You see, when you first run marathons, you realize it's a different race. Learning to train for them is something so different from anything you've done before. It's a battle to prepare for over four months for one day of your life. It's about building yourself up physically and mentally.
I love the people that have never run a marathon that say it's mental as if you could will yourself to do a 4:00:00 hour marathon. Sure, it's mental. It's not mental getting through some imaginary wall at mile 20. If I make it to the start line, I will make it to the finish line. Besides, that wall is really more of a nutrition thing. What's mental about it is the 16 and 18 mile training runs by yourself out in the cold of winter. What's mental about it is realizing it may take a marathon or two or three before you really figure out how to run it. (I think I've finally figured out how to train for one. I won't really know until race day or a few weeks before it when I do my last long run before tapering.) So, the whole thing is a little mental.
While it is mental, it is so physical. You have to train your muscles to last four hours, or maybe five hours, before you collapse and give them rest. You have to put in the time, especially when you're trying to build that foundation of fitness. You have to learn how to push yourself to run farther than you have before or at a better pace than you have run before. Then, there are days when you have to not run as fast or maybe just rest because that's how you get faster! It's about seeing how far and how fast you can push yourself on race day without overdoing it in the beginning or having too much left in you at the finish line.
So, when I'm racing all of these shorter races, it's not about getting a PR. It's about getting to know myself mentally and physically to find that perfect balance between my pace and my endurance. Along the way as I try different things out in races, sure I may blow-up after the first mile or two or I may cross that finish line knowing I should have pushed it a little harder. There will be races where I just keep trying to get faster mile after mile until I can't go any faster. Hopefully, that will be somewhere near the finish line.
At some point, I'm going to figure things out. I'll find that balance or something close to it. When I do run that marathon, if I cross the finish line feeling strong and exhausted at the same time, I will have run the race I wanted to. The PRs will take care of themselves. As a running buddy of mine told me, you'll never make progress in running without taking some chances every once in a while to push yourself a little beyond what you think are you limits. I'll let you know how that works for me in a few months.
If it's about PRs, then I'm going to start tracking some new PRs. How many friends can I get hooked into running? How many friends can I get to fun the Flying Pig with me? How many people can I meet at the Saturday morning runs? How many pairs of shoes can I wear out while training? How many people can I help get fitter and healthier? How much fun can I while training?
I'm not going to worry about my times for now. I'm going to worry more about listening to my breathing and feeling my heart beat. I am going to work on finding balance between my pace and my endurance. I'm going to focus on just running.