This post originally appeared here in the winter of 2011, as I trained for my first marathon. In less than two weeks I’ll begin training for my 7th marathon, the Boston Marathon. These 5 Things remain great reminders for me, for each new marathon I take on. ~MRG
I’m nearing the halfway point in my training, and I truly can say this experience has made pretty big impressions on my everyday life. I can only imagine how I’ll feel come May, when I’ve completed my 6-days-a-week, 22-week running program and I’m standing at that start line.
Here’s what I’ve learned after 10 weeks of training:
1.) It all comes down to discipline. I remember feeling giddy about signing up for the Bayshore Marathon back in December. I felt ready to tackle this goal; I had a plan, I’d found a coach, the timing just felt right. I even felt giddy about running six days a week — this plan calls for doing something I love nearly every day of the week! I get to go out there OFTEN and feel the amazing things I feel when I’m running! I remember telling Lisa (my coach, if you’re just joining me here) that I just love, love, love running so much and just couldn’t wait to get going on this program! Wow. I chuckle just a bit now thinking about how overly-excited I must have sounded to her. But, well, enthusiasm is a good thing, right? And yes, I still have it. I’m just a tad more, let’s see…realistic? I know it takes much more than just a love of running to get you through week after week of pavement-pounding. Perseverance certainly is aided by passion, but pushing yourself to keep going strong even when that passion wanes (as it’s bound to do from time to time) is accomplished through that wonderfully dreaded, yet oh-so-important practice of seeing through the commitment you’ve made, no matter what. In other words, discipline. As much as I love running, there have been times in the past 10 weeks when I’ve felt the monotony of putting on my running clothes, lacing up my shoes and heading out on the neighborhood streets and hilly back roads that simply have become tiresome routes. How could I not? And yet, I’ve missed maybe a couple days of training total, due to something unexpected that’s come up, like one of my kids not feeling well or a weekend turning jam-packed. Most recently, facing a 12-miler on a Sunday, I found myself putting off getting dressed for the run and instead lounging with my family over late breakfast and coffee. But as the morning wore on, I realized I needed to get my butt in gear if I wanted to do this run — and I wanted to do this run, I knew I did. So I went, and I’m so happy I did. The longer I stick with this program, the stronger my commitment to it. Here’s some great thoughts about discipline that Joe recently shared with me, from the blog The Art of Manliness (pretty cool blog, btw):
You can find a mentor and join a mastermind group. You can write down your goals and read a million books about how to fulfill them. But if you lack one thing, you will never, ever go anywhere in life; without this tool you are destined to live out a life of mediocrity. This essential tool? Discipline. Without discipline your dreams will never move from intention to reality. Making goals for yourself is the fun part. Reading books about your goals is the fun part. But then you need to take action, embrace no, focus, hustle, and push through any obstacle you encounter.
2.) A support system is essential. I’m going to have to come up with something really fantastic to do for/give to my family for putting up with all my running. Any ideas? Along with having immense gratitude for the support my husband and kids give me, I’m thankful to friends who cheer me on, fellow runners (virtually-speaking and those I see in real life) for their support, and definitely Lisa, for her sound advice and enthusiasm for seeing me through this training. My current training goal is to meet up with runners to train with, and I’ve found that so far with Amy, Juliette, Mary, Jen and Shannon. Thank you, ladies – let’s get out there again soon, OK? (And Kelle, if you’re reading, will you run with me sometime soon??) :)
3.) You’re stronger than you think. Funny how at this point in my training, running 4-6 miles is pretty simple. I don’t want to say easy, since running isn’t something I’d ever describe as easy. But knowing I am running “just” 4 or 6 on a given day isn’t nearly as daunting as double-digit mileage. My running schedule calls for upping my mid-week longer run to 10 miles in coming weeks — then I’ll stay at that distance throughout the remainder of my training. The weekend long runs, meanwhile, will continue to increase to 20 miles, a distance I’ll run a total of three times before the marathon. Sometimes I just can’t wrap my head around running 20 miles, let alone 26.2. Yet, here I am running 35+ miles a week, with an 8-miler on Wednesday and 13-14-miler on Sunday. These don’t seem so bad. I’ve built up to these distances, I remind myself. Not only that, I’ve continually run 6x a week, sometimes on especially hilly terrain, in the middle of a blizzard, on icy streets. And I’m still alive and feeling good. Hmm. Mentally, I’m still in the game, I still want to run this marathon, I still want to do well at this marathon race. I’m thankful for this — for both my mental and physical strength at this point. Hoping it keeps going this way!
4.) Something(s) will have to give. The upside to running so much is that it forces me to be all the more organized. This is something I’ve tried to get better at in recent years as life continues to get busier. (for most of my life I’ve been more of a just-go-with-it kind of person; affectionate nickname by hubby: tumbleweed) I’ll never have it all together, and that’s fine by me, but I have definitely gotten better at recognizing just how much I can do — and what I need to say no to. Still, the toughest part of meshing marathon training with life as a working mom is that I have to get creative with when I fit everything in. Throughout the past months, because it’s been too dark for early-morning runs, I’ve instead been running after dropping off kids at school. This eats into my work window of time, which then leads me to inevitably have to work more when my kids are around. Sure, it’s nice to work from my home office, but the line between home and work is definitely blurry these days. So there are times when the kids watch TV or play video games more often than I’d like. And sometimes I’m working after dinner when I’d rather be hanging with my kids (or reading a novel). And I’m going to bed earlier because I’m so drained from a full day of running and life rather than catching up with my girlfriends over drinks. But somehow it’s all working out. The times we’re connecting as a family — Friday night movies and pizza, sledding or skiing excursions, or just doing puzzles in the living room — we’re really connecting. Same goes with my friends and the times we do find in our crazy-busy schedules to get together, even if it’s only for a half-hour coffee chat. Interestingly, this marathon training has allowed me to better prioritize. And that’s a good thing.
5.) Running really is a metaphor for life. Some runs, just like some days in our filled-to-the-brim lives, are awesome. You feel on top of it all, like you could conquer just about anything thrown your way. Then there are the icky runs, the ones when you just aren’t feeling it. But you somehow push through, keep going, and then isn’t it amazing? You realize life does go on, that you do have those bad runs or sidelining injuries or crappy races, but that you can — will! — bounce back. I’m convinced that being a runner and going through these kinds of set-backs only makes you stronger and more confident — in your running and in your life — because you realize there’s always another day to run, to race, to just get out there and try again. Thank God. Same goes for life, with all of its complexities and heartaches and struggles. Just keep going. Just keep running. And: it’s true – slow and steady, I am more sure now than ever, wins the race. Your race, whatever it may be. And we each have our own.
What has training for a race — any race — taught you? I would love to hear.