When I was building up my mileage and developing as a runner, I often had a recurring thought.
"I am in the best shape of my life."
Now, back then of course it was easy to say that. I had been overweight my whole life, was not too far removed from 300 pounds and, well, with that in your background it's really not saying much.
Still, I felt that I was pushing myself more and more, reaching new ground and my body was responding in kind. Training for races and running long distances was only making me feel better and stronger, and thus I constantly felt like I was improving my fitness levels.
Thus, the feeling that I was in tip-top shape was ever present, for quite some time.
Before my first two marathons, I felt like I was on top of the world. I felt like I was really in my peak physical condition. But somewhere in between Marathon No. 2 and Marathon No. 3, that feeling dissipated. I'd taken some time off, was running long distances, yes, but it wasn't new ground any more. I was in a groove somewhat but the same "I am king of the world" feeling was gone.
I reached the start line of Marathon No. 3 and felt good, felt great but I did not know if I could honestly say "I am in the best shape of my life" before I ran it. I set a PR, shaved almost 15 minutes off my previous PR, and did feel good, but somehow that "best shape" feeling was not there.
And it has not been there for a while.
I ran 8 miles on Thursday morning, ran them in 1:07:11. That's a pace of 8:22. Three of the miles, I ran un under 8 minutes.
I felt great. I felt superb. I had that familiar feeling. And I gave into it.
I really do feel like, right now, I am in the best shape of my life.
I don't have a race to prove that in, at least not one that's close. LA is still two months away and I don't know that I will run anything before that.
But I do have a huge challenge coming up. On Sunday, I am going to run 20 miles. It will be the longest distance I've run as a pace leader, the longest distance I've run since my last marathon, in April of last year, and only the eighth time I've run this distance in training.
I don't often get to these heights, but I am approaching it as best as I can. I do feel strong. I feel stronger than I can ever remember feeling. I'm trying to be more confident in my ability to power through runs. It's always a struggle with me though because it feels as if I try to show more confidence I end up being overconfident and then I suffer. But I do feel good about my abilities, about how strong my legs are, how strong my will has grown, and how top-notch I feel right now.
We'll see how the 20 miles goes on Sunday but I've done my part in getting there. I just have to follow through now, and I guess I will find out soon enough if I really am in the best shape of my life.