Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Challenge You

Once or twice a week I'll post a recovery run on DailyMile and it's automatically repeated to Twitter and Facebook. The pace is usually somewhere around 8:30/minutes per mile, which is comfortable for me. On occasion I'll get comments from other runners about how that would be "a great non-recovery run pace" for them or how they wish they could do that. I see similar reactions to other runners' "slow" posts, as well. And I nod my head. Because once upon a time I wished the same things.

Yesterday afternoon I chatted with a friend and new runner, Heather. We discussed past and future races, and eventually the subject turned to me running my first marathon this fall. [This is happening too frequently for my running friends by now, I imagine.] I mentioned my goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and that I needed to come up with about 10 minutes somewhere. She wasn't following me, so I explained how, based on projected times, I should right now be able to run a marathon in around 3 hours 30 minutes. To qualify in my age group, however, I need a time of 3 hours 20 minutes 59 seconds. This, to me, is a huge amount of time I need to shave off, especially when you consider I have never run a marathon before. There are so many unknown factors.

So, yes, this is a lofty goal. But what makes me think I can achieve it?

Today I think I'm probably in the best shape of my life. Ever. I'm lean (skinny most would say), very fit and have run some races of late I never thought were possible. I can't possibly improve any more, I've thought to myself more than once. And as I was standing there talking to Heather it hit me.

I returned to running about three years ago. I started out with the typical Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule and ran a local 5k here and there. When I began my finishing times were around 27-28 minutes, and after two years I plateaued in the low 24s. But I worked hard for those improved times. I dropped 20 pounds and was feeling pretty good. I thought I was in the best shape of my life.

My goal during those two years was to run a 5k in  23:50, which was the best I ever did in high school cross country. But over and over I just couldn't manage it. I had almost resigned myself to never being able to do it, when the editor of our running club newsletter, Kym, found out and joked that she wouldn't publish my race times until I broke 24 minutes. That stirred something in me.

Not long after that Kym and I started training together and I slowly transformed into what I am today. You can read a short summary here. Since that time I have achieved more than I ever knew was possible. I blew right through that 24-minute 5k mark and am now in the low 20s! I reached my goal at the Mercedes Half Marathon, finishing in 1 hour 40 minutes! I ran a 10k in under 45 minutes! Does part of me wonder if I can possibly improve any more? Of course. But if the past year has taught me nothing else, it is to never sell myself short again.

So what does this have to do with those that "wish they could?" Everything. Short of injury or illness you owe it to yourself to try. I Challenge You to set a goal for yourself you never thought possible. Does it have to be something bat-shit crazy, like attempting to qualify for Boston on your first attempt? No. :) But reach for something you haven't considered possible before. Maybe you think you can't beat that person that always seems to finish before you in local races? Maybe you think you can't best a PR you set years ago? Whatever it is, Challenge Yourself. Make the commitment, put forth the required effort and give it your best shot. Regardless of the outcome you'll be glad you did. This I can attest to.


  1. Yes sir! I hope to see you at Boston! I get to qualify a lot slower though! Haha!

  2. Nice post Drew. You've identified the first step in reaching an objective, which is to identify a challenging but achievable one. I've always believed in adding a little bit of "stretch" to goals (something I learned when working at GE), as even if you don't reach the goal, at least you achieve a better outcome than if you had set an easy one. I think your goal is achievable, and it will require some rethinking as to your training approach, which can make it even more interesting.
    I'm trying to cut 10 minutes from my marathon time over the next 11 months too. I'll set my official goal shortly on my blog, and thanks for adding me to your blogroll!


  3. I challenge myself to tie these yankz!!

  4. The hard part is training your mind, getting past the mental barriers is part of the challenge.

  5. B-HAG baby B-HAG!! Great post Drew! What Fall marathon are you planning to run? Huntsville? I can't wait for your to run sub 1:30 for the half!!

  6. I wonder if Kym ever got the Yankz "tied" into her shoes! :-)

  7. James, I'm registered for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon on November 13th.