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Marathoned out

October 19, 2010

Ah, if only my belly had so little fat...

Moments after crossing the in finish line at April’s Big Sur Marathon, under brilliant sunshine and a dazzling California blue sky, my mind immediately started spinning schemes about which 26.2-mile race I’d run next. I’d missed my goal of running another sub-4:00 marathon, yet I felt gleefully exuberant and enthused. Fast-forward about six months to a dark, dreary finish line in rain-lashed Oregon, where my first thought was, “I am so over running marathons.” Despite just qualifying for the Boston Marathon, an accomplishment I’d been chasing for 18 months in three marathons, I had no desire to run another ‘thon.

Without a doubt, the soggy weather had something to do with it: The rain had most definitely dampened (ba-boom-CHA!) my enthusiasm. Throughout my dozen weeks of training, I’d had the two-pronged goal of qualifying for Boston and bettered my personal best (3:52) in the distance. But, to be honest, in the two days leading up to the race, I just wasn’t feeling the PR vibe. I felt good, not great. Weather predictions forecast rain but, ever the optimist, I doubted their accuracy. They were right, I was wrong: On marathon morning, heavy, un-Portland-like rain fell steadily, washing my personal-best drive down the storm drains. In the starting corral I finally decided it was the day to BQ, not PR. Even though I reached that goal 3 hours and 59 minutes later, I felt little joy at the finish line. I felt like I’d gotten a job done rather than fulfilling a long-held dream.

I wish I could admit I’ve changed my tune in the week since, but I haven’t. All summer, I knew if I qualified at Portland, I’d wait until 2012 to run Boston.  Jack and the family deserve a break: Two marathon training cycles and RLAM promotional events have kept me away from the normal family hum too much this year. While I never felt training for two marathons in one year was too physically demanding–in fact, I felt stronger and less sore throughout my second round of training–I think the mental task proved too great for me, combined with the rest of the balls I’m juggling. Yesterday, as the 2011 Boston Marathon field filled up in a record single day, it never even crossed my mind to sign up for it.

Yet Monday morning over a breakfast smoothie, I did read an article in the New York Times about an insane-sounding new marathon near Tucson that runs almost entirely uphill, up the side of a mountain. There’s no way in hell I’d run it–unlike dear Dimity, I literally suck at running at altitude–but it captured my imagination. And I’m very much looking forward to running the Philadelphia Half Marathon next month with one of my dearest BFFs. For now, 13.1 miles is long enough for me.

32 Comments leave one →
  1. Kami permalink
    October 19, 2010 6:56 am


    I think that is such and admirable decision. Good for you! That is what it truly means, to “Run Like a Mother”- to know when to say when, our kids and families have to come first sometimes. We all need a little perspective. You will rock Boston in 2012!


  2. Susan permalink
    October 19, 2010 6:57 am

    First of all congratulations on your BQ marathon! I can imagine that rain like that would be a downer but you powered through it. I think it’s a really good idea to listen to that voice that tells you to take a break and cut back the mileage a bit now and then. I’ve had a few occasions where I haven’t listened to that voice and I usually regret it!

    I’ve run 5 marathons and I’ve been lucky to have really nice weather for all of them. I haven’t had that feeling of “I’m done with marathons” yet but I imagine it will hit me at some point. I usually run a fall marathon but this year I was unable to due to IT band issues and I have to say that while I missed the training I did enjoy the time off. I tend to think that a half marathon is the perfect distance – just far enough to be tough but doable as far as training goes. Have fun in Philly! Can’t wait to hear about the race.

  3. October 19, 2010 7:07 am

    Hey, SBS, you have time to make another baby AND train for the race before Boston 2012! Hee hee hee!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      October 19, 2010 12:59 pm

      Ha, ha: Don’t I wish! (Actually, I DO wish I could have another baby…but we lack the funds and my eggs are way past their expiration date!)

  4. Heather permalink
    October 19, 2010 7:07 am

    I admire you for being able to take a step back. That is easier said than done sometimes. I am sorry you didn’t feel awesome after Portland, but in my opinion, a break will do you good! You will be ready to go and train hard for Boston 2012. Enjoy the extra family time.

  5. Carolyn permalink
    October 19, 2010 7:31 am

    Will you have a booth at the Philadelphia Marathon Expo? Would love for you to sign my book and pick up a t-short while I’m there!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      October 19, 2010 12:58 pm

      Yes, Carolyn, I’ll have a table at Philly. I’d be happy to sign your book (and sell you a tee!). I’m hoping to meet a lot of RLAMers when I’m out east.

  6. October 19, 2010 7:38 am

    it truly is all about balance, isn’t it? i admire the way you are able to put things in perspective. there’s a great lesson in that, and thank you for thinking to share it with us.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      October 19, 2010 1:02 pm

      Thanks for your support, Michelle. Dimity and I have been so pleased by the positive response we get for being honest and forthright in the book, so we carry that the our website.

      It pleases me greatly to feel the support you all are giving me. Part of my competitive side feels “weak” for stepping back. It feels really good to have you all shine a positive light on my decision. Many thanks.

