So. After posting the race report I spent the next day obsessively checking and rechecking the results pages to see if the "inofficial" had changed to "official". I phoned the Berlin marathon people to ask when the results would become official (1 to 2 weeks the lady thought but she seemed utterly mystified by the urgency in my voice), I submitted my application to the BAA for a place in the Boston marathon (they need to verify the results themselves anyway and wait for them to become official yes I am going in circles here). I achieved very little else. I felt a bit sick, a bit nervous. I didn't sleep very well.
In truth, I just didn't know what to make of this race. It felt like I had run an awful race, yet I had achieved what I had set out to do - qualify for Boston. For the vast majority of the race, the first 17 miles, I felt increasingly awful. Physically, but also mentally. Normally I am a really happy racer. I wave at the crowds and in my head I am all focus. I feel that this is the day I've been training for and my mind is completely in control. It is a wonderful feeling and it puts me on a real high. In this race I just didn't feel it at all. This may be because I wasn't feeling well or was, somehow, dehydrated. But besides my physical condition, my mind became a very negative place in the course of those 17 miles. All the doubts that can plague me at 3am (along the lines of "I am really a failure, I am terrible, who am I to think that I can do this") were playing through my head. The urge to stop was enormous and while I was fighting it it was as if this awful voice in my head was telling me: "you stop. you've always been a quitter and you thought you'd got past that but you haven't. You know you want to stop. What's the point in carrying on?" Awful stuff - I know - but truly this was going through my mind and I have never felt this while I was running.
Ironically, though, what stopped this negativity was stopping. Once I'd stopped it was as if I had done that awful thing I had always been so afraid of doing. The voice switched off and it was as if the slate had been wiped clean. As I started running again with my blanket around me I knew that I might well miss my BQ. But I didn't really care. I was going to finish this race and prove that I could do that. I definitely was tired and I was definitely was not 100 %. I had negative thoughts (I vividly remember thinking, somewhere during mile 23, "I will never run again") but I could acknowledge that thought and carry on. In the last 3 miles I walked about 3 times every mile. I could see my time slipping but I really did not care. At that point I felt it was incredible I was still in the race at all. I had completely given up on the BQ - and I was, in my peculiar state, ok with that - when I suddenly realised at the 41K mark that I could still make it. By now things had been reversed in my head. I was now in a place where I couldn't imagine making my qualifying time and all of a sudden the possibility presented itself. Looking at my Garmin, my last miles were well over 9 minute miles, and then the last mile I whipped out an 8 minute miler again.
After all the turmoil I was happy when I crossed the finish line and immediately slammed on my watches (yes) to see my time (3:45:45.65). I knew how finely I had cut it, but I was happy to think I might have just made it, and even posed for a finisher's shot which I never usually bother with. Well you know all the rest - and I apologise for rehashing as much as I have.
The truth of the matter is, of course, that I wanted to BQ in full Chariots of Fire glory. In all honesty I wanted to set down a glittering, definitive BQ - not one with 13 seconds to spare. I wanted to feel the way I did in London, without falling apart at the end. This is why I was disappointed - I had achieved my goal but not as I had hoped and anticipated.
But that's where all of you came in. You all emailed me and commented (and the lurkers phoned and Facebooked) and you were so nice to me! I wasn't sure what to feel but you were understanding and kind and complimentary and excited! Greg gave me an unintended (and therefore very valuable) compliment by sending me an email of commiseration once I'd missed the 3:40:59 cut-off (he said I looked too young to be 35. Greg! As someone who is 2 weeks away from being 38 you could NOT have me happier unless you were an official from the BAA telling me I officially have a place in next year's Boston marathon). And then, after I was nervously emailing and generally faffing about, one of you sent me the following email:
you are insane, right???????????
YOU JUST BQ'D!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHILE HAVING A CRAP DAY!!! AND WALKING??!?!
Think about that for a few seconds....
I want to hear YAY ME! (from you. not me. you know!!!)
You need to congratulate yourself!! You set a goal and woman, you DID IT! You did it while feeling bad, and wanting to quit!! THIS IS HUGE!!!
You're amazing! Think for a MINUTE about what you would have done if you'd felt good and hadn't walked! The mind boggles!!!!
And I realised she was right. Like so many things in life this race did not go as planned. But I had done what I had set out to do. And more than that - I had given up in a race (something I have always been afraid of) and then started up again. Something I did not really want to learn, but did and something to stick in my pocket in future reference.
So I have moved on. I think I have BQed, I can't imagine my time changing, but I've let it go. I'll make my plans (and have that bottle of champagne) when I hear from the BAA (either way..). And I'm not running the Bizz Johnson. In part because, let's face it, I know myself well enough to know that I would try to run a better race than Berlin. And I also know that running another marathon hard, 3 weeks after a previous one, is possibly not a great idea. I am going to save my legs (and knees) for Boston. But also because, by not detouring to Susanville for 3 days, I can go on a bigger road (and hiking and camping) trip with my parents. So often running comes first for me, and I don't regret that or apologise for it, but 3 weeks after a marathon I am going to choose my family. And after a week of wilderness (Sequoia National Park, Sierra National Forest, Yosemite National Park and then some wine tasting around Lodi) I am driving to the Bay Area to stay with the wonderful Maritza and meet up with as many Rohos as I can fit into 48 hours. Eating, drinking, talking, running - it's going to be hard but I think I can do it.
And I'm back on the road yes - faithfully working through Pfitzinger's 6 week recovery plan. I'm erring on the side of caution and rest - if I'm not feeling it I'm not running - but this week has been good. 5 milers have brought the pleasure back pretty quickly.
See you soon, good night and thank you. From the bottom of my heart - thank you.