Two years ago I ran an 11-minute personal best time in the marathon. It was nine months after I birthed baby number one. Once I had my son I was super focused on training and having a goal. I knew what I was capable of at the start of the race, and my day went according to plan. When I finished, I was ready to celebrate my accomplishment for a few weeks before digging right back in to running—something I believe is important to do.
I trained for a half Ironman that summer. In the fall, I ended up having surgery and yet another surgery in January. I registered for Boston knowing it would be soon after my second surgery. Instead of racing for a specific goal time, I decided to focus on the experience. I trained to build my mileage, and be prepared to run a marathon that wasn’t necessarily fast but was doable based upon where I was physically and mentally.
A month after Boston 2014 I found out I was pregnant with our second child. Fast-forward to this summer, and baby number two is now seven months old. I’m starting to feel fit and where I want to be physically. I’m even starting to feel confident about what I can do this fall at the Chicago Marathon. But it’s been a slow build. Progressing from walking and then running a couple times a week, I’ve made it to the point where I am now able to train six or seven days a week.
The point is you have to be realistic about your starting point. The specific times I once ran represent what I was capable of when I ran them. Now I’m working towards new goals. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Whether it’s a pregnancy, injury or an emotional or physical break that’s kept you from running at your peak, you simply cannot lace up and expect to perform at your historic best. If you try, you will likely get injured and be frustrated. It may sound harsh, but it’s the truth.
Sign up for races for the enjoyment factor and to track your progress. Just because you ran a certain time at a 5K two years ago, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be proud of a 5K time that is a minute, or two, slower right now. Appreciate the process.
I have big goals for my fall marathon. They even seem a little daunting, but I know if I focus on the present, and make a little progress each week for the next 12 weeks, I’ll make big strides. You need to start where you are right now, not where you want to be. Your training should reflect that reality. Every couple of weeks reevaluate and see where you are and decide if it’s time to stay the course or make some pace adjustments and up your game.