  7. Robin permalink
    October 19, 2010 8:05 am

    Thanks for validating what we all need to do sometimes — take a break from something so that we can go back to it with passion AND make sure our family knows that they are our priority. Marathons are fun, but with work and family, there is a reason half-marathons are increasingly popular with women.

    Boston in 2012 AND a family AND a great career — you are awesome!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      October 19, 2010 1:05 pm

      Aww, shucks, Robin. Thanks. Sometimes it all feels like a swirling vortex, rather than a rewarding, fulfilling, blessed whirlwind!

      • bowenshea permalink*
        October 19, 2010 1:06 pm

        And now I also feel like I better be extra-careful crossing streets or running in lightning storms! “;>)

  8. Cynthia permalink
    October 19, 2010 9:56 am

    Sometimes we all need a break to recharge physically and mentally. I ran my first marathon at Portland. I live in WA state where I have ran half marathons in the rain before but never 26.2 miles. It wasn’t the easiest. My knee started hurting at my 16 forcing me to run/walk then eventually shuffle to the finish line but I did it and I finished with a time of 4:48:22. But I knew I could have done better. So I instantly thought about doing another one. Next spring so my mind and body can get stronger and hopefully run it injury free.
    I have been reading RLAM book (you signed it for me at the AFLAC Iron Girl in Seattle) and I am sad I didn’t read it before I ran my marathon. There is so much I have learned from it so far. I love to follow your blog and facebook page as well. You and Dimity are inspiring to me as runners but also as mothers. I have one child but juggling marriage, motherhood, work, race training is tough. To be able to read what you guys go through as well makes me not feel alone. Not alone in the overwhelming feelings I have of guilt for going out for a long run instead of spending time with the family. As supportive as my husband is in assuring me that its ok, it’s your book and blog that reassure me its ok to do this for myself and accomplish my goals, and I can still be a great mother and wife.
    So thank you Sarah and Dimity.

    P.S. Here is a race in my hometown I would like to do someday, I think when I decided 13.1 is long enough for me this will be the perfect race.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      October 19, 2010 1:13 pm

      I’m so glad the RLAM triumvarate (book/website/FB page) is hitting home with you. We love the community that has developed.

  9. girlsworld permalink
    October 19, 2010 10:08 am

    When you mentioned that you felt like a PR was out of the question, I felt that feeling Sunday at NWM. I didn’t feel defeated though. I just felt like I was respecting myself by not setting the bar so high that it was unreachable. Good luck in Boston in 2012! Some down time is probably just what’s needed.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      October 19, 2010 1:09 pm

      Kirsten–I like your bar comment. Too often I’ve crossed finish line disappointed with myself. I think by letting go of the PR goal, I freed myself to be satisfied when I “only” BQ’d. But it was tough since I’d talked big all throughout my training in a, ahem, rather public forum!!

  10. BigDogMom permalink
    October 19, 2010 11:49 am

    Thank you for validating how I felt a few weeks ago. I am not BQer but a full time working mom of 5 and a TURTLE! I trained so well for Chicago this past year, giving up many a favorite food and other activities for a run. I really put my heart and soul into my training. BUT a fast time was not to be. My running partner realized at mile 3 that she forgot her inhaler. It was up to me to get her to mile 14 to meet her fiance and inhaler. After that, it was so unforgivingly hot that making up time was not possible without ending up in a medical tent. Thus I finished the best I could….disappointed and dejected. I so wished for a do over. I regretted all the time spent training and sacrifices made during the summer. I have since changed my view and realized that I trainined for, started and finshed something that many will NEVER even start! Not every race can be about the numbers on the clock.
    I need a break but I know that I will come back better, stronger and more committed than ever.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      October 19, 2010 1:11 pm

      Wow, that was very self-less of you to help your friend get to her inhaler. It’s tough enough to run your own race, let alone have someone else be dependent on you. I’m glad your regrets are dissapating–you shouldn’t have any.

  11. Joanne Godfrey permalink
    October 19, 2010 2:35 pm

    not sure if i can add anything extra, but the fact that you see your future and know the slow down is just a blip in your plans also shows you have your life in perspective…running is the fabric of your life (not cotton!) and there are times when the fabric needs extra softener and some minor stitching to reinforce worn patches…silly analogy, but it takes a very intellegent and well balanced athlete to know when to simply relax…because, although your running is exceptionally dedicated and fulfilling, your family is your greatest joy and acheivement – i can just imagine the stories you will be telling your grandchildren…

  12. Abby permalink
    October 19, 2010 3:36 pm

    I love your honesty and in return I can say that I wonder if I will regret the ramping up I am doing in hopes of my first marathon in 2011? I work full time, have 2 middle school kids and a husband with his own interests that require time, too. Will I regret the commitment I’m about to make? I don’t know….

  13. Megan permalink
    October 19, 2010 3:51 pm

    Oh my gosh, you should have used yesterday’s headline for today’s post; Big News, Honest Post.

    This is my favorite post of yours yet and I feel a little sad but also can totally relate. I wish so much that you were as giddy as you were after Sur and anxious about Boston 2011 but I think you are so incredibly wise to wait. Never once do you think when trying to qualify for Boston, especially at a fall marathon, ‘oh boy, my finishers’ prize is to train for another marathon…and soon’!

