I started running when I was a just a kid. I ran my first race (that I can remember, at least) when I was six-years-old and cruised in for a mile time of 8:22. Not bad, right? I must admit, as I grew, I took many hiatuses from running for various reasons. But, I’ve always come back to it. I suppose it took me a while to fully appreciate and respect the sport; to figure out how to make it work for me, instead of against me. Without the proper understanding about running, it can be a most challenging beast to tame. And (spoiler alert!), until you figure it out, that bronco’s gonna buck. At least that was the case for me.
For many years, I was simply aghast at the thought of running a full marathon. 26.2 miles? Are you kidding me?! Even a half marathon was pushing it, but since there wasn’t the tale of the first person to ever run a half marathon and then collapsing to die upon finish, my case against it seemed to pack less of a punch. But, something inside of me decided to attempt the big 26.2 back in the early 2012 and I haven’t looked back since. By the time this is printed, with any luck, I will have completed my fifth full marathon, oodles of halves, and I won’t even admit to how many more fulls I have on the docket for fear someone might try and stage an intervention. Because, yeah, I’m that addicted.
Let me also say this, I work full time. I also have a daughter, a husband, and a determination not to let either feel neglected due to my running. I made a vow to myself that if my running ever got in the way of my ability to be a good mom, wife, or friend, I need to scale it back. So far, I think I’m doing a pretty good job with the balance. It’s not always easy, and it takes effort, but it’s totally doable. Now, I didn’t say all of this to toot my own horn and make anyone feel bad, I’m saying it because you can do it, too.
The day before I ran The San Francisco Marathon last year, we went to visit some friends. Like me, my friend is a full time, working mom. She asked me that afternoon, “Oh, Jess, how do you do it?” I just kind of laughed; as it’s something people often say to me when they don’t quite feel comfortable with, “Wow, that takes a special kind of crazy.” But then my friend followed up with, “No, really. How do you do it? Literally, how do you fit it all in? Because I want to know.”
So, that got me thinking. Perhaps more people would get into running if they knew where and how to start a training program. When I was so vehemently against running long distances, part of my reluctance was about not having the slightest idea about how or where to begin such an undertaking. Now, I’m not talking specific training plans with mileage goals and such, but more the simple truth about what it means to commit to training.
With TSFM coming up on July 27th, there is still plenty of time to train for either of the glorious half marathons offered, and depending on your fitness level, even time to train for the big mama of the full marathon. So, for those who are on the fence, reluctant, against it, or those totally on board but would love some validation, I give you some simple truths of training for TSFM.
Okay, maybe this one was a little too honest to start out with, but I’m a rip-the-Band-Aid-off kind of girl. Yes, you will be tired at times. As you progress in your training, you might be tired a lot, especially on your long run days because they typically end an already longer week of training. When you commit to a training plan that you know and trust will get you across the finish line strong and unscathed, know and accept that it in order to do so, you have to build your fatigue tolerance for the big race.
But there are perks to this tired!
Okay, so, yes. You will be tired at times. But, you will have some of the most awesome, restful sleep of your life! I used to be a terrible sleeper. But, the more miles I log, the better I sleep. And….O….M….G! I’m giddy at bedtime because I know what a treat I’m in for. I know that sounds pretty pathetic, but if you slept as good as I do, you would be, too. And if the best sleep on the planet isn’t enough, there comes a sort of street cred with that tired. I’ve gotta say, when people see a yawn escape and inquire about my fatigue, it feels kind of awesome to have my husband or friend jump in before I can respond and boast for me (living vicariously?), “She just ran 22 miles this morning. You know, because she’s running a marathon later this month.” Feeling like a badass? Yeah, I’m okay with being a little tired.
Be okay with sacrifice and stick to the plan.
Yes, you will have to sacrifice to make this work. This was one of the hardest parts of running that I had to accept, and perhaps once you accept this simple truth, you have fully embraced the sport and it will start working for, and not against, you. You might have to skip a BBQ with friends, pass on a second glass of wine at a dinner party, or give up sleeping in for a few months or more, but that comes with the territory. I hate to sound cliché, but you get what you put into it. For me, I’m up at 4:30am on the weekdays and usually 5:30am on the weekends. I don’t watch much TV anymore so that I can go to bed early, and I can’t even remember the last movie that I saw in the theater or had a leisurely weekend morning. To balance running and time with my family, I work around their schedule, which means I might run in the dark when they’re still sleeping or I might skip lunch and run on my break at work. My friends will attest that I’m not much of a partier. When we have get-togethers, I’m usually the first to arrive so I can get home at a decent hour. Sacrifice is key, my friends. But hear (read?) this: it’s worth it. When you cross that finish line after running your best race ever, you are a changed person. I cannot do it justice in describing how amazing and euphoric one feels after achieving that coveted PR, or finishing a once unattainable distance. The amount of pride and accomplishment is like a drug so intense that is lasts for days or months with zero ill effects (except for your bank account, perhaps, for when you just want race more! more! more!). I say this with all sincerity, the sacrifice is worth it.
But be a flake.
