Rain falling on the roof. Waves crashing down on the sandy shores. The wind rustling through the newly fallen autumn leaves. All are sounds that are known for being soothing and peaceful. Sounds that bring peace, tranquility, and the hope of a peaceful sleep. One such sound that more than likely will not make most people’s list of soothing sounds is the pitter patter of feet as runners move mile to mile throughout a marathon.

This past weekend as I ran another race, I found a pace group that I ran with for 24 out of the 26 miles. Throughout our journey together there was minimal conversation, the occasional “how are you feeling?” and one question asked every 5,280 feet, “how fast was that split?” However, in between those questions there were long periods of silence between runners. The cheers of the fans could be heard, but between runners there was nothing but silence. All that was heard was heavy breathing and the pitter-patter of feet hitting the ground.

Around mile 14 our pace group was hanging strong together and I found myself in the middle of the group. There was close to 20 runners and while in the middle of the pack the sounds of the crowd were drowned out. All I could hear was the pitter-patter, and it was the most relaxing sound. Every couple of steps I actually closed my eyes for a few seconds and simply listened to all of the feet running (thankfully I didn’t trip over any of them while my eyes were closed!) At one point I contemplated listening to music but actually found the sound of the feet to be more soothing, more relaxing and more inspiring. In those moments of listening to the pitter-patter, I kept thinking about why I love to run and how much fun it is for me to race. Additionally, while running in the group I once again felt as though I was a part of a team that was working together to accomplish a goal. We were using the same lingo, understanding the training and work it took to get to the start line. We shared in the pain as the miles added up, and joined in celebrating as the task was accomplished.

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of relaxing sounds. But for me, the pitter-patter of runners was quite peaceful, rejuvenating, and exciting.

Another race, another goal.

At the start of 2014 I posted on the blog that one of my goals was to run four marathons this year with an average time of 3:20 or less. With the completion of my fourth marathon today, I am happy to say that my average for the four marathons was 3:17:17. Goal accomplished! Not only that, but of my eleven completed marathons, my top three times were all run in 2014.

Head. Heart.

Shortly after joining a competitive soccer team, my dad and I developed a unique pre-game signal. If possible, we would make eye-contact shortly before the game started (or perhaps later in the game as I needed a reminder and some encouragement) I would make a fist with my right hand and touch my fist to my head, and then to my heart. The message of the signal was to, ‘play with your head, but also play with your heart.’ This reminded me to be a student of the game and play being aware of my surroundings – it also encouraged me to be the hardest working player on the field, and to take confidence in that I knew I was loved regardless of how well I played.

As I look toward the start line of another marathon this Sunday, I have adopted the words, head and heart as my mantra. I want to run the first twenty miles with my head, and the final six with my heart.

Every race I run I will come to the start line with a target goal. In the months before a race I am tailoring runs to put me in the best possible position to accomplish my goal. In the weeks prior to the race I am readjusting my goal if necessary based upon how my training went and how I am physically feeling. In the days before a race I am once again figuring out what a realistic goal is. Before crossing the start line I will know exactly what time I want to cross the 10k mark, the halfway point, the 30k spot. I will know the necessary splits I need to run in order to reach these marks in the appropriate times. Joining a pace group can be very beneficial on race day because it can prevent you from having to do all the math on the day of the race. However, even when running with a pace group I still glance at my watch to check all my splits and then do all the mental math. In some ways it helps keep my mind occupied while running.

For this particular race I want to put a larger emphasis on running the first twenty miles with my head –meaning, I want to be very smart about it. Not getting too emotional and jetting out of the blocks at an insanely fast base. Not worrying about how many people are passing me, but staying steady with what I want to do. I want to stay mentally tough through twenty miles so I can put myself in the best possible position to finish the final six miles well.

Others have said, “the marathon doesn’t really start until mile 20.” In looking back at my previous races in 2014, with each race my splits started crumbling in the vicinity of mile 20. In fact, a month ago I was right where I wanted to be at mile 21, but simply could not keep pace for the final five miles. To avoid that, I am hoping to run with my heart in the final six miles. To give everything I can, and to finish the final six with a time I am proud of. I recently came across a quote about the final miles of a marathon that stated, “You shouldn’t try to run around the wall rather, you should focus on running through the wall.”

Another marathon is just around the corner – as long as I run the first twenty miles with my head and the final six with my heart, I will be happy with my time.