Despite all my nattering about running, the majority of my lifespan has been spent engaging in sedentary activities like reading, writing, eating Doritos for breakfast (a college habit), slaving over a computer in a cubicle, and smoking (the ultimate anti-running pastime). I began running over 14 years ago, because I had reached the clinical definition of overweight at 165 pounds. I immediately strived for “more distance” over “faster” because to run even 3 miles, at whatever pace, was an accomplishment .
The distances got longer and the weight disappeared. In 2011, I ran my first road marathon (Philadelphia). I finished in four hours and 18 minutes, with legs so sore I could barely walk back to the car. I was hobbled for a week after. But I achieved the distance, I didn’t give two sh*ts about my time, and I wanted more. Having also gotten into trail running around this time, I read about ultra races and my mind just marveled: Normal people like me, running for 50 miles or more!
So I trained and raced ultras, which requires running slow for long periods of time. In ultras, I race in the mid-pack. But I noticed something: when I race short distances on the road (5K, 10K) I am pretty fast, despite not doing speed work in my training. It turns out that my ultra training (heavy, slow mileage with lots of hills) also makes me fast. When I add in a few days of actual speed work, I get even faster.
The only other road marathon I ever did was Chicago in 2012. I finished even slower than Philly (4 hours, 20 minutes) but that’s because I ran the first 15 miles with my college housemate Tim, who is a “bucket list” kind of marathoner and wanted to maintain 11-minute miles. At mile 15 I took off (at his insistence) and ran a negative split. It was fantastic experience, mostly because Tim and I spent those 15 miles talking a lot about the new kid’s series he was in the process of creating, which turned out to be the wildly successful Odd Squad.
Anyway, my road marathon PR is 4:18. And that has to change. Given my road half marathon PR is 1:42, I know that I can do significantly under 4 hours… maybe even a Boston Qualifier (which is 3:40, though I would need to have a 3:37 for a legitimate chance at winning entry). So I signed up for the Hyannis Marathon at the end of February, which give me 7 weeks to do tempo runs on the bicycle path whilst pining for the woods.
When I signed up for Hyannis, I had to pick a division. Choices: “Open Women” or “Filly Women.” A “filly,” apparently, weighs 140 pounds or more (incidentally, most other races put the “filly” or “Athena” women at 150 pounds or more). As I mentioned last week, my winter weight is currently hovering right around 140 pounds at the moment. So I am categorically a female horse! (Incidentally the Clydesdale division, for men, starts at 190 pounds. Which seems a little more strict.)
It’s probably true that a 140 pound woman like myself cannot compete with the short, slim women who generally win road marathons. And looking at the times of women who won the Filly division in the past… I would have a legitimate shot at making the Filly podium.
If I HAD registered as such. I didn’t though. Mostly because I really hope to be several pounds under 140 by the time of the race, but also because I don’t believe my weight is a disadvantage. I will beat plenty of women who weigh less than me.
Allow me to allow you to take a mental gander at my legs: Thick, almost obscene calf muscles, with body-builder-like veins feeding through them. Rock-hard thighs and hips. A butt that defies the gravity tugging at this nearly 40-year old body. These muscles are not a disadvantage. In trail running, these are the physical rewards I reap.
What is a filly, anyway? A female horse, so young they do not allow her to race. Would I really demoralize myself to register in a race as such?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!