After running 14 miles yesterday, marathon training has attained a new gravity for me. I’ve mentally crossed over from “running a lot” to “marathon training.” Four weeks in, I’m equally prone to catastrophic thinking (“How did I run 13.1 miles at this pace?!”) and misplaced confidence (“The calculators say I can qualify for Boston!”), often during the same mile. I blame the endorphins.
Much as I’d love to document the highs and the lows and the pee stops in excruciating detail, I don’t want to shove my mile splits down your throats. Instead, here are my seven favorite things about marathon training.
Long runs are this summer’s staycations.
All of my area’s picturesque forest preserves and trails are an awkward half hour drive away; too far away to justify a random five miler, but close enough to taunt my wanderlust. Spending a few hours running in those places, to me, justifies any gas money spent driving there.
This in mind, I’m especially excited to explore some new trails during long runs. Full disclosure: I’ve been planning my routes as if they’re road trips. 14 miles from my dorm to Millennium Park. Chicago Botanic Gardens. If I get my ish together, a trail run through the Flatirons.
Long runs aren’t simply longer workouts; they lend themselves to new adventures. I can’t wait to seize that opportunity.
Constantly challenging myself and countering my assumptions.
Training so intoxicates me because it constantly challenges to my physical and mental limits. Whether it’s a speed workout or long run, each run is its own proving ground, presenting me with obstacles and washing away my excuses. Every time I lace my shoes, I’m faced with two choices. Strength or weakness. Victory or defeat. Confidence or doubt.
In each intimidating run, I confront my doubts, only to discover my strength.
As an example, after adding two miles to my already hard tempo runs, I’ve actually shaved a few seconds from my that pace. Saturday’s 14-miler was my longest ever, fulfilling me more than any grade ever could. From just these early experiences, I’ve realized that “physical limits” are merely creations of our minds. Transcending those artificial boundaries shatters my self doubt, giving me a sense of autonomy that bleeds into every other area of my life.
Of course, were every hard run a self-gratifying success, the challenges would lose their value. But following every ““failure”, the missed paces and unexpectedly hard efforts, is a lesson promising its own form of progress.
Post long-run water
Notable exception: paying $3 for said water in downtown Chicago because the city needs to price gauge all the tourists. But no, I’m not salty at all.
Post long-run carbs
After 14 miles, I don’t taste bread so much as I feel it on a biological level. Diving into a Panera breakfast sandwich 0.183 seconds after my long run Saturday, my actual thoughts where “like a mother returning to her young.”
So yeah, carbs are cool.
Motivational marathon playlists.
Weeks of training notwithstanding, a four hour race demands a lot of pump up music. 60 4-minute songs to be exact. Such a large playlist accommodates all of your guilty pleasures NSync. Backstreet Boys. 90s rap. If like me, you run without music, you can still justify that Justin Bieber song as “motivation.”
So much marathon shopping!
The more conservative marathon plans still call for over 400+ miles, which for most runners matches the shelf life of a pair of shoes. Time to go shopping! Caught between those sexy racing flats and cushy support shoes? Good news, some experts advocate alternating between two pairs during training.
As the miles pile up, accessories become more necessary. A training watch, preferably color-coordinated with your favorite workout outfit (or is that just me?). A handheld waterbottle or fueling belt. Gel packets. You need somewhere to put all of that, don’t you? Shirts with pockets for keys, phones, water.
Function aside, rising temperatures call for some new summer outfits. Sweat wicking tanks and spankin’ new shorts, all in pastels and print. Thanks to Target’s Champion line, you can revamp your running wardrobe without breaking your budget.
And for those last second impulse buys, there’s always the race expo. Based on past history, I’m leaving my debit card at home this time.
Running creates community.
Unlike anything else, running sheds our pretenses, reveals our characters, and opens our hearts to others. I already knew that runners were really nice, but marathon training has really highlighted their generosity of spirit and resources. During a group run back home, I mined the marathon runners for tips. Complete strangers offered their insights on tips about fueling, pacing, and race courses. Beyond the utility, the common experience of training creates this trench mentality, a source of solidarity. When I’m struggling through group long runs or my race, their support will renew my strength. Hopefully, I can reciprocate their encouragement with my own, creating new relationships in the process.
Aching quads, tight calves, and mild sleep deprivation be damned, marathon training has invigorated me unlike anything before. Never has anything simultaneously built me up and broken me down so greatly, shattering my assumptions and exposing, eliminating my weaknesses. Whether this positivity will last through mile 21 of my marathon remains to be seen, but I can’t wait to find out..
Linking up with Marvelous in My Monday.