    That hit me after I qualified in 2004 and because my Boston dreams were preceding my hopeful pregnancy years, I knew I had to run it in 2005. I totally emptied the tanks qualifying for Boston and ran into serious nutritional deficiencies training for Boston. I loved every second of that amazing race, even in the heat, but it was my worst for timing 4:16:32.

    I told myself I’d take five years off to have babies and then see how I felt because I was like you – I never wanted to run another again. The good news is that the love and excitement will come back and you’ll be so well rested you can savor the beloved Boston like you want to. Enjoy running 13.1 miles because it is enough for you Mama!

    Your wisdom never ceases to amaze me, even in the most unexpected ways. Thanks for being so real and giving us all a break!

  14. Bonnie permalink
    October 19, 2010 6:49 pm

    Sarah –

    Good for you for making a decision that not only benefits your family, but you as well.

    I run just for me, I have no desire to ever run a marathon, not sure I will even do another half marathon (perhaps). Heck, I was excited today to run a full 10K within my lunch hour without having to stop to find a bathroom in the middle of my run. Today was a victory for me (yes, I came back into the office cheering), because it has been quite some time since I have been able to run w/o a pit stop due to stomach issues.

    My hubster was running past my car when I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work and when I told him of my accomplishment, he cheered too. He hears me complain all the time about having to stop mid run. He was happy for me and I was happy for me too.

    You will have your victory when you are ready in mind, body and spirit. Until then, enjoy all that running has to offer. An escape, if only for a few miles or several miles.

  15. October 19, 2010 7:29 pm

    Good for you to see the signs of marathon burnout and heed to them. Not always an easy thing to do. You’ll be back feeling fresh and ready to tackle another one in time. Enjoy the break!

  16. October 19, 2010 7:35 pm

    Yes… I live in Tucson and have been up the road that the Mt Lemmon marathon was held on many, many times. We’ll just say that I am glad that I never have had to walk that road, much less run it! I know a few people who did it and I stand in awe of them! I’m always glad to have a car to carry me to the top of that mountain!

  17. Courtney permalink
    October 19, 2010 7:45 pm

    I love your honesty, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with switching your focus for awhile! Use the time to set new goals in different race distances or courses (trail running, a triathlon?). Or just run for the fun of it & you’ll be refreshed and ready for Boston in 2012.

  18. Elaine permalink
    October 19, 2010 8:33 pm

    Good for you for knowing your body and mind so well! Nobody can understand that rain unless they were there….I’ve never experienced a downpour that lasted so long! I adjusted my goals that entire race.
    Thank you for all your support, wisdom and honesty. Enjoy your time off. I’m nursing a stress fracture…chompin at the bit to get back out there.

  19. Beth permalink
    October 19, 2010 8:57 pm


    What a hard decision, let alone make it public. I applaud you for reflecting on your running and making the changes you need to make to love running again. Kudos to yudos!

  20. Iliana permalink
    October 19, 2010 9:18 pm

    Come run a 1/2 with me any time here in NYC!

  21. Laura permalink
    October 20, 2010 12:49 am

    i hear you sister!~
    first of congrats, you finished and BQ’d!
    after my hip stress fracture earlier this year and coming back from that to running a 10 miler and 2 more half marathons at paces close to before my injury, i am thrilled but also, for now accepting that halfs are enough and pretty damn cool for a mom of 5 and grandmom to run. i’m training up for 5th this year and 5th since i started this madness called running. what happens next year? i don’t know for sure. i will be running for sure and running races but while my running friends are talking and planning for their first marathon i think i will stick to half marys. i can juggle my life and those and feel pretty good at the end of the day and really that is all that matters.
    good luck in Philadelphia!

  22. Teena permalink
    October 20, 2010 1:15 am

    Thanks for your honest post. I ran my first marathon in Portland and you signed a copy of your book for me there. It’s inspired me so much. I’m from Tucson. I spent all summer training in the heat and got dumped with you (and for much longer, I’m not anywhere near BQ times). Yes, Tucson just had it’s inaugural Mt. Lemmon marathon. The weather was much better 🙂

  23. Vivian Papp permalink
    October 20, 2010 6:10 am

    As long as you can keep running, that’s what really matters. Getting up every day and feeling alive and vibrant is what keeps me going. If I could never do a race again, I would still keep running. I’m only doing 5K’s, so I’m super-impressed at what you can do. I cannot imagine ever running a marathon (or even walking one). I dream of running more than 5 miles. It’s not easy to find that balance with family (I know, I have 5 kids), but when you do, it is ever so rewarding. You are an inspiration to those of us who once did nothing and now do something. And something is always better than nothing…

  24. Jackie permalink
    October 21, 2010 11:58 am

    Right there with you! I knew as soon as I finished Chicago that I needed a break. Actually right after the race, I said “Never again!’ Two weeks later, my tune has changed, but I’m realistic enough to know that next year is not the time for another marathon. Need to wait til 2012.
    I took a break completely after I had finished the 3Day for the second time, and it did my spirit good.
    You are an amazing lady! The break will be good for you 🙂

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