I know, I know! I just said sacrifice and stick to it. But, what I meant was sacrifice the small stuff, not the big stuff. Long distance runners can sometimes be a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to their running (I can literally hear my husband laughing in validation at this right now). We have a tendency to become so consumed with training plans and nutrition and pace strategies and cute running outfits that we lose perspective. Sometimes we need to step back so we don’t lose sight of what is really important. So, when your daughter wants to go out to pancakes on Sunday morning, or your partner/spouse asks you on a date, or your best friend asks you to coffee, go. DO THOSE THINGS! Accept the invitation. Missing one run here and there is not going to break the plan and derail your training. In fact, the break from the rigor every now and again may be the rest you need to run stronger and faster. As long as you are sticking to the plan most of the time, you’re golden. You’ll be fine. Believe me, you can make up runs. You can’t make up time with friends and family.
Be flexible with your training.I know this sounds fairly obvious, and perhaps I’m a slow learner, but this one took me a while to accept. For the longest time, I felt the need to run at the same time everyday. If I couldn’t, then I just assumed I couldn’t run that day. And since my schedule has always been erratic, I could never commit to training. Well, guess what? I can be flexible! Full disclosure? I absolutely loathe being flexible with my running. This is harder for me than sacrificing sleep or missing out on parties with friends. I like to wake up early, run first thing, and go about my day. When I can’t do that, I stress all day long about how and when I’ll get my run in. In fact, I used to get up at…ready for this…3:15am to go running. I live in a very rural area and would meet up with a like-minded, similarly crazy friend. This worked splendidly until we encountered a mountain lion at 4am and found that being hunted and chased by said cat is not super fun. So now, I run in the early morning when I can, but most days it’s on my lunch break or in the afternoon and evening. I’m usually tired and hungry by the time I head out for my run, but I have learned to see value in that, too. I’m training my body to run when it feels at its worst. So then, come race day when I’m rested and ready to go, I run like a champion.
I am a very motivated and determine girl. When someone calls me stubborn, I take it as a compliment. I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing that I’ll happily cut off my nose to spite my face. In middle school, I ran five miles a day for months so that I could kill it in the mile in PE. PE! So…yeah. I set my mind to something and I go for it. So, when I tell you that there are times in my training that I’m bored and unmotivated, you’ve gotta know it’s bad. I’m not gonna lie, training for a long distance race can be daunting at times. It’s not usually glamorous. Sometimes I need something to help maintain my motivation before I start asking myself, “Are these long runs really all that necessary?” So, I treat myself and I recommend you do the same. Whether it’s a mid training race of a shorter distance, or a cute, new pair of kicks, or a relaxing massage, I think you’ll find it does wonders to get you through the doldrums of the training program. Shoot, you could even treat yourself to skipping a run and sleeping in! Then you’d be following two of the points on my list! Good for you!
Don’t compare yourself to others.
This is another one that took me a while to know and accept. I would see people out there running six or seven days a week and logging a ridiculous amount of miles and I thought that if I couldn’t do that, then I had no business training in the first place. So not the case. It takes a little experimenting and fine tuning, but you must find a plan that works for you (even if it doesn’t for anyone else). For me, I wanted to be that girl who runs 6-7 days a week, but I can’t. I get too burned out and tired. I get grumpy and even crazier than usual. Conversely, too few days and I’m a wreck and feel myself slipping. So, my happy place is a five days a week. For a while, I was running 55 or more miles a week and absolutely loving it! This worked beautifully until I got injured and had to take some time off while I got to know my local physical therapist for a few months. I found out the hard way that five days a week and 50 miles a week is my max. I’d love to do more, but being totally honest with myself, that’s my limit. With those numbers, I can run a solid race. But, I have a good friend of mine who ran a marathon with four days a week of running and a maximum mileage at the peak of her training with just over 40 miles a week and she ran an amazing race. My point? Don’t think your plan has to be just like your friends’, coach’s, or Joe Schmo’s. Be honest with yourself, really honest, and draft a plan that meets your needs. If you can do that, you’re leaps and bounds ahead of the pack and the odds of completing the training just went up a thousand percent.
It’s your race; no one else’s.
I could dole out simple truths of training for days, but I’ll leave you with just these eight, as I find them to be the most important. And also, like Sesame Street always says, “Eight is great!” So, my final point? Run the race for you. I know many of us run for someone or something, including myself, and that’s not what I’m talking about. What I mean is, get out there and just run. Trust in your training, trust in yourself, and appreciate the moment. Don’t think about how much further you have to go, or who is or isn’t passing you, just run. Enjoy the sights, remember the moments (even the bad ones), because afterwards you’ll want to relive and relish all of these moments. Like I said earlier, you will finish this race a changed person, a better version of yourself. It takes a lot to get to the starting line and a lot to get to the finish line, and none of that work should be discredited or minimized. It’s all important. The greatest tragedy of all would be to waste that time wishing you were someone else in the race, comparing yourself to someone else in the race, or dishonoring your pace or finishing time because you think it’s not good enough or fast enough. Because you know what?
Know that you are a champion. Okay, so nine simple truths. You’re a champion. Say it out loud. Now say it again. Because it’s true.
Run on, my friends. And I’ll see you in July!