The marathon is a pretty phenomenal experience. It's brutally difficult, but the journey leading up to it and the glory you feel as you cross the finish line makes every one of those steps worth it.
But it's not for everyone. Completing a marathon doesn't make you any more of a runner than you already are. It's just one facet of where running can take you.
When I finished my first half marathon, I knew that I wanted to do a marathon. Completing the half six months after my running journey began was incredibly difficult, but I loved it regardless. I wanted even more.
However, there are several runners who just do not like endurance running. And that's okay. Getting your butt out the door and onto the streets or the trails makes you a runner. You can run a total of zero races and you're still a runner. There's no such thing as "just" a 5k or 10k or half marathon. They are all worthy.
Lots of people apologize when they tell you they're only running shorter distances. Stop it! Your three or four miles seems like a marathon to others because let's face it, running can be really freaking hard sometimes. Your three miles are badass. So don't apologize.
Now, onto the point of this blog post. It's something I've talked to so many people about over the years.
Are you ready for a marathon?
Do you look forward to going for a run?
Do new running shoes excite you? Even when you have to buy a new pair every three months?
Do you feel exhilarated after hard workouts, even when you're exhausted?
...if you've answered yes so far, you're on the right track...
Do your runs seems hard every single time?
Do you find yourself complaining about how many miles you need to run that week?
Are you perpetually exhausted from training?
Are you looking for excuses to skip training?
...if you've answered yes to these questions, you have some thinking to do...
Marathon training is never easy, at least for mortals like us. Ignore your insanely crazy friends out there who run 70 miles a week like it's no big deal. They aren't human. For people like the rest of us, it's a huge commitment. Not Ironman-level commitment (holy crap, crazy), but pretty big nonetheless. I have said repeatedly that while you can "fake" some of the shorter distance races, even a half marathon, you can't fake a marathon. If you aren't willing to put in the time, don't bother registering for the race. You are going to harm yourself if you toe that line completely unprepared.
What does marathon training look like?
Everyone is going to have their own opinions, their own preferences, their own needs, but for every person training for 26.2, many things remain the same...
You will be running 3-6 times per week (there are programs out there that have you running only 3 days/week, but please understand that without supplementing with good crosstraining, this could be a recipe for disaster).
Your mileage could top 50 or 60 miles per week.
You need to do strength training. Yes, really, you do.
You will run on fatigued legs.
You need to clean up your nutrition and hydration. Don't argue with me here.
Your weekends will take on a whole new meaning because of early morning training runs.
You need to learn to run in all weather conditions (except ice storms and lightning). Yes, even rain.
Are you still with me? I know this sounds awful.
After nearly 9 years of training for marathons, I've definitely learned a thing or two about commitment.
Committing to my plan is a no-brainer. If I have a long run planned, it doesn't get pre-empted because my friends want to go out and stay out late. You will never hear me say before a marathon that I don't feel prepared because I just didn't get in the proper training. It takes some shuffling of time and plans, but it doesn't necessarily mean not having fun outside of running.
I am serious about my fueling 95% of the time. I have to hydrate. I have to eat well. I can't overindulge on alcohol or sugar or crap. I simply can't.
I can't overdo my workouts. If I am supposed to run 5 miles easy, then that's what I'm going to run. If I feel good I'm not adding 2 miles onto the workout or dropping my pace by 45 seconds, especially if I'm supposed to run 20 miles the next day. You have to look at the big picture of your training plan. Every run has a purpose and it's written the way it's written for a very big reason. Trust your plan.
If I'm sick, I don't freak out. I let my body heal, I adjust the plan where I need to, and I get back to it.
Okay, I freak out a little.
How's it sounding now? Still with me? If you are, and you aren't feeling complete and total dread at the thought of all of this, then you're probably ready for a marathon.
As for me...
Well, I'm signed up for my 13th and 14th marathons, and possibly looking for a 15th so I can qualify for Marathon Maniacs (not sure yet). Number 13 is still 8 months off so I've got plenty of time, which is a good thing because as of right now I'm not running so much or very well at all. The relay did a pretty big number on me physically and mentally. Actually, the culmination of all my training over the last year, plus all the personal stress I've been under has done a number on me. Mostly the personal stress, which frankly, I'm super sick of.
So I'm taking it easy. I'm trying different things to be active and get stronger, but I'm giving my body and mind a break for now. I'll get back into it in a few weeks and feel better overall about myself. When real marathon training starts over the summer, I'll be ready for it and excited about the journey. Actually, what's kind of awesome is that writing this blog post lit a little spark in me again.
Really, that's the only way to view a marathon journey...ready for it and excited. It's an experience like no other when you're willing to put in the time, commitment, and attitude adjustment.
Last night, my husband and I went to see the Boston: The Documentary. The filmmaker did a phenomenal job of showing us the history of the Boston Marathon, showcased several of the winners over the years, and went through it's evolution to becoming the premier marathon in the United States. It was an emotional film, as much of the footage of the 2013 bombings was shown, and the entire theater was in tears. However, the main focus became the 2014 race and just how important that race became to the future of the Boston Marathon and all that it stands for. I can't say enough great things about this film and this race.
I want to go to Boston. I want to qualify. My new age group qualification window opens up in September, and it gives me another 10 minute cushion for qualifying. But I still need to run a 3:55, and because of the demand of the race even that time will not be enough to gain entry. I will need to shoot for a 3:52. This is nearly a minute per mile faster than my fastest marathon. I have run a 1:51 half, when I was in fantastic shape, so I know the speed is there for me. I just need to tap into it and have a really great BQ race day.
I WANT TO GO TO BOSTON.
I'm laying the groundwork now for making this possible. I want this. I'm ready for this.