My mojo-less winter turned into an equally uninspired spring. Then, as is so often the case, life got in the way. In the end, I had to change plans to run two different marathons and opted to go back to Burlington for a third successive year to run my eighth marathon.
Burlington is such a great race for so many reasons that I am in no way upset or disappointed that I am going back. Sure, it would have been nice to do something a little different for my spring marathon. But this year, going back to Burlington made sense, even though I am heading into taper week feeling anxious and underprepared.
Initially, I had been on track to run the Kingston NY marathon on April 24, but in early March my son called me to tell me his senior recital had been scheduled for that night. Faced with the prospect of running 26.2 followed by a two-hour drive to New York City for the recital and then another five-hour drive home, I changed gears and targeted the New Jersey marathon the following week.
For reasons too complicated to go into here, the idea of running that race had to be abandoned too, and while I could have pushed my training back to target a race in June, I didn’t feel like I wanted to drag things out any more.
No. Burlington it was going to be.
Preparation in April and May, however, continued the erratic course that had been set in motion from the beginning of the year. There were some encouraging runs: a good 10.5 around Irondequoit in the middle of April at an 8.18 min/mile pace, a solid 12-mile tempo run on the trails of Onondaga Lake at 8:24 a month later and a strong 16-mile long run the following Saturday were three that stood out. I also logged two 60-mile weeks in April and May.
But they were also accompanied by several low-mileage weeks, a crappy run in the heat of Florida, an aborted run/walk 10-mile tempo run closer to home, only one long run in May, too few quality Hanson’s SOS (Something of Substance) runs and a general inability to get past an 8:40 min/mile pace on any kind of regular basis.
Inconsistent. Erratic. Off-program. But with just enough bright spots to give me a glimmer of hope.
Which brings me to Leicester City.
As a lifelong fan (I saw my first game with my Dad on May 4, 1968, just a few weeks before my eighth birthday), I have taken great pleasure in the team’s historic championship season.
Like the year this middle-aged, midpack marathoner has endured so far, the City have had their fair share of ups and downs during the almost fifty years I have followed them: a couple of League Cup wins and FA Cup near misses, relegations and promotions, financial administration, the indignity of descending into League One, a swift and triumphant return to the Premier League and a miraculous escape from disaster last season before finally winning the biggest prize in English football and worldwide respect.
So I could be really corny and say that this Fox will draw inspiration from the Foxes. I could be really trite and say that that this underdog will try hard to emulate a team of underdogs that defied 5,000-1 odds and outplayed every other team in one of the world’s most celebrated football leagues to win a title that had eluded them for their entire 132-year history. I could be really obvious and say things like “I need to run with the strength and courage of Jamie Vardy or Riyad Mahrez next Sunday.”
But that would be just too shallow.
Instead, I will take my cues from Claudio Ranieri, the Leicester manager. When asked by the press what Leicester’s ambitions were at the beginning of the season, he stuck resolutely to the answer “40 points. 40 points”–a magic number that would ensure Leicester’s survival in the top division for another year. In January, when that goal had been achieved, he then said, “Now we will see what we can do. Maybe Europe.” It was only when a place in the Champions League was secured on April 10 that Ranieri announced that the team was going for the title.
A month later, that’s exactly what happened. Dilly ding, dilly dong.
So, thanks to Mr. Ranieri, this is how I will run Burlington this year: one attainable goal at a time. Nothing more. Nothing less.
After all, I now have a nickname to live up to.