I knew this was coming. As much as I’ve needed a break from training for a marathon, I’ve been searching online for my next one. Here are the contenders:
Seven Bridges Marathon, Chattanooga, TN, October 16, 2016 Set in downtown Chattanooga, this course weaves over the Tennessee River. There’s not a ton of elevation change, but there are a lot of turns, so perhaps not the fastest course, but it certainly looks beautiful! 3.5 hours away.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah, Savannah, GA, November 5, 2016 I have a friend in Savannah, so this could be a good option. But reading the reviews and stories from last year, I’ve pretty much decided to skip this one. It was hot for a marathon (humid and in the 70s) and they ended up running out of water and cancelling the race before it was over. Many people didn’t get the chance to finish and two people died. Yeah, no. 4.5 hours away.
Anthem Richmond Marathon, Richmond, VA November 12, 2016 Billed as “America’s Friendliest Marathon” Richmond is known as being a fast course, with close to 10% of the field qualifying for Boston. It has a big purse for the winners so lots of elites show up, plus music and beautiful scenery on the course. But it’s about a 5.5 hour drive for me, which could be a deal breaker.
Kiawah Island Marathon, Kiawah Island, SC, December 10, 2016 This is a flat and fast course despite the number of turns. If the weather is cool, this is an ideal race to PR. But if it’s not, like last year’s race in the 70s, it could turn into a slog. The best part of this race is that I already have a few friends signed up so carpooling and sharing accommodations make this a pretty attractive choice. 4.5 hours away, but with carpooling, no big deal. Running this late in the fall would also allow me to race Shut In on November 5.
So about Shut In. I missed racing Shut In last year because I had the flu. I was well enough to cheer on the racers, but not enough to run. I hated missing it and vowed that I’d be back this year. But now I’m not so sure. I’m torn because I’ve been off trails so much and I’m finding it hard to get into the trail mentality. I can get there, but something is pulling me back and I’m not sure what. I was so excited about it last year. Where has that enthusiasm gone?
I’ve talked to a few people about it and most think that I could race Shut In and still do well at Kiawah. They are 5 weeks apart so I would have time to recover. Sounds like a plan, right?
But then I talked to a running coach that I recently met who asked me about my goals and what I really want. I told him I was still chasing a sub-three-hour marathon, but also wanted to run Shut In. “Do you want to run a fast marathon?” he asked. “Absolutely,” I said. “Then train for the marathon,” he answered. “Shut In will always be there for you. Your speed won’t.”
I instantly felt a sense of relief. Yes, that makes sense. I would love to run a great race at Shut In, but not as much as a faster marathon. That’s it, I thought. No Shut In.
And then just to confuse me, he added, “I’ve trained people who’ve run both and they set PRs at Kiawah.” Ahhh! Why did he have to say that?!
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what other people say, even if they are amazing athletes and coaches who know far more than I do. What matters is that I am excited and happy and feeling good about my choices so I can go into training 100%. Trying to do well at a steep and technical trail race while I’m in marathon build up is not the right choice for me. The other way around might not be so bad, so I could choose Chattanooga and still race Shut In, but that’s what I was trying to do with Chicago last year and I ended up getting sick, not uncommon after an intense effort like that.
So while I still plan to hit the trails more this summer, I will do it for the pure love of being in the woods and not with any goals in mind.
Unless someone talks me into it…