"I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we're all cowards."
-Alberto Salazar, three-time winner of the NYC marathon
In five days I will be standing at the starting line of a 32-kilometer footrace along with a couple hundred other runners. Even now, I feel nervous and have my doubts.
There is no doubt about being able to finish the race.
In the 7 weeks since my last race, a hilly 10k, I have logged weekly totals ranging from a low of 60 kilometers to a high of 90 kilometers. I did long runs from 21 to 28 kilometers, at paces varying from 5:32 to 5:44 per kilometer. 32k is only just 4 kilometers beyond my longest run so far in training.
With all these behind me and barring any debilitating injury, I am sure I can get from the start to the finish.
How fast I could get to that finish is the question.
This is a test race for me. I am looking beyond it to a marathon in December. I plan to finish that marathon, the second in my running comeback - in my second wind - in under 4 hours. How fast I can finish this 32k on Sunday will tell me if I am on target for that sub-4 marathon.
I am not looking at a podium finish. That I suppose would be possible only if I were 30 years younger, or if a lot of the local elite and the younger and faster runners won't be running on Sunday. A finishing time under 3 hours is a more realistic target.
If the running gods bless me with a top finish in my age group, I would unquestionably be thrilled. But knowing that I am on track for a sub-4 hour marathon is perhaps the best gift I can receive.