Smile Politely

Countdown to race day

I’m not one for countdowns, but I find myself participating in this one: counting down the number of pumps I take from the hand sanitizer. What? You thought I was counting down the days until my run at qualifying for Boston?

I’m in quarantine. I’ve avoided nearly all personal contact with coworkers, friends, and family since the end of December. I must say, celebrating Christmas with three children under 11 and surviving unscathed is nothing short of miraculous. It kinda makes the whole virgin birth thing look like child’s play.

One scare occurred on Jan. 8 when, stupidly, I misplaced my can of soda at a meeting. I took a sip out of a can that I can’t confirm was actually mine.

I’m in the latter stages of my taper, that point in the training where I run fewer miles, rest more, and focus on staying healthy. I’m running less, and when running fewer miles a week, it means I have more time to worry:

Is this twinge in my knee important?
I coughed, do I have walking pneumonia?

Every step on the road becomes worrisome. It’s dark out when I do some of my runs, and the footing is uncertain. There’s ice. There are unseen potholes that have metastasized on the streets of C-U. I risk tripping, rolling an ankle, slipping on the steps after playing with the dogs in the backyard, hurting myself getting out of bed in the morning. Any movement comes with risk.

“Jeff can you reach the…”
“No,” I say.
“Jeff, mind carrying this down to the break room?”
“Yes, actually, I do.”

It’s like I’ve suddenly become this raging conservative.

“You can do that yourself, can’t you?” I ask.

Then there are those wishing me good luck. The more veteran runners are thinking, “You’re gonna need it.” They know how situational marathon running really is. Things need to align in more ways than one.

My emotions swing wildly. Sunday and Monday of last week, after a 16-miler, I worried that I’d over-trained. My legs felt dead, drained, unresponsive. Yet Tuesday and Wednesday, I felt refreshed, ready to run further than the prescribed seven and four miles, respectively, that my training required. It’s one thing to feel good; it’s something entirely different to want to go harder than you’re supposed to.

While tapering this week, I would run a mile thinking, “I got this.” The next mile, I would start to panic: “You’re gonna blow it.” I don’t know what to feel.

This reaction is pretty normal. I’ve been so singularly focused on one date, January 20, for so long now, that as the date approaches, each little swing one way or the other emotionally is just that much more pronounced. It’s like landing a plane. The further you are from the runway, the less impactful any turn of the stick might be. The closer you approach the tarmac, the more you recognize things might not be lining up.

As the race draws nearer, I’ve got things to worry about that might provide a welcome distraction from the race itself. I’ve got to travel to Phoenix. I’ve got to pack, plot out the different race day scenarios, and plan accordingly. I’ve got to work. I’ve got to entertain my dog. There are any number of things I can focus on. Now, if I could only stop thinking about this damn race.

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