Lisa Davidson – the powerhouse “Toronto Fit Mom” (@TorontoFitMom) – used to want to be a marathoner. But then she tuned in to her body and discovered what it meant to run her best race. Keep reading for Lisa Davidson’s take on finding your optimal running distance.
When I started to run seriously, I wasn’t shy about sharing my goals with just about everybody. I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Just about every runner who runs marathons dreams of attaining the elusive Boston qualifying time, to wear the jacket as a lifelong bragging right. I wanted it so bad it was the last thing I thought about at night and the first thing I thought about in the morning. I stuck up inspiring running quotes in my room and on the bathroom mirror. Everywhere I would look, I would have something inspiring to read. I even had a post it with my goal time taped to my mirror. It was always in my face. Always.
My goal race was the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2013. I was super pumped to get started and waiting to start felt like a lifetime. When I finally started I felt amazing and strong for the first 25km. I was even ahead of the 3:40 pace bunny (my goal time by the way), it was the best feeling ever. Then I hit 30km and I had a pain in my hip, but I shrugged it off and kept going. Then the pain started to run down my leg and I had to stop and walk, then trot, then jog, then force myself to run, then walk again…..you get the idea. At 35km I wanted to call my husband and ask him to come pick me up but I didn’t, I kept going. The 3:40 pace bunny passed me while I dramatically held out one arm in an attempt to grab hold and have him drag me along. At that point, I knew there was no personal best (PB) and no Boston Qualifying (BQ) time that day. My goal at this point was to just finish the darn thing, which I did in 4:11. The pain in my hip was my Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) and it was incredibly angry at me because of what I later found out was my weak glutes. I swore that two marathons were enough and I would never ever run another one again. That is until the next year when I started training with my coach who was confident that I would get that BQ and then he convinced me as well. Things were going well on the marathon training program he laid out for me until the day I had a 35km long training run. I hit 28km and had a thought “I hate this”, but it was different than the usual “I hate this” when you’re in the middle of a multi-hour long run. I got in touch with my coach and was honest about how much I was hating the marathon distance training, I loved the strength work, the speed work and the cross training. I told him and anyone else who questioned “what about your BQ?”, that it wasn’t the year and I was making the switch to the half marathon as my distance. I’ve done great at 21km, my fastest time was 1:38 and I was well on my way to getting a sub 1:30 time.
Fast forward to a few months ago when, like I do at the end of each race season, I talked with my coach about what I want for my 2017 race season. We went through my results for 2016 and it turns out that I had quite the successful season with 5 & 10ks. Together we decided that I should really stick to 5 & 10k races for 2017, and when I say together, I mean it. I was, and still am really excited about how 2017 will pan out for me. 2016 was the first year that I started to compete as a Masters runner and I had some pretty successful results in the shorter distances.
I am excited for this new emphasis on “shorter” distances. My coach is excited, my husband is excited and my son is always excited, no matter what. In his eyes I win every race, every time. I got some mixed responses when I announced this news. I got a lot of “don’t worry, one day you will get that BQ”. Here’s the thing, I honestly don’t want that now. That was a goal from 4-5 years ago. Goals change, people change, people grow and it is OK. Getting a BQ does not, and will not define me as a runner. In fact, the work I have to do now is far more challenging than what I had to do for 42km, believe me. Having to go from zero to your fastest possible pace from the second that race starts is no easy feat. Being warmed up before a race is a whole new world at these distances – I’m good and sweaty from warm up sprints. You are pushing your body to your max, lungs burning, chest heaving, legs pumping and then just when you think you can’t do it much longer you cross the finish line and it is THE BEST FEELING EVER. For real. The best part is that while you are sore and tired, after a day or two of rest you are ready to go again. Unlike the half or full that requires me to hobble around for a week and avoid stairs like the plague.
Need to hear other reasons why racing shorter distances is awesome?
- Your “hard long” runs are about 1.5hours. Tops.
- No getting up at 6am to get a run in on the weekend. I can actually sleep longer and finish before my friends who started at 6.
- I don’t have to worry about gels, or water bottles. Just me and my phone (for selfies or course!).
- No need to replace running shoes as often as I have been, which saves me money, which means ….that’s right, I can run more races!
- I can train with my son. My son, who will be 6 in April, loves to run with me. I could never run a 20km + run with him, but 5km? Since he has already run that distance he is down to go for a run with me.
- The strength and power you develop makes you feel like you have super-human strength.
- It is just plain bad ass!
So my friends, don’t pity me when you hear that I’m not running the half or a full. I haven’t “given up” or “downgraded”. I have never once had the thought that I am not a “real runner”. I’m good. In fact, I am better than good, trust me. I know not every race will be a PB, it never is, but it will be an exciting time as I train for the 2020 World Masters Championships, right here in Toronto.
Big thanks to Lisa Davidson for this amazing guest post and pictures.