On Sunday I ran my final 20-miler of this marathon training. If I take a moment to simply reflect, to forget that it was far from my best long run and that my sore legs and tired hips kept me tossing and turning in bed that night, I am pretty proud. This is my fourth marathon training, and it’s the first one during which I’ve logged three 20-milers. Previously, I’ve done just one 20-miler per marathon training (and actually just one 18-miler while training for Boston in 2012 because of an IT Band injury).
It’s a good feeling, knowing my body is holding up OK. I know I still have weeks to go in this training, and I don’t want to get overly confident, but at this point I am feeling good (soreness aside). And pleased I’ve accomplished such significant distances, as outlined in the training plan I am following for marathon #4.
Still, I’m tired. And a little weary. It’s been 14 straight weeks of pretty intense training. Four weeks to go. Is it kinda-sorta taper time if I’ve run my longest long run? It’s all downhill (in a good way) from here, right? Alright, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. Not quite tapering yet.
There’s something about this point in preparing for an upcoming long distance race when you realize just how immersed you are in all things running: setting out your running clothes and gear for the next day’s run; (trying) to get enough sleep each night; eating the right healthy and sustaining foods; hydrating as much as humanly possible; eyeing the weather forecasts like a crazed meteorologist; and wondering what Mother Nature has in store for your late spring race day…as much as I’m yearning for warm weather following our super long winter, I’m also really, really hoping it’s not too warm come May 25.
I realize just how all-encompassing training has become when I meet up with a non-running friend for coffee and, because it’s been awhile since we’ve caught up, she looks at me all strange when I say I’m ordering a breakfast sandwich with my latte, even after devouring a big bagel slathered with cream cheese not even two hours prior. “Oh, I already ate this morning,” she explains when I place my order. “Me, too,” I reply, “but I am so hungry all the time now!” To which she gives me a half-smile and a quizzical look.
“Because of my training,” I say. (Ever get the feeling like everyone else around you should just know how much you’re running?)
“Oh, you’re running that race, that one downtown? How far is it again?”
I remain excited as ever about running this race, I really am. But I’ve been in this place before and know that this is normal, at least for me. When I want something badly enough, as I do this race–I want to believe I can set a marathon PR, that I can have a strong race–I throw myself into it. Completely. 117 percent. And so after awhile, as the training wears on, I do reach a point of needing to pause, catch my breath and take stock of where I’m at and how far I’ve come…and then, also give myself a swift kick in the pants to just get on it with already. To keep going, to stay focused on my goals. In other words, maintain that marathon training mojo.
Here are a few things I believe make all the difference, and should help me and all of you in the thick of training arrive at race day feeling as prepared physically and mentally as possible:
1.) Surround yourself with inspiration.
I remember my running coach once sharing this gem: “Inspired people do inspiring things.” She then recommended I get my hands on awe-inspiring books, articles, quotes, movies–these could be running-related, or not–and soak ’em in. I’ve been reading Kristin Armstrong’s Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run, and along with feeling uplifted reading about her running adventures and the power of female friendships, I’m loving the great sentiments from those who motivate her which she peppers throughout the book. A couple pages I’ve dogeared include thoughts like these:
“I know I should be exhausted these days, but I’m drinking from the cup of life until it spills down my cheeks. Wouldn’t want it any other way …” — Scott Dunlap, trail runner and ultra runner, in an email message to Kristin.
2.) Keep your running friends close.
This time around, unlike during my first marathon training, I am running with friends fairly often. And I’m loving it. Some Saturdays I’m joining my Group Therapy girls Julia, Karen, Beth, and Bonny, and other times I’m meeting up with my sweat sisters Krista and Cassy. Though I’ve recently had to switch from Saturdays to Sundays for long runs–gotta catch my 7-year-old Alex rock it in soccer!–I’m counting on logging these final training miles with my sweet friends. They keep me going strong. And when we can’t meet up for a run for whatever reason, we’re there for each other in spirit–sending a quick text of encouragement like the ones Cassy and Krista had waiting for me when I awoke Sunday morning.
Running friends needn’t be training for the same race, or even the same distance. I’m technically training for the Bayshore alone–Krista just ran Boston and Cassy’s first marathon(!) is this fall, so we’re all at different points training-wise. But we’ll make our varying miles mesh with one another. Cassy may run 10, Krista runs 6, and I run 14. Same with Julia, Karen, Beth and Bonny–these dear friends all are training for the Bayshore Half. I’m just grateful they’re all willing to run parts of my runs with me.
3.) Remember the Big Picture.
I know May 25 will come…and it will pass. There will be more runs and races ahead, including the M22 Challenge I’ve signed on for just two weeks after the marathon <yikes>. I also want to embrace the many other aspects of my life besides endurance sports. (Admittedly, this is hard sometimes…it just feels so integrated in my everyday life at this point. How in the world do Ironman atheltes and ultra runners feel? Someday I hope to find out…but it feels overwhelming to think about training any more than I already am…)
There is a bigger picture.
I want to savor my almost 13-year-old’s current obsession with watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix, and how every time she flips it on, I sink into the couch next to her and together we laugh as we get sucked into the drama. I want to remember that my 10-year-old boy Andrew is at the most perfect age: old enough and smart enough to hold a witty conversation with his mom and dad, sweet enough to still hold my hand in public and allow me to stroke his hair while wishing him goodnight. I want to relish that our youngest who, while playing outside in last weekend’s magnificent sunshine and warmth, quickly ran inside the house for a plastic container when I told him I’d found a worm while working in the yard–he had to make a house for it complete with dirt, grass and “just a little bit of water.”
Running is a gift. It allows me to see life differently, and to to live life differently. Sometimes it’s about actually running and racing, and other times it’s just about being. Being the best version of myself that I possibly can be, for myself and for those around me–that’s motivating me to keep going strong.
What’s your sure-fire way to stay strong throughout your training, for a marathon or other race distance?