I wanted to post an article by John Bingham, from Competitor magazine, Nov 2010 - Mid Atlantic. I couldn't find it on the internet so I will post it for you from my magazine. Enjoy!
A Novel Approach
The fall used to be marathon season. The big fall marathons were Chicago and New York, and about the only spring marathon in the US was Boston.
Those days are long gone-and the marathon season now lasts year-round.
I've run 45 marathons. Well, OK, I haven't run 45 marathons. I've started 45 marathons and I've run/walked/crawled/hobbled my way to the finish line of 43 of them. More importantly, I think, is that I've seen hundreds of thousands of other athletes run and walk across their own marathon finish lines.
While this doesn't make me an expert, it does give me perspective on both what it takes to start a marathon and what it takes to finish (or to choose not to finish) the 26.2 challenge.
I've hard all the advice normally given to new marathoners and half marathoners: Don't try anything new on race day, trust your training, don't go out too fast. This is all good advice, but i think there's another way to approach a long-distance event. It's what I call the "novel" approach.
After having run so many marathons and half marathons, the one thing I know for sure is that I don't know anything for sure. As I've written before, there's no such thing as a marathon or half-marathon plan that goes exactly as expected.
I now approach long-distance events in the same way that I approach reading a new novel. I know I'm interested in running the race or reading the book. I have a pretty good idea what the book is about, and I have a pretty good idea what the event is about. But I stand at the starting line with the cover closed and don't open it until I cross the start line.
I stand at the start with what I call a sense of wonder. I think to myself, "I wonder what's going to happen today?" I don't have any expectations or any fear or anxiety, just a sense of wonder.
It makes me really calm in one way and rally eager in another. I'm calm because I know that i don't know what's going to happen, and I'm eager; I can't wait to get started to find out what's going to happen.
Like any good novel, a marathon or half marathon has a plot. Sometimes you can see the plot from the very start. Like a good writer setting the mood, you can find yourself standing on a field of dreams with sunlight cascading through cotton-ball clouds from an azure sky..or on a bleak tarmac of terror as the skies darken as a foreshadowing of the gloom you are about to experience...
It doesn't matter, thought. Using the novel approach you just accept what you are reading as the author's description of the day. In the same way, using the novel approach, the weather is just another element of that race's plot.
As the race beings, as the mile markers come into view, I try to look at each mile as a new chapter in the novel. No matter what happens in Mile 1, I wonder what will happen in Mile 2. As the miles build, I can sometimes see how the plot is changing. Sometimes what seemed like a secondary theme in the early chapters (a dull ache in my knee) turns out to be the focus of a later chapter.
What makes the novel approach so appealing is that nothing good or bad can happen. The truth is that if you can keep your sense of wonder as you go through the miles, you can't be disappointed because no matter what happens, it's a surprise.
The effect of my novel approach to long distance running -and this would certainly work for cycling or multisport events as well- is that each starting line is a chance to learn something about myself, about the thoughts and feelings that make me who I am am, and about how, on that day, I am bot the author and central character of the story of my life.