Officially into fall and just over two weeks out from the Hartford Marathon. I think it’s time to start previewing the elites, aka New England’s Finest. The Eversource Hartford Marathon and New England Runner have once again teamed up to present the finest field of elites, and we’ll do our best to shine some more light on the talented runners who will be lining up on October 8th.
First up we have James McKirdy, who is the man behind McKirdy Trained, which offers runners access to top notch coaching from runners like Tim Ritchie, Esther Atkins and more. James will be going for a sub-2:30 in Hartford.
So I’m still sorta in shock about the run yesterday. Honestly I felt like crying into my plate of french toast and eggs at breakfast. I was just so happy about what I just did. It’s tough; I’m a coach and I have 100% faith in my clients. Sure, there will be hiccups, moments of doubt. Moments where the plan I created for someone might not always be perfect. I’m human. I make mistakes. But we get through and we develop. And honestly it’s been quite amazing to see the growth in my own clients.
But with my own training I have to trust 100% into what my coach is doing for me. Not only do I have to be there for my clients, I have to allow my coach to be there for me too. Yesterday was a testament to all of the hard work we’ve done. I say “we” because it’s a journey we’ve been taking together. It’s been exactly 1 year since we started working together.
I’ve had coaches prior but Alicia is special. I remember watching her husband Ryan running in college (he was a senior and Notre Dame while I was a sophomore at Uconn) and he absolutely destroyed the field winning the championship. I had just got hurt a few weeks before pole vaulting so surgery left me useless other than to be a loud spectator. 5 years later I also remember watching during the 2007 marathon trials when he passed away.
When we first met in Flagstaff (2015) we were there for a running retreat hosted by the RunSmartproject. The week was amazing and just what I needed to kickstart running again after seriously damaging a tendon in my right leg 4.5 months before.
After Alicia spoke during one of the many presentations that week a few folks went up to her to say what a wonderful job she had done in her nutrition presentation. I had waited for the crowd to die down a bit because I wanted to share with her that I remembered Ryan and I honestly wasn’t exactly sure how it would be received. I remember very specifically watching him run that day at the Big East Championships. A lion if I ever saw one. — I’m glad I shared that memory with her.
Years later Alicia has found a new path with running, coaching, and her new husband (whom I haven’t met yet) in Chris.
So how does this all relate to yesterday’s run? I don’t know for sure. Like I said, this is unedited (aside to make it somewhat readable) nor rehearsed. But maybe it’s got something to do with fighting, pulling through. Maybe it relates to dealing with demons and moving on. Lord knows I’ve had my share – more on that after Hartford.
But I guess up until the 20k I felt like I had been chasing a ghost of my potential lost from years ago. But something clicked that day – I wasn’t thinking. And this one single run…all 22.35 miles of it… for once it wasn’t about chasing down something I might have been. I’d been trying to prove (maybe more to myself than anyone else) that “See I could have…” These thoughts have been in my head since the Fall of 2002. Maybe I didn’t even know they were there so much, or how prevalent they really were.
The 20k in New Haven was about a feeling I needed to have. But yesterday was about driving through (still within the workout of course) but making a move and having faith I can do it. I think that’s why I was almost brought to tears. It hit me that I’m ready.
Marathons are tricky though – anything can happen. But regardless of what takes place in a few weeks “I am” will be running in my head and in my legs…
Well, we couldn’t just leave a cliffhanger like that. Here’s the McKirdy recap of the New Haven 20k…
So I’m writing this well after the race has taken place — weeks after actually. I wanted time to set in. I wanted my feelings to be true and non-reactive.
The race – we really didn’t know if the race was even going to happen with the hurricane just a day before. And if it did happen… how fast could we possibly run in 20 mph winds? But when I woke up this morning it was actually picture perfect. We couldn’t have asked for a better day —
The gun goes off —
The first few miles were comfortably hard. I still had a bit of a headache lingering but it subsided a bit as the run progressed. Miles 1-5 were:
5:20, 5:27, 5:21, 5:25, 5:19
For a while I had gentle company to run with but I decided to do something I’ve never done before in a race setting — run with music. I wanted to just be within myself and not be tempted to talk to anyone… just run.
At mile 4 I was completely by myself. There were a few pro women up front but I had zero company. My main focus was to enjoy the moments and listen to the music paying as little attention as I could to any pain or breathing noises. Just run.
Miles 6-10 went:
5:25, 5:16, 5:26, 5:30, 5:42
These miles presented a challenge because I had passed the remaining pro runners within striking distance. I offered to break the wind for them around mile 6.5-7 but they couldn’t keep with the pacing so I was solo from here on out. Miles 8-10 the wind really picked up a bit and in 15mph and gentle hills I saw my splits slow but I was content to keep the effort the same and not freak out.
5:22, 5:20, 2:28 (.5 miles)
These miles just flew by. I was running pretty easy now that the wind ceased and I had some flat sections to run on. I felt like I could handle the paces for another 4-5 miles — I finished talking and with a HUGE smile on my face.
—Recap — This was by far the greatest race of my career. Knowing I could run faster but settling in was really important for me personally. I needed to feel “zen-like” when I crossed that line. Mission accomplished. This still equates to an effort of 2:28 or so for a marathon. Hartford is now truly tangible.
James ran a 1:07:27 and finished in 42nd place at the very competitive national championship race. So yes, sub-2:30 is definitely a tangible goal.
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