If you live in a little city called New York, when people talk about "the" marathon, as if there were just one marathon in the world, they're referring to the New York City Marathon. I've run it six times, had a blast every time, but I must confess:
Oh, sure, I say this. I wouldn't mind running it just one more time, maybe next year, and trying to break 3:25 or even 3:20, old goals of mine. I was close - but not quite there. But now I feel SO far...so much slower.
I stopped doing marathons because they're hard to allow other things into your life, or, in my case, the other things being ultras. I have a ton of endurance; I can run farther than most people, but that speed...kind of died off. I do speed workouts, but they're not quite the same as it used to be when I was a 3:28 marathoner.
Last year, two weeks after doing Javelina, a race where I was incredible pain, crying, hallucinating, crawling much of the last 40 miles (Okay, I wasn't literally crawling, but...), I had intense swelling. (Cankles!) I spent a good bit of time getting a massage, but my legs were still not back to normal by the time THE marathon rolled around, so I decided I'd have fun. I wore a pink running skirt with pink feathers covering the bottom, and ran, chatting with friends through various points of the race. ("So do you think this means he likes me? I mean, I bring my laundry to his house in NJ?" "Leslie, I do think so!"), enjoying the day. But I didn't have IT in me. I didn't have that burning desire. It didn't feel like much of a massive accomplishment. I had finished a 100 miler in agony, over 100 miles actually, and the marathon, despite my second-slowest time, still was nowhere near as hard.
So I decided to take a year off.
Sometimes, your decisions really bother other people. Everyone keeps asking me. "So where can I watch you run THE marathon this year?" Nowhere, actually. Unless you want to see me hand water out - then, come by mile 12. I'm going to wear a bright pink shirt so my friend Nelson can see me. "Why won't you do THE marathon?" I'm not feeling it. Is that a good enough reason? "It's too short for you." Well, it is short, but that's actually nice. I mean, done in 3-4 hours? Sweet!
(And then there's the conversation I loathe:
Me: I run.
Person: Oh. What do you run?
Me: I run ultras, 50 mile, 100 mile races.
Person: Wow. That's crazy. That's incredible. I can't even 1 mile.
Person: Have you ever done THE marathon?
Me: Yes, I've done it six times. That's only 26.2 miles. But yeah, I've done it. I like ultras better though.)
People get obsessed with THE marathon. I know, because I was super obsessed. It was the one day where people celebrated ME. My parents would come in and watch me at three spots, my mom lugging around homemade cookies and bars and brownies in a backpack. My sister even came one year. My boss would show up with a sign or a pompom. (How many people can say that of their boss? YAY!) My coworkers would be out there with bells. My friends would be cheering me on. Every year, people would witness me doing what I love most: RUNNING.
But running on roads isn't as fun. It hurts. It tears your body up more than running on trails. The crowds are nuts. The logistics of THE marathon (getting up super duper early, the corrals, everything) are stressful and a pain.
But the crowds cheering you on rock.
I'm torn, really. I'm part of a running club where everyone is 100% obsessed. It's like there's no other race at times.
I'm really excited about running the Cajun Coyote 100 Miler in December. But I think, "Maybe I should've tried one more year..."
I secretly want to try to qualify the last year I'll be able to qualify with a half-marathon time; maybe train faster in January-March, hopefully being able to once again, smash 1:37 like it's nothing. And if I did that, automatic entry. And then I'd give myself one more try to break 3:25.
But that's a lot of speed. Not as much time on the trails. Not as much time out there for long. Can ultras and marathons cooperate? I don't know. Can ultrarunners be marathoners? Sometimes. But I don't know what I want.
When I think of why running makes me happy, I remember the Iroquois Trail 50 Miler, when I was running FAST FAST FAST, up and down, on these absolutely gorgeous trails, enjoying the moments, pushing, pushing, pushing, fast, fast, oh look at the leaves, up, down, amazing, runners' high...
I have less of those moments in the dirty NYC streets...
It's a conflict I have within me, but I'll see if I can break through.