Congrats to everyone who finished the 2008 White Rock Marathon. From what I've heard, it was a difficult day on the course with temperatures in the 70s and high winds with gusts of 20+ miles per hour. My heart goes out to the friends and family of Erin Lahr.
Reading my buddy Kevin's report reminded me of my 2005 meltdown in Dallas. I sent Kevin an e-mail after the race and, although personally-directed towards him and his efforts to break the four-hour marathon barrier, part of it seems general enough to paraphrase here.
As I was discussing my own failed (but ultimately inadvertently successful) year-long attempt to break the four-hour barrier, I noted how much my running enjoyment has improved since I started running distances beyond 26.2 miles. Rather than push for faster times, I've slowed down my pace but have increased the distances I cover on foot. Personally, it has been much more natural to concentrate on going farther as opposed to going faster. And I haven't had a running-related injury (other than a blister than I got at the 12.5 mile mark at Sunmart, and that didn't hurt my finish at all for the remaining 37.5 miles) since easing off the accelerator about a year and a half ago.
I'm at the point in my running these days where I'd rather finish with a slower time, but feel good during and after the run. I love being able to run 50 miles on a Saturday and feel good enough for a short jog (3-4 miles) on Monday with little or no discomfort. For me, that's ten times better than trying to qualify for Boston but being forced to deal with Achilles issues, shin splints, and cramps. Comfort on the long run has become a bigger accomplishment that speed.
But, ironically, my marathon times have improved. I can easily run 4:10 or better without thinking about it. And on at least 3 occasions* over the past two years, I've finished a marathon in under 4 hours, despite not really focusing on speed.** And, again, I haven't run a marathon since the 2005 White Rock where I've had any real discomfort.***
So what does it all mean? I don't know. I guess I just felt like running.
* 2006 Marine Corps, 2006 White Rock, 2008 Big D.
** Okay, that's a half-truth. I probably start pushing it around mile 20 when I realize that sub-4 is within my grasp; but I never set out to run that time.
** Admittedly, "discomfort" is a relative term. Perhaps I've just become accustomed to the punishment of running long distances.