[Editor's Note: I had every intention of posting this last week, before the marathon, but I didn't quite finish the post. #BestLaidPlans]
It is race week for the Darlington Marathon. As I write this, there are around 72 hours or so before I start the marathon. I could tell that I am getting pre-race jitters, something which I never expect when they come to me. After all, I have more than a handful of races of varying lengths, so the anticipation of a race should be new to me.
Since I am known as “That Runner Guy”, I usually get asked a few questions about running. Of course, as a special interest, I am more than happy to go on and on (until the break of dawn) about running. Now, as a seasoned runner, I know that you can’t part running wisdom in one nugget of information. You have to probe to figure out where people are in their running and answer accordingly, in small digestible pieces. That’s one of the reasons why I stress to first time marathons, just focus on finishing, don’t worry about anything else. There’s no apriori information to base speculation.
Now there is one thing that comes up, no matter who is asking questions and if someone does ask about it, then I address it outright. That is Race Day Excitement, it can be a blessing or a curse. But I realized today that it is really a component of the overall Race excitement (and the inevitable depression of finishing) and that got me thinking about writing about it, or getting down my thoughts before I make it into a thesis (but where I can I get a PhD in running?).
So as a Physicist turned Nuclear Engineer turned Recovering Engineer turned Statistician, I got to thinking that there must be some formula that governs the excitation levels of a running and when exposed to a source of energy increases the quantum state of the runner, both in mind and spirit. I figured that I could possibly use my own data and try to use regression to fashion an equation that has the smallest amount of error, but the highest level of practicality and (cross-fingers) might have some significance.
So there are some key events that happen leading to a Race that don’t always happen in order, but when they do happen add/subtract to the level of excitement.
1) Deciding to run a race – this is loosely proportional to the experience of the runner. A fledgling runner will, on average, get really excited about deciding to run a race.
2) Signing up for a race – I would say that this has more to do with the personality of the runner rather than anything else. Some races, especially those that you have to qualify for outright (New York Marathon, Boston Marathon, etc) or even to get a good seed at the Starting Line (Peachtree 10k, Bolder Boulder 10k, etc)
3) Injuries/Illnesses – can wreck havoc on the excitement, depending on severity of injury or the intensity of the illness. When it occurs in relation to training/race day is a multiplier to some amount
4) Proximity to Race Day – As Race Day approaches, the anxiety and excitement of the Race increases. If it is a race really important or significant to the runner, this can magnify both. The bigger the race, it happens earlier.
In my case, I’ve been pretty excited about the Darlington Marathon since I was told that I would get a very generous birthday gift of a complimentary entry. At first, my excitement was that I was running a marathon on my birthday, then I was really excited that I would get a birthday bib… that is my Race Bib will be my age (#42). Over the course of the last few months it has gone up and down as I have experienced injuries and successes.
I’ve been overcome the last few weeks with anxiety because I did not get in all the training that I needed. I missed a couple key long runs that leaves performance on Race Day in question. However, now it’s out of my hands… I can’t do any running that will truly improve my run on Race Day. So what’s a runner to do? Get excited!
On Sunday, when My Lovely and Talented Wife brought my race up as a prayer in Small Group, I switched over from “Training Mode” to “Race Mode”. Today (Tuesday) R-Day -4, I could tell that my stomach was in butterflies. This nervousness in the past has been deterimental for Race Day, as I have not felt like nor actually eaten. This was the key factor of my DNF (Did Not Finish) in 2009. I was extra excited/anxious that I was going to be a Pacer for the Knoxville Marathon that I didn’t feel hungry and therefore didn’t eat. Unfortunately, this meant that I had no energy and only made it to Mile 14 before the wheels came off. I had to stop pacing and just survived until Mile 18 when I pulled myself out of the race and had the Medical Crew take me back to the Stadium.
‘ Knowing Is Half the Battle’ so today, I made sure that I ate lunch and snacks. This evening I made extra bacon and a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yeah, I know Comfort Food, but I’m anxious… it’s not a tub of ice cream. Mmmmm ice cream.
Another thing that I am doing besides eating cookies is making a conscious effort to drink lots of fluids. Last year when I ran Chickamuaga Marathon and then shortly after Flying Monkey Marathon, I realized that in preparation for Chickamauga I was drinking a lot of water. It was all the trips to the bathroom, but I put 2 and 2 together.
When I originally began thinking about content of this post, I was going to create some scientific formula, such as f(excitement)= Sum(A* + P^2 + L/E)*π or something like that. Fun cipher bonus if you solve for ‘excitement’. But, excitement is really to complicated to try to explain…