At 5:00 a.m. this morning I headed out the door to run my favorite 8 mile course as part of my five-day-a-week training ritual to prepare for the Twin cities marathon on Sunday, October 3rd. It was still dark and I was the only one on the road. I did my ritualistic warm up stretches ,which I haven’t strayed from in years, turned on my iPod Shuffle to find Kanye West rapping about the Good Life (a great running song), activated my GPS, secured my water belt and took off. I absolutely love running in the morning before my family wakes up. That way I know I won’t be interrupted and can get my run in before all of the daily activities begin. It’s also great to run as the sun is coming up and nature is beginning its day. I feel alive and ready to conquer the world. I must confess that I can’t stand wild animals, but due to the frequency of my encounters with chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels and even deer, I’ve learned to co-exist with them without too much drama. One of my most memorable runs was early last spring when I was running the trails near my house and a deer dashed across my path about a foot in front of me. I almost had a heart attack. Luckily, the deer had no interest in getting to know me better and I got out of dodge as quickly as I could. I think I did a 6-minute mile fueled by sheer adrenaline.
As I was running this morning I formulated the framework of this blog post. I decided that I am going to keep a journal of what training for a marathon means to me and how it’s impacting my life. I’ll update it periodically as I get closer to race day. I figure one day my children can read it and get a better understanding of why their mom is so passionate about running.
Although I run year round, I officially began my marathon training on July 7th. I have run a marathon before and I’m excited to do it again knowing full well that numerous challenges lie ahead. Preparing my body to go the distance is an interesting undertaking. From my weekday runs to my weekend long runs, everything I do pretty much revolves around optimizing my running strategy—lately I’ve been focused on perfecting my carb loading technique, working on my recovery strategy post-long runs and trying to determining if Gatorade or Power Aide will be my drink of choice on race day. Even such seemingly mundane things as finding new songs to add to my iPod library, tinkering with what to have for my pre-race breakfast (oatmeal and a banana or a Shakeology smoothie?), and finding the perfect running socks (they must be seamless and moisture-wicking) take on lives of their own.
Besides having the right “stuff”, training for a marathon requires a great deal of sacrifice on many levels, especially when I factor in my family. As a runner I pretty much always have some minor pain or tweak to deal with, not to mention the sheer exhaustion I sometimes feel from the mileage I put on my body. However, I think the most significant sacrifice comes from my husband and children because training requires me to be away from home for hours while I do my long runs on Saturdays, and for significant chunks of time while I do my base runs. My husband often has to re-arrange his work schedule or postpone his own workouts until I’m done with my training. The kids have to go to their dad for things that they would normally come to me for, or postpone an activity or play date, which requires their patience and understanding. I’m really lucky to have the encouragement of my family as I train. One key to successfully training for a marathon is having the support of my spouse and children. Although they are not runners themselves it is imperative that they understand and support the sacrifice and dedication required to feed my passion.
It’s a fact that the training will get progressively harder as I get closer to race day. There’s a quote (I’m paraphrasing) that basically says that if the marathon doesn’t kill you then the training will. Training is demanding and challenging, but absolutely critical to a strong performance on race day. While my weekday runs range from 8 to 10 miles, my weekend runs are in the double digits and will continue to increase by about two miles each Saturday, culminating in two 20-mile runs. I’ve decided to mix in two half marathons in August to mimic race day and to really get a great understanding of my current race pace so that I can realistically set my target time goals. It really helps to do the long runs with my marathon training partners, one of whom has some very aggressive pace goals, in order to keep pushing myself. When running alone it’s easy to get into a comfortable pace and sort of zone out. When I run with competitive people it serves to further motivate me to give it my all, and to me, that’s what the marathon is all about----giving my all, having no regrets and leaving nothing on the table. I’m a fiercely competitive person (with myself) and I play to win. That’s why running is the perfect sport for me because there are endless ways to improve and challenge myself.
While it is indeed a long and winding road to the marathon, it’s also an extremely rewarding and satisfying journey. To know that I can master my body as well as my mind as I race towards my running goals is priceless. At the end of the day, training for a marathon is incredibly difficult, but I love it. There is nothing in my fitness life I would rather be doing in this moment.