I'm currently training for the upcoming Boston Marathon (April 15!). When people find out that I'm working towards Boston, then inevitably ask me, "What's your time goal?"
If this were last year, I would have said sub-3:23, which was my qualifying time. But, after being injured this past summer and easing my way back into the sport, I have decided to adopt a more laid-back approach to running.
Leading up to my injury, I was preoccupied with mile splits, with running doubles, and with going as fast and as far as I possibly could. I would wake up some mornings, run fifteen miles, then go to class and finish up the day with a hard eight miler with my running club. I knew I couldn't maintain this lifestyle, not with a demanding courseload and friends who wanted to hang out; nevertheless, I tried to, just so that I could make a PR. And, instead of even crossing the finish line of my goal race, the San Francisco Marathon, I ended up in physical therapy.
While I would love to nail a PR in the Boston Marathon this year, I now recognize the sacrifices I would have to make. My stress level would skyrocket, my grades, would suffer, and my friends wouldn't know I existed. With my type-A personality, working towards a PR at Boston would become my obsession. I knew that this training cycle, I wanted to find sustainability and balance among all the aspects of my life.
Around mile 11 of today's 21 mile run, Emma and I started chatting with a pair of runners who had stopped at the same water fountain that we did. We were a decent distance away from any towns, so I figured they were out for a long run also.
"Are you training for anything?" I asked.
The one man just laughed, wiping sweat off his brow with his shirt.
"I like that answer."
"Training for life" pretty much sums up my approach to this year's Boston Marathon. Life is not a race for the fastest time. Sure, one could argue that life is a distance event. But, life is also a fulfillment event. Running, like life, can take you on adventures to beautiful places, if you are willing to take a breather and look around. It can also strengthen friendships, if you are willing to take it slow enough to chat. And it can teach you to love and respect yourself, if you are willing to give yourself a break every now and then.
This April, I don't want to sacrifice my enjoyment of running (or life) just for a race; I have no time goals for the Boston Marathon. Of course I want to finish. But, I also want to be able to think back on the entire experience - the exploratory trail runs, the weekend runs with friends, and the short strides up Heartbreak Hill - with a smile.