Marathon training is a rather long process. And here I am: already well over two months/halfway in to my four-month training program. I’ve learned so much, I could probably just skip the marathon itself and call it a day.
I won’t, of course. Tempting. But there’s no way I’d back out now, not considering all the reasons I decided to run a marathon in the first place, and certainly not after coming this far.
Some of these lessons carved out of 10, 15, and now 18 miles have been reinforcement for what I already knew and have indeed taught at times. Marathon training has allowed me to see their importance in a new light.
A Foundation is Key
I’ve always told my new fitness students not to jump into anything too crazy hard. Start slow and work up.
Even though I have a strong fitness base, I still started the marathon training program as soon as I could and followed it exactly, even though a lot of the early runs weren’t very long. In fact, for the first month I usually had two three-mile runs and two six-mile runs each week, in addition to the Monster Run on Sundays. And after that month, I noticed a huge difference in my running. My foundation was strong, and I could feel it.
This Game is Mental
Your body will do things long after your mind decides it doesn’t want it to. Don’t listen to that voice or, better yet, put that voice to work for you. You CAN do it, you CAN keep going, you CAN finish.
Know the Goal, but Stay in the Present
Do you think the idea of 20-mile runs was a little daunting during my first week? You bet. Also during the 12th week. Which is why I don’t think about them. I focus on the run at hand, whether that is five miles, 10, or 15. I deal with whatever workout is in front of me. Which is how I’ll deal with 20 in a couple of weeks.
Progress Sneaks Up on You
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been training: some days are going to hurt more than others. After a couple of rough weeks, I ran 18 miles on Sunday and followed it up on Monday with a huge hill climb and five-mile run. The runs themselves felt better than normal, and my recovery on Sunday went better than it ever has.
The Little Things Matter
Are you getting enough sleep? Have you had enough water? Are you fueling your body well? I’m more aware of these things than ever before. During regular workouts, if you wake up a little tired or go the gym a little dehydrated, you just do your best even if it feels a little rocky and no big deal, because tomorrow’s another day. But a mediocre marathon training day feels almost like a lost day. I want to know that I’ve done every little thing I could to be in the best condition possible to tackle whatever workout the day brings, and that means paying extra attention to what I’m doing with my body. That said…
One Missed Day Doesn’t Mean You Should Quit
In fact, I missed an entire week of training because I got sick. It started with a headache after a long run one Sunday and just persisted until it turned into several days in bed. Whatever the reason for a missed day (or week) you just pick up where you left off. Yes, those first few days back were harder than I wanted them to be, but you get through that and I just had my best week of training yet.
The Biggest Challenges Aren’t What You Expect
It’s not tired legs and lungs that get to me. That’s something I’m used to pushing through. The other things, like achy knees and hips, shorts that dig into my thigh, the surprise chafing on my rib cage from a shirt I had run in several times before, the realization that I didn’t drink enough water, the realization that I drank too MUCH water, the unusual number of slow walkers on my narrow running path… These are the things you don’t always see coming, and you have to get your mind on board to deal with them calmly and power on.
What have you learned from training for a marathon or other fitness endeavor?