It’s almost been a week since I ran my eighth marathon. It was a race I looked forward to for five months and expected it to be the best one of my life. I started by dreaming of running a three-hour marathon and as the day got closer I could visualize it as a reality. April 10 was the due date to be ready and that I felt like I was hours before the gun went off.
Some of you already know how it all ended and unfortunately for me it did not go well. I dreamed of the perfect race, prepared for the perfect race and in the end it was far away from it. The anticipation I created for myself and for those around me was incredible. I only dreamed I would not let anyone down with my performance.
Almost one week since April 10th, 2016, I look back at the race and have nothing to regret. For me, when you give it your all and it does not work out, there is nothing to be worried about. Yes, I would have loved to wrap up a great training plan with a Boston-Qualifier performance but as much as I wanted it, April 10 was not my day.
Those around me saw how hard I trained every day to get closer to my goal. Not only was I looking for a B.Q., I was trying to get back in shape and still aim for a sub three hour marathon. I did everything I could to get stronger, faster and in the right mindset. I would train for 3-5 hours a day doing multiple exercises while taking good care of my body. Long runs, speed workouts, tempo runs, weights, yoga, massages, biking, swimming and other activities were part of my training routine for over 15 weeks.
I never saw myself stronger and more mentally prepared than how I felt before what would be my first marathon in Europe. The idea of running thousands of miles away from home was part of the motivation and in one of the races that offers one of the three fastest courses in the world, where world records have been broken. The Rotterdam Marathon provided me with an immense amount of motivation.
As the day got closer I trusted my training more and more. Having run a perfect half-marathon one month before and an excellent 21 miler just two weeks after was part of what I felt was necessary to have enough confidence for the next challenge. I was my own coach during the entire process and very proud of the progress from day one to the last one before the race. I lost over ten pounds during training but felt very strong. I felt like I was in the best shape of my life.
Running a marathon in a place where you don’t even understand the language is an interesting experience. There were less than ten mexicans in a starting line of over 40,000 participants. Rotterdam is a nice city to look at, with the largest port in Europe and some nice modern architecture. The small population does not allow it for people to flood the streets but those that stand along the course make plenty of noise. The streets are very narrow and overpassing was definitely the biggest challenge.
I can’t point to the moment or thing that made it impossible for me to qualify. I had done everything within me to be ready for that day and I felt I was. I had strategized for many scenarios and it just was not enough. I started from the very back of my wave and found it really hard to run at an even pace with so many people in front of me. I do not blame that because that is an excuse. I ran some solid first ten kilometers, held on for the next five and tried to see where I was by the time I reached 20.
At the time where I did not see it possible to run a faster second half having put a lot of effort into overpassing, I decided it was time to step aside from my dream for that day. I walked for a few meters, tried to take all the negative thoughts out of my mind, even cried for a bit and continued my way. I still had 16 kilometers to go.
I decided to enjoy the rest of the course. Give high-fives to those on the side of the road, encourage runners that were having a difficult time and take in the experience of running a European marathon. It was a dream by itself and I was not going to quit. I did not care about the medal, but I did not travel halfway across the world to step out and not finish.
Before I knew it, I was in the last two kilometers of the race. Those were two fun kilometers for me despite the physical and mental pain of not running a good race. I was happy to be where I was. The music was loud, but the cheers were even louder as I approached the finish line. I looked at the sky quite a few times and enjoyed what I had worked for (in some way) during the past five months.
I went past the finish line, happy to be done but sad it was not my day to qualify. I thought about all the effort I had put to do better, all the hours I spent pushing my body to the limit and this was not even in my top five marathon times. 3:52:20 in the fastest course I have ran.
On the other side, I can’t thank enough those that supported me. It was truly special to see the support coming from old and new friends from across the world. A continuous pouring of support on social media and other outlets. You all made this race even more special than what it already was.
This has been a huge blow in my athletic career but the story won’t end here. Now I will take some time off to think straight of what could be an even better approach for my next marathon. I am not giving up on my Boston dream, a lesson like the one I learned in Rotterdam only makes me want it more. I know I have it in me based on my training results. I know it was not enough and it was not meant to be on April 10.
Thank Rotterdam for the experience of a lifetime even though it did not end how I wanted it, but how it was supposed to based on destiny. I can now say I have ran eight marathons including one in Europe, that is pretty cool in my book. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I am still alive!