A cautionary note is that winning depends upon who shows up that day. In October of 2012, I ran Portland and took fourth place behind a first-place runner who beat me by half an hour, as did this year's 70-year-old first place winner in the 2013 L.A. Marathon. If they show up to run L.A., 2014, I'm done.
And that's why I keep my goals secret. If I never tell anybody I'm trying for a first, they'll think I'm heroic just for finishing.
If I reveal my hopes, but L.A. 2014 turns out to be a steamy hot day, or a frigid rainy day, or I get sick, or have to use the porta potty and don't place at all, people will pity me. I don't like pity.
Besides that, here I am publicly announcing my big birthday when I'm already exasperated because age attracts so much comment. I skip over numbers whether ages, paycheck stubs or mortgage papers, but other people insist on exclaiming, "Wow! 69!" Like they're thinking, "Amazing, she still walks upright."
Anyway, you might not believe this but I've never made a time goal for a marathon, except to finish. Marathons take too long, hurt at the end and require that I do the same thing (run) way longer than my normal attention span. Yet, running 26.2 miles is exciting, and it's glorious when you're done.
What if, by announcing my first-place goal, I become self conscious and ruin the mindless fun of running and being surprised if I get a good time? I've never liked people watching me. I'm a stealth competitor, trying to do my best and putting the misery behind me.
You can tell, I'm neurotic about commitments, have math anxiety and prefer to run under the radar. The following sentence is my personal definition of high-risk behavior:
On March 2014, I will run my guts out trying to achieve a first place in the L.A. Marathon, females, 70 to 74. Oh dear.
I'll give you periodic reports on my training over the next year in this space.
Newport Beach resident CARRIE LUGER SLAYBACK is an award-winning teacher and runner whose articles have appeared in Coast and Sassie magazines and the Los Angeles Times