Ready, Aim...

Hitting the perfect spring marathon.


The holidays are over, the gifts are opened, cookies eaten and my husband is back to work.

The board over my black desk has tomorrow's to-do list in bold and on it, is one big one: register for my marathon.

I decided to get a jump on the task by tackling it the night before (I just love crossing things off my to-do list right after I wake up and yes, I realize this makes me a gigantic dork). I sat down, pulled out my credit card and went to the website for my winter half marathon on Feb. 21.


Then it was time to pull out the big guns so to speak (I am enjoying using gun metaphors since I fired my first one this past week while away for the holidays and thought it was more fun than expected). As I prepared to pull the proverbial trigger and fork over the $100 entry fee for my spring marathon, the one I hope will be my Boston qualifier. I suddenly froze.

Until this week, I knew exactly what marathon I was going to run (Cox Providence on May 2, 2010). It was close to home. A friend was also running part of it (the half). And most of all, it was allegedly flat. For me, this final piece is the most important. The reason I chose the marathon I chose last fall was because of a friend and it was a mistake. There is a better, much flatter marathon even closer to my home that ran two weeks after the one I ran that is considered one of the fastest in the country.

My own experience with hills and exhaustion and lack of adequate snackage over the course of the race meant I missed my qualifying time by minutes (in fact, it would have been even less had I not all but given up in the last two miles).

Yesterday, I logged on to register when it dawned on me that several things have changed since I made the decision to run Providence:

1. Without delving too deeply into the topic, I am no longer on good terms with the person who is also running, which frees me up to try something different. 2. The course is not "set" because of construction, which could mean my "flat" marathon is no longer. 3. I want to qualify more than I want the experience. I have had the experience. This time I want to meet the goal.

The pros of this race are partially the same. It is still close to home, still fairly inexpensive, still in early May, which frees me up to run another one in later May if it comes to that, but to be honest, I am hoping it won't.

I have had the "life experience" of a marathon and I am sure I will run many in my lifetime, but this is the one I want to qualify. All the training I am doing through the winter months (yesterday's 8-miler through slushy snow maintaining an 8:30 pace for instance) needs to produce a qualifier this time. It is not that I think last time was a waste. I learned a lot from my mistakes, discovered I could do it and registered a time I am proud of. But this time is all about the goal.

Currently, I am exploring four other spring marathons. They are:

1. New Jersey Marathon, which is also on May 2 (pros include flat, semi-scenic course and I know someone about my speed who is also running it) 2. Cleveland, Ohio Marathon on May 16 (pros include tons of built in babysitters and support people since a chunk of my family is here, plus allegedly flat, although weather is variable) 3. Athens, Ohio Marathon on April 11 (totally flat. Also close to family for visit) 4. Poconos on May 16 (this one is actually downhill, which is crazy)

My major mistake last time was in making the decision without researching other options or talking to people who knew the course. Had I done that, I may have run a different race and probably qualified.

In poker, they call this "going all in." I am going to lose the weight, put in the time (while I am still nursing) and train for speed, mileage and distance. Therefore, I need to give myself the best possible hand. Or, to use gun speak, I do not want to pull the trigger and miss. Not this time.

In the end, I may register for two or three marathons and call it a day. I am insane like that. But I welcome any advice or tips, especially from people who know the routes I referenced.

Sasha Brown-Worsham is a writer, a mother and an unabashed, unashamed runaholic. Check her progress each week as she trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon.