Sunday, May 22, 2011

Moving on after running disappointment

A few weeks ago, Coach Steve Watkins at the Pacific Grove High School invited me to talk to the track team. I always enjoy talking to the athletes and answering questions, but man, am I feeling old. My theme is simple, make a goal and be willing to work hard toward it. Ultimately, I advocate being stubborn since things do not always go according to plan. After all, it took me a long time to make the Olympic team.

I can’t pretend that this season’s disappointment isn’t getting old. After not make the starting line for the New York City Marathon in November, and this recent crash and burn at the Boston Marathon, I am ready for some highs rather than lows. I took about five days off from running after Boston because I was incredibly sore, but mostly because I needed a mental break. I did not want to think about running at all. Luckily, I had planned to go visit my grandmother and family in North Carolina with Quin, so it was the distraction I needed.

Though I felt mentally rejuvenated and ready to redeem myself going into Boston, when I started running, I just felt terrible. I had a blood test when I returned and the doctor told me I was a bit anemic. It probably contributed to my poor performance in Boston. It helps to have some reason for feeling bad, but as an athlete, you have to be ready on race day - period. The Olympic team waits for nobody.

Magdalena Boulet, my friend and fellow Olympic Marathoner from 2008, commiserated on the phone with me recently. She had trained equally hard for the London Marathon and was in great shape finishing just steps in front of me at the World Cross Country Championships. Unfortunately, she faded from her goal of finishing in 2 hours and 25 minutes, to finishing in just over 2:30. She said as she was struggling to make it to the finish line, she was contemplating retirement. I felt the same way as I was running in Boston, wondering if all this time, effort and time away from Quin was worth it in the end.

That’s the thing about having a goal. It comes back to bite you time and time again.

During the 2008 Olympic Trials race, a question haunted me: “Can you live with yourself, (if you are fourth again?).” I didn’t have to answer that question. I finished third, making the team and making up for the disappointment of finishing fourth in 2004 after leading much of the race.

Weeks ago, I was haunted by a similar question: “Can you live with yourself if you give up competitive running now?” The answer is absolutely not! I know I have only one or two years left of competitive running, and I plan on making ending my career on a high note and enjoying every step of the way.

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