What Are The Odds?

Today, as I ran along the Davidson cross country trails, in the middle of a torrential downpour, an owl descended and landed a few yards in front of me.  He turned and watched me approaching as if he were patiently waiting for my arrival.  I half expected him to present a letter inviting me to coach cross country at Hogwart’s.  But at the last second, just before I got to him, he flew away and alighted in a nearby branch.  He casually watched me as I ran past.

Listen up, punks. Lose the wands and brooms and lace up your spikes. Forget Quidditch, it’s time you kids learned a real sport.

I wonder if the owl is an omen, and, if so, is it a good omen?  I know buzzards (you non-Southerners may know them as vultures) are a bad omen, as became painfully clear after I encountered a group of them about 3 weeks before Boston.  And we all know what happened in Boston.

I keep poring over all the data to try to assess my odds of running a Boston-qualifying time on September 30.  My marathon training plan resides on a color-coded Excel spreadsheet.  When I finish a workout, I highlight the cell of that workout with a specific color – green if I successfully completed the workout (did the correct number of repeats in the prescribed paces), yellow if I mostly completed the workout (ran slightly less than the number of repeats and/or slightly missed the splits), blue if I ran something different entirely, and red if I didn’t run at all.  Looking back on some of my past marathon plans, one can find a lot of red sections – so far, knock on wood, there’s no red on this plan.  But there’s a lot of blue and yellow.

The Boston-qualifying time for a man my age is 3:25.  Throwing out the aberration of this year’s Boston, my last 3 marathon times are 3:26, 3:22, and 3:19 respectively.  But take note, all 3 of these were run prior to the onset of my Achilles issues.  But also take note, I’ve stacked the deck a little this time by choosing a race course that has a net downhill:

The elevation chart of my upcoming marathon.

So what are the odds that I’ll qualify for Boston next time out?  I’ll run one workout and think, “Oh, I have so got this.  Piece of cake.”  But then I’ll run another and think, “Oh man, 3:25 seems impossible.”

If the Vegas odds makers were setting the odds today, there’s a good chance they’d set them at even.  Flip a coin.  All I can do is keep plugging away and get as fit as I possibly can between now and September 30.  And hope that something, anything, like maybe an owl, provides that tiny bit of good luck that tips the cosmic scales in my favor.  But it wouldn’t hurt if you crossed your fingers, prayed, and knocked on wood.

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