Marathons Are Easy! (And Other Ridiculous Lies We Tell Ourselves)

Contributed by Stephanie Laska, M.Ed – Ambassador for The San Francisco Marathon, known for becoming “half” the person she used to be by losing 140 pounds and winning FIRST PLACE, Athena division, in her very first marathon (Modesto Marathon, 2015) – follow more of her story on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @140lost.

I ran my first mile (as in EVER) in 2013. That being said, I wrestle with 10 ridiculous lies about running that you might identify with, or even find amusing:

  1. laska-02Runners are healthy all the time. Have you ever been to the finish line festival beer tent? Marathoners are extremists. They work hard and play hard. Once I figured this out, I wasn’t so intimidated. In fact, I fit right in! Binge-eating and binge-running go hand in hand. Please don’t judge, but I treat my carbo-loading like a full contact sport where medals are handed out. My love affair with carbs often extends into the race itself. During my last marathon, I discovered at Mile 13 that my beloved apple fritter (prepacked in a ziplock with love) was missing from my Camelbak. I seriously cried. HOW DID IT FALL OUT? WHERE IS MY DONUT? I turned around and ran back for a half a mile before facing my devastation. I considered quitting the race. If it wasn’t for the unauthorized snack table in front of a do-gooder’s house handing out Costco brownies, I might not have finished that race.
  2. laska-03Running is FREE. I like to perpetuate this lie to my husband, but he sees through it every time. Yes, the act of running is a free-spirited activity, but my fancy ASICS shoes, gym membership, and Lululemon running skirts say otherwise. Let’s not even discuss the ancillaries like hotel stays, pasta feeds (mmm….pasta), and race registrations.
  3. Running is a solo sport. Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one suffering (oops, running). But when I walk into the expo and see the droves of “shiny happy people,” I inevitably exclaim with my arms outstretched, “these are my people!” Look around your corral at the start line and realize there are so many crazy, dedicated, amazing athletes that run at your very same pace. You are not alone, my friend.
  4. Walking doesn’t count. The first time I ran The San Francisco Marathon I ran every step (minus bathroom stops). The second time I faced those 26.2 miles I strategically planned to walk up the biggest hills, and also walk through the water stations while partaking (I just couldn’t master the drinking – I mean spilling – water all over my shirt). Ironically, my time improved for the second race! I had listened to an interview with Bart Yasso on the Marathon Training Academy podcast about his run/walk method that inspired me to mix it up. IT WORKED! I felt better overall having little bouts of rest and maintained my pace while running.
  5. My time will improve with every new marathon. Wouldn’t that be nice? I like to pretend that fairytale will come true, but in reality, unless I change up my training, I will likely achieve the same results.
  6. laska-01“The Wall” isn’t real. I’ve met the wall twice in my short running career. Let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. It’s the equivalent of having a spinal tap and meeting the devil all at once. All of a sudden you want to lay down on the cement and curl up into a ball crying. It’s easy to think this won’t happen to you, but even the most experienced runners can get too confident on a run and forget to fuel at scheduled intervals, leading to exhaustion, overheating, or extreme fatigue.
  7. Running helps me lose weight. Um… see lie #1. I actually tend to gain weight during peak mileage training weeks a month before the marathon. I used to freak out about this, but now that I have 7 marathons under my belt, I’ve recognized the natural pattern of weight gain a month prior to the race. I know I’m not going to gain back the 140 pounds I worked so hard to lose, but I recognize that this is a slippery slope. There are two things happening here. I’m eating like an athlete, and I’m also eating like a moron. At least I’ve learned that my overindulgence is part of a self-limiting reward only permitted for marathons.
  8. Marathons are easy. My favorite strategy when facing the scary unknown miles (21, 22,etc). Is to tell myself that marathons are easy. “I’m so lucky! I only have 5 miles left! I run 5 miles all the time!” Thinking about the miles left in the reverse make it more manageable than “MILE 21 MARKER — ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”laska-04
  9. Running is all you need to do to prepare for a marathon. There is so much more to running a marathon than just running! Aside from the trial and error of figuring out what fuel and equipment works best for you, the real struggle is mental. No matter how experienced the runner is, there will be a point in the race when you mentally break down. How will you handle this moment? Will you be the guy who sits on the curb and calls for a cab? Or will you reach deep into your psyche and coach yourself with confidence? This ugly moment is why we run marathons – to see what we are made of! You might cry, you might scream, but will you keep running? It’s the most powerful moment of the marathon, and in my opinion, far outweighs the celebration of the finish line.
  10. I’ll be so happy when this is over. No, I won’t. I actually go into P.R.D. (post-race depression) and the only known cure is signing up for another race. As much as I hate training, I love training. I like having a goal to pursue. I need a reason to wake up before the rest of the world, don my headlamp, and run in the freezing cold or rain. I enjoy the slow build of the weekly long miles. I look forward to carbo-loading day like a national holiday. I love talking about the upcoming race, and afterward dissecting every moment over drinks with my husband. I will not be happy when it’s over!

Let’s support each other. Connect with me Twitter/Instagram @140lost or on facebook.com/140lost

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