After running my second marathon this fall, I’ve been at a loss from where to go from here. Do I just plan to train for another marathon in the spring, aiming to cut a little more off my finishing time again? Should I take a break from marathon training and focus on cutting down my time in the half marathon? I guess I’d been feeling like now that I know I can complete a marathon, I need a goal that’s bigger, to feel like I’m taking on a new challenge. I thought about trying an ultramarathon (a race longer than 26.2 miles), which would certainly be bigger than a marathon and something that would really challenge me. The problem is that most ultras are run on trails, and I don’t feel comfortable training on trails alone. Until I have a reliable trail running partner, I have to put the ultra thing on the back burner for now.
So where does that leave me in setting a challenging new running goal? I went back to my bucket list of things I want to accomplish in my life. One of my biggest goals is to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. Although my speed has improved significantly in the past few years, I am still a long way off from my qualifying time of 3:30ish. I would have to cut over an hour off my marathon time. I do believe that if I am dedicated enough, and stay healthy, I can achieve this within the next few years. With that in mind, I decided my new goal will be to qualify for Boston by the end of 2020. This gives me exactly five years and will put me in a new age bracket for qualifying, as I turn 40(!) in September of 2020.
My strategy for cutting my times down over the next few years is typical of a standard long-term marathon training protocol: 1. Train hard for a spring marathon, 2. Run easy post-marathon while maintaining decent base mileage (30-50mpw), 3. Train hard for a fall marathon, 4. Run easy for a while, 5. Wash, rinse, repeat until qualifying standard is achieved. I also plan to take some racing seasons off from the marathon and focus on improving speed in the half distance to prevent burnout, maybe once every three marathons.
With the improvements I’ve seen over the past few years with consistent running, increases in mileage, and sticking to a doable, but aggressive (for me) training plan, I am confident I can cut down enough time to qualify for Boston in 2020, if not sooner. Plus this goal gives me a great reason to look forward to turning forty!