I can’t get 3:30 out of my head — that was my goal time for this year’s marathon. With all of my setbacks this year, I’m honestly thinking I won’t hit it, or worse, not even get close.

I had a vision for my training this year. I was going to have these amazing long runs with even more amazing paces. I was going to hit the track at Schenley Park to do some speed workouts (something I neglected last year) to increase my pace. I was going to be strong and fearless and I was going to finish in the 3:30s.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know my training has been the farthest thing from this dream. It’s been a near nightmare, plagued with seemingly nonstop injuries, pain, and doubts. With less than a month left, things are finally looking up, and I’m starting to feel like my old self, all except for my pace.

Holding a steady pace is my biggest obstacle right now. During my long runs I feel like there are times when I’m cruising at my pre-injury, long-legged stride. God, it feels amazing. Then there are times when I feel like someone is holding onto the back of my legs, weighing them down and slowing my pace. It’s so frustrating.

I started noticing my comeback during my 12-mile runs. The first one was rough. I finished in just over 2 hours. I ran the second one in 1:54 and the third in 1:46. Decent times, but not exactly where I want to be (about 95 minutes for 12 miles). I know what I have to do though in order to get to where I want to be. I need to do speed workouts.

I finally felt that my legs and knees were strong enough to do a good speed workout on Good Friday, so I woke up early and drove to Schenley Park. There were a handful of other runners who shared my idea, but they weren’t bothering me. Two of them were running slow, steady laps and one was struggling in the outer lanes. I planned on doing four 400-meter dashes (or quarters). The first three felt great. I finished in just under 90 seconds, the same goal my old high school coach used to give me at the beginning of track season. I thought I should start off at a slower but reasonable pace, since I am so late in the game. The idea was to get my legs to turn over and break through the invisible wall that’s been holding me back without hurting myself even more.

The first three quarters flew past fast and were pretty simple, so I decided to tack on a few more. In the end I did 6, all at or under my 90-second goal, with another three miles split between a warm up and cool down. Ecstatic that I finished the speed workout so well, I followed it up with a shoulder and arm workout and a much-needed massage.

I noticed a big difference on Sunday during my long run. I did 15 miles in 2:12. Again, I wasn’t at my original dream speed, but I felt that my overall pace was a lot more even and steady. It felt good not to be on my own personal roller coaster, for a change. And the best part was that I actually enjoyed myself during the entire thing!

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