ever been. Wishing I had a few more long runs under my belt. Totally confident. A bit anxious. Dying to run this race already!

And that’s just what I thought in the last hour.

I have run 10 marathons and I know the routine well by now. These days are always the toughest, trying to get some additional rest while anxiously awaiting the big day. I rarely have trouble sleeping – until I make the time to actually get more of it.

Waterstop.jpgLast weekend I completed my final “long run.” I ran 11 miles, starting at the top of Heartbreak Hill and running to the finish line and back. I actually hate this route. While one might argue torturing myself like this is a result of my somewhat unstable mental state, in this case, I do actually have a purpose for this misery.

Part of the reason I like to train on the marathon course is to not only prepare me physically for the race, but mentally as well. I dislike Saturday’s route because heading west on the course from Boston to Newton, it becomes quite obvious that there are several long, gentle inclines and almost always a headwind. However, as I struggled against the wind, somewhere around Coolidge Corner, it clicked; marathon day, when I am tired at miles 22, 23, 24, I will be running down gentle declines, hopefully with a tailwind. At the very least, I can use this experience to make myself believe it will feel easier as I let gravity help me run down Beacon Street.

During my training I tried to reframe the challenges I faced on training runs as opportunities for success on race day. Running the course backward has given me an appreciation of the many downhills I will run on marathon day. This winter’s challenging weather has offered me plenty of chances to learn how to adapt if the forecast brings wind, snow and rain on Monday. (Just please don’t let it be 90 degrees two years in a row!) And running the hills in Newton at the beginning of a shorter training run has given me the confidence to run strong when I arrive at miles 17-21 in the race.

Running a strong race mentally is actually a bigger goal for me on Monday than what time I cross the finish line. Last year, after diligently following a challenging training program to run the Long Island Marathon, I fell apart at Mile 17, running head-first into “the wall”. Being in the best running shape of my life did not matter as I spent miles 18-22 on the Wantagh Parkway, trying to convince myself not to quit.

Unsatisfied with that performance, I decided to “try again” and run another marathon just 3 weeks later. For this race my goals were 1) Take in enough food during the race to be able to think clearly and 2) Stay positive and focused, especially from miles 18-24.

I was extremely proud when I crossed the finish line for the second time last May, having kept my head in the race the entire 26.2 miles, despite the worst cramps I have ever suffered and a very slow final eight miles.

Angel pin.jpegUnlike last year, I have spent more than three weeks mentally training for this race. My goals are again the same, and I feel prepared to meet them on Monday. However, I am not willing to risk something going wrong; luck and superstition have their place in my race plan as well. I’ll eat the same dinner I have eaten before my half-marathon and biggest long runs. I’ll paint my nails and wear my hair ties in a certain order in my ponytail. And I’ll wear the angel pin that reminds me of my grandfather and grandmother (and that they are looking out for me).

And if I find a penny or see a falling star, you can guess what I will wish for. Just for insurance.

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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