I ran my fourth marathon in Maui on January 23, 2011. My finishing time was 4:26:28. My heart wasn't in this one. It wasn't in the preparation, and it wasn't there on race day.
I had some good races in between Berlin and Maui. I ran a 15k here in Chicago, and a half-marathon in San Antonio. I averaged 6:54 per mile in the 15k, which is the fastest pace I've ever had for any race. And one week later in San Antonio, I was able to finish the half-marathon in 1:35:03, which was also a personal best for that distance. And after I finished the race in San Antonio, I got the chance to cheer on a good friend as she ran her first full length marathon on that same course.
But as much as those races helped me put the more negative aspects of Berlin behind me, I just couldn't seem to get myself excited about running in Maui. While training, I ran more than 15 miles only twice. But I'd already registered, and bought the plane ticket, so I was going to Maui regardless.
The Maui Oceanfront Marathon is a small race. Just a few hundred participants, no full road closures after the first couple of miles, and no digital timing system. We started in a residential area, well before dawn, but we were quickly on the coast, which is where we stayed until the final mile or so.
I felt great early on. I was moving fast and enjoying the scenery. But as the miles added up, it became clear that I hadn't prepared myself properly. And aside from the general fatigue, which was settling in earlier than I would have liked, I was getting pain in my ankles and calves that I believe came from the slant in the road.
We were running around mountains, and the ground wasn't flat. The more steps I took on the uneven roadside, the more sharp the pain became. I slowed down as the pain increased, and I was fine with that. I knew before the gun went off that this probably wouldn't be my fastest race. And so I was fine with settling into an easy pace and just taking in my surroundings.
But not all of that pain was a result of running on a surface that tilted inward. Much of it stemmed from my lack of training. And I can't leave that fact out of any honest account of that race.
By the time I finished, I was hurting pretty badly. I didn't really care about the time, but given the pain, I certainly couldn't say that I enjoyed myself during the second half of that race. So once again, I found myself with some questions to answer, once everything had come to an end.
Running 26.2 miles isn't something to be taken lightly, and I'd somehow lost sight of that. There are plenty of shorter races that I can run, and enjoy, if I'm not feeling up to training for a full marathon. So I need to make sure that I'm honest with myself about how much I am willing to commit to each race that I choose. And if I'm not ready to set everything else aside for a few months, so that I can give myself over to training, then I'm not ready to run a marathon.
But after Maui, I was definitely ready to dedicate myself to several months of serious training. I'd had two straight races in which I couldn't be honestly happy about the way in which I approached them mentally and physically. And I was suddenly quite anxious to wash that sour taste out of my mouth.
My next race was going to be much closer to home. And while I always look forward to exploring new cities, I wasn't looking at the next race as a vacation. Cleveland was three and a half months away, and that was going to be a business trip.