I ran a 4:53:17 marathon in 2004. It was my first marathon, so it was a personal record by definition. In 2005, I ran 5:14:39 -- much slower, but part of that was because the course was mismeasured and was a mile too long, so that race gets thrown out of the calculation. Then, in 2006, I PRed with 4:40:39 up at San Juan (a really fun race which I strongly recommend, by the way). In 2007, I didn't run a marathon at all because I'm lazy.
I'd love to run another 4:40 marathon. I'd love to PR again. But I weigh a good 20 or 25 pounds more than I did in June of 2006 (because, unlike in June of 2006, I haven't spent the last six months eating a 500-calorie deficit every day, because I'm not insane, but that's another story), so I'm not sure I'm even capable of that kind of speed anymore. Today I tested that theory by trying to do my twelve-mile training run at 4:40 race pace, which means 10:40 miles. I couldn't do it. I ran the 12.6-and-change distance in 140 minutes, which meant that I was running 11:06 miles or so. If I ran a whole marathon at this pace, I'd finish in 4:51 or so.
It was hard. I couldn't take any walking breaks. I had to be constantly vigilant about not slowing down. I wouldn't have had the breath to have a conversation with a running partner, if I'd had a running partner. I wasn't entirely dead by the time I got done -- I could have continued running -- but it would have been a great challenge to maintain that pace. I think I might have been able to do it for another loop around -- another six miles. I'm not sure I could have done it for the rest of a marathon.
What I'm saying is that I'm probably not going to PR next Sunday, which is fine. That I'm doing this race at all is a win. I've never done a marathon so early in the spring before. I've never done a marathon on only 13 weeks of training. (Although doing that NaRoRuMo thing a month before training started probably helped.) I guess that there's just a point in your racing career when you realize that you're not going to PR every race you run. I guess that that's supposed to be an exciting moment, and the point at which you can call yourself a seasoned runner or whatever, but it's making me feel old, decrepit, slow, and fat.
But! I'm done with another round of training, and dammit, I can run a marathon, which is something not everybody can do. And I'm going to Japan! With a pretty awesome boy! Holy moly.