Posted by: David Stewart | December 10, 2009

What’s next?

Does the runner in your life seem satisfied but pensive and thoughtful? Read on.

I have always said that the main reason I race is to set some kind of goal for my running. Running is an efficient way to get needed exercise for good health, but it’s tough for me to get out there and put in the miles without some kind of goal staring at me.

If I’m signed up to run a 26.2 mile race, it’s a lot easier to justify the effort to get out there and run.

So you would think I should be satisfied with just running races and be happy with it.

But eventually, the idea of chalking up just another race failed to get me excited.

So, faster races. First goal: run a marathon in under 4 hours. It took 13 races and losing a bunch of weight before I finally ran a 3:50 race in Sacramento. (Number 12 was actually a maddening 4:01 in Tucson.)

The next goal was to qualify for the Boston marathon, the quintessential goal of every mid-pack long-distance runner. This took me until marathon number 16, which I ran last Sunday at 3:29:40 in Sacramento again. Before that, I was fraught with all kinds of doubts:

  • Is it physically possible for me to run an 8 minute average pace for over three hours?
  • Could I do the needed training without getting injured, as had happened to me repeatedly. As much as I enjoy running, I hate being sidelined.
  • Did I have the mental toughness to actually run so fast for so long? Or would I crumple under the mental pressure and pain, as I had before so repeatedly?
  • Later, when I hired a coach to help me qualify, would I be willing to follow his advice or would I believe myself to be smarter and ignore it?
  • If I was able to conquer the physical and mental challenges to get ready for race day, would I be hit with enough “unlucky” circumstances to fail to make the goal, things like bad weather, course problems or medical issues. How many times would I continue to try to qualify if I never made it?
  • Was the goal really important enough to me to sacrifice for it?
  • Could I be happy if I didn’t achieve this goal?
  • And as Deb would point out, if I achieved this goal, what’s next? Continue to try to qualify at every race? Slow back to my original pace? Stop running?

So now that I am here, what’s next? What’s the next running goal?

  • I really miss doing my training runs with my friends. I had to do a lot of runs at a faster pace, so I did them alone. This really isn’t my idea of fun. So there are strong reasons for slowing down.
  • Should I try to push the pace faster? Marc Frommer thinks I could have run a 3:25 under better conditions. Should I try for a 3:20 or faster? Is there really more speed in these legs? Seriously, I’m not getting any younger here, is there room for more?
  • And the all-important financial question, should I continue to retain my coach?

So… what’s next?



  1. First – you achieved a lot. Your post makes that quite obvious, all the questions – and you conquered them all.

    What’s next only you can decide. You reached an impressive level of fitness. Slowing down on some of your runs doesn’t mean you’ll lose that, but not keeping a good mix might – and that would be a shame.
    My recommendation – offered with a lot of doubt if I am qualified to give it – would be to keep the coach, keep pushing for a faster time (because without a tough goal I think it will be hard to keep running at that level), but talk to your coach about the ability to run some of your training runs with your friends. A good coach will find a mix that allows you to do that and still to get faster.

    Just my 2 cents – as someone a lot slower (and a bit younger) than you, who sees you as a role model and someone he looks up to.

    Well done, my friend.

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