Marathon training = lots of progress

I've been too hard on myself lately. In my last post, I think I left the impression that I haven't accomplished anything until I cross the finish line of the Richmond Marathon. On my run this morning, though, I realized that I have accomplished a lot in the past few months in my running life. Instead of using the word "accomplished," I'd like to think of it as making progress. Much of it is in thanks to training for a marathon, but I still want to avoid reflecting too much. I'm afraid of giving myself high praise for what's happened these few months in fear of jinxing myself, slipping on a freakin' acorn and busting my ass and not being able to reach the start line in two-plus weeks.

So, without talking about the marathon anymore, here are a few things that have happened in my running career this summer. Reflecting on what I've learned while training for the marathon will come sometime after Nov. 10:

* Some of my training runs have beaten race times since I started doing races in 2004. Just this morning in the heavy humidity of August ... I mean late October ... I included a 2-mile tempo run of 15:54. That's nearly 30 seconds faster than a 2-mile race I did in November 2005 in the Thanksgiving snow in Ohio. And believe me, it's much easier to run while it's snowing than 80 percent humidity in August ... I mean October.

* In addition to beating a 2-mile race time, I've had a few tempo runs while training better than several 5k races, and a 13.1-mile run was the same time as my very first half marathon. To me, no matter what I'm training for, that is my best sign of progress in the past few months.

* My 5k race times have dramatically improved since training for the Virginia Ten Miler last summer. From 24:37 at a cross-country style race in Bedford in November (which was nearly 3 minutes faster than my previous PR at that race) to a 22:42 this summer with a ton of hills, I have figured out how to push myself in a 3.1 mile event. Now that I've gotten below 23 minutes in a 5k comes the challenge of continuing to be able to do that, if 5ks are what I want to keep doing. Train faster, race faster. It's actually a simple technique that works really well!

* I now have a new standard for a "short run." It used to be three miles. Now it's four. And I really like five.