The time has come–twenty weeks in the making. There are many things to be excited about with the race just weeks away. I’m glad to be tapering and resting my legs, as my program allows. I’ve always thought the IMT Marathon puts on a great expo, and this year looks no different.

I’m looking forward to checking out the various vendors and listening to the guest speakers they’ve lined up—all a significant build-up before toeing the line for my first in-person marathon.

However, despite weeks of preparation, I must admit there are still many “unknowns” that I can’t entirely predict.  Sure, I’ve run in Iowa for years, but I’m curious what the weather will bring.  It still seems warm for October.  I know how my training runs have gone and past races, but how will this race go?  Run hills? Sure. But how are the hills in miles 2-8 going to treat me? How bad will the dreaded “wall” be, and at what point will it hit?  What is my best strategy and plan for a race I have limited experience with?

All of these questions make me reflect on the last twenty weeks–the challenges, the wins, the races in between, and the time I’ve spent getting to the point I’m at now. Unknowns aside, I feel both prepared and excited for this upcoming challenge. This has been quite the journey, but training for this marathon has allowed me to hone my discipline, focus, and time management skills. It can be challenging to balance a personal fitness goal like this with your personal life, but it can be done with determination.

As race day nears and the taper begins, I’ll be shifting my focus from cranking out the miles to some other essential factors–sleep, hydration, and diet. All of these are crucial the week leading up to the big day. The afternoon/evening prior, I’ll have my race outfit set out and ready, Garmin charged, headphones charged, bib pinned, and my drop bag packed.  While uncertain of what the race will bring, I’ll set myself up for the best possible outcome with preparation. When I have worries about the “unknowns,” I’ll remind myself I trained for this and that by finishing this race, I’ll feel more accomplished than I was before.

Now race day.  The starting line is such a special place–an uplifting and positive atmosphere.  Runners from all over the world, novice to elite—we all share the same excitement and anxiety in the moments before the gun goes off.  And then, we run.  We trust our bodies and our training and relish if we’ve done this work.  I look forward to seeing everyone out on the course–those who have made the same sacrifices and have joined me in this journey.  Please know, I’ll be rooting for every one of you throughout the race.  What you are doing is admirable; it takes grit and determination.  We run this race ourselves, but we’re also in this together. Good luck!

by James Lensing

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