Thanks so much, Amy, for agreeing to guest blog for me! You rock and Lavender Parking is one of my favorite blogs ever!
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
While I have made impossible goals for myself my entire life, it never occurred to me that I’d be applying it to marathons. Yet, here I am. A pretty non-serious runner type training for The Boston Marathon.
I think my “how I became a runner” story is pretty similar to most…we all seem to have signed up for a 5-K for one reason or another and BOOM: an addiction to running and racing was born. In college I ran simply to stay skinny (in California, these things are important), but the thought of even running 6 miles was daunting. Those people who ran 10+ something miles…absolutely insane.
And then I met Aaron. He asked me to be his girlfriend, and in the same sentence asked if I would run a half marathon with him. Aaron, as a lifelong athlete with numerous endurance races (including 3 Ironmans) under his belt, surprised absolutely no one with his desire to drag me into his lifestyle.
Although I initially agreed (Yes! I’ll be your girlfriend, and…uh… I guess run that marathon thingy…), I resisted for 3 years (Once I got the ring on my finger and walked down the aisle, I hoped I was off the hook). I don’t really know what changed my mind or when exactly I decided to start running races, but after the traditional progression (5k to 10K to half marathon), I found myself waiting anxiously at my computer on February 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm eastern standard time to register for the Chicago Marathon.
But not only did I decide to jump head on into the craziness known as 26.2 miles, I also decided that it was perfectly reasonable to run a Boston Qualifying time on my first try. Shoot for the moon! AND if when I didn’t come in under 3:35:00, then all of my hard work would at least give me a much better overall finish time than if I didn’t try.
Well, in this case, thanks to a lot of hard work and tears, a flat course, and some luck with the weather, I actually did qualify with a time of 3:33:55.
So, this brings us to right now. The Boston Marathon is about 9 weeks away and I’m currently training to cross that finish line on Boylston Street as intact as possible, which is absolutely the craziest thing, since, you know, I didn’t even know how many miles were in a marathon until about 2 years ago.
This prospect is actually pretty intimidating. I don’t consider myself the typical Boston contender. My training run paces are pretty average. And the nights before long runs (and races for that matter) always involve alcoholic beverages. I have plenty of extra body weight unlike traditionally gazelle-esqe looking endurance athletes, and my weekly mileage peaks somewhere around 55 miles which appears to be their starting point.
So, how do I, your average non-serious runner, prepare for something like the Boston Marathon where I will likely be in the bottom percentile of finishers?
1) A bright and shiny positive attitude: As I’m sure you know, this isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re on half mile repeat #8 of 10, and you’re pretty sure that you are too miserable to live. I didn’t truly understand how awful and frustrating running could feel until I started training for a marathon. But accepting that this is all part of the process was a huge breakthrough. I try and say “the more this hurts now, the more amazing it will feel on marathon day.” It works most of the time! Plus, accepting those miserable runs makes the awesome runs so much more celebratory.
2) Focusing on injury prevention and listening to my body: Nothing would be worse than putting in all of this time and effort during training only to be sidelined and unable to run due to an injury. I make a date with my foam roller every night and roll out (sung to the tune of Ludacris) every major muscle group in my legs whether they are bothering me or not. If hurts, I ice it, usually twice a day. Even if I do manage to get muscle soreness, all of that tender loving care helps to make it heal faster.
3) Speed work: track intervals, hill repeats, tempo runs, miles run at half marathon pace, the occasional 5-K. All of these workouts (which I incorporate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays) are the bane of my existence. But they are pretty much the only way to improve leg turnover and increase speed. I’m actually surprised how many marathon training plans don’t incorporate speed work. If you’re going to be putting in the mileage anyway, might as well try to get faster while doing it! Tempo runs are also a great way to increase lactic threshold which is essential in marathon success (don’t ask me to explain what this means because I can’t).
4) Lots of core work: I can feel an immediate difference while running when I’ve been skimping on the crunches. Instead of feeling strong, my body feels like an unorganized octopus mess. I really slacked on this last marathon training, but this time around I’ve been trying to do various exercises 6 days a week. For runners, plank exercises are the most effective. Plus, if Boston temperatures hit 89 degrees again this year and running with only a sports bra as a shirt is a tempting option, I will at least feel more confident about my mid-section.
5) Intense mental workouts: When the experts say that running is 90% mental, they aren’t joking. For me personally, hitting mile 22 at Chicago was hard. I wanted to stop. Spectators and other runners were cheering me on, but it didn’t make a difference. I had hit my limit and my legs couldn’t possibly go any further. But luckily, I spent a lot of time before my last marathon (and I’ll do the same this time) building my mental stamina. Memorizing mantras (the one I used during the marathon was “trust yourself”), visualizing the glory of crossing the finish line, and completely accepting ahead of time that it would be painful yet resolving to push through it got me through those last miles. I have yet to give birth (thank goodness), but I imagine that many of these same techniques are used to get mothers through labor. If I hadn’t already trained my brain to keep going beforehand, then I think my body might have won the battle, and I might have stopped and curled up in fetal position on the course.
6) Remember that this is just one marathon and it likely isn’t worth denying yourself fun unless you are trying to qualify for the Olympics. Last year Boston was hot and New York was cancelled. People who gave up everything to train for those two races weren’t able to run them like they wanted to. For those reasons, I will not stop carb-loading with beer. If I get sick and have to miss a run, I won’t make the situation worse by crying over how my life and my marathon are ruined. I won’t stay cooped up in my hotel room while visiting an amazing city just to make sure I stay off my feet. I have chosen this as my hobby, and I always try to keep that in perspective. Aside from personal satisfaction and bragging rights, my life will be exactly the same whether I run a PR time or cross the finish line in 6 hours.
A huge thank you to Hyedi (who we all hate since she is nice and warm sipping fruity cocktails) for inviting me to guest post! Also, if you have any suggestions for what we need to see in Boston, please let me know!