Back when I was still doing long runs for training — seems so long ago, as I lounge on the couch! — I was conversing with a fellow Scoop Chaser about my progress.
I don't remember which run I'd most recently done: the nine-miler at 9:30, the 10-miler at 9:36 or the 11-miler at 9:23. But whatever one it was, it prompted Zach to ask about my race time target.
I gave him the same tired line I've clung to since registering for the race, that is, just keeping it at or under 9:45 so that I'd beat my previous PR. Can't sustain those paces, blah blah blah.
Though I don't recall his exact response, I do remember the gist of it: "Sure you can. You just did."
This conversation came back to me courtesy of a recent Competitor.com post that asked whether your marathon goal pace is too slow.
I expected the same mushy argument that adrenaline will carry you, which turned out to be wrong in my first half marathon; race-day excitement can't overcome peanut-butter-related GI crises.
Instead, I found hard science. If you taper, your muscles will be fully rested, and your glycogen stores will be topped off. And you're likely to be better fueled during the race, because you don't have to be your own water/Gatorade/Gu station.
All of this — not loosey goosey pep talks — prompted me to reconsider my self-deprecation. Zach's right, Competitor is right ... and my hidden ambition is probably right, too.
Back in January, I boldly declared that I wanted to run a half marathon in 2:05:00, which would mean 9:30 miles.
Once training started, I mentally retreated from that for a handful of reasons: I didn't want to jinx myself, even though I didn't really believe I could do it; I didn't want to build myself up for other people; and I didn't want to experience the letdown of falling far short on race day.
Yet all this time, I've been plugging my long run results into the race pace calculator to see what could happen. The answers have nourished dreams of PRing by far more than a handful of seconds.
With two days to go, do I believe? Do I believe that I trained well and rested well; do I believe that I have the right equipment to pace myself and refuel myself; do I believe that I can talk myself through some discomfort and, no matter what race day brings, be proud of the work that I'd done leading up to it?
I believe all of that, without question. Which means that, beyond superstition and a habit of pessimism, there's no reason I shouldn't believe I can finish minutes under my PR.