The Scary Miles
Contributed by Stephanie Laska, a 2017 Ambassador for The San Francisco Marathon.
As we prepare to run The San Francisco Marathon or Half Marathon, there comes a point in our training where we enter what I lovingly call, “the scary miles.” About a month prior to the big race, your training schedule escalates to the highest number of miles you will run all at once prior to the big day (for half marathoners, this might be 9 or 10 miles, and full marathoners about 20). These are the miles no man or woman has gone before (or at least you have forgotten how hard these miles were or you wouldn’t have signed up for this again!).
High mileage runs are both exhilarating and terrifying. They can make you simultaneously giddy and full of doubt at the same time. In case you need a little support heading into the twilight zone of training, here are a few tips or reminders to help you cross the finish line unscathed:
A tribute for resting: Sometimes the best run is no run at all. If you feel an injury or strain, it’s time to rest. Our bodies do have limits, and pain is a symptom that something is wrong. Be honest with yourself and acknowledge when it’s not just muscle fatigue but pain that requires consulting with a health care professional. Additionally, when your training schedule calls for a rest day, REST! Treat rest days with as much reverence as you would a long run. Your body and Netflix account will thank you.
Cross training: We run because we are good at it, and trying other forms of exercise can sometimes feel awkward. If you have to sell it to yourself, then realize that developing other muscle groups will help support your running when your legs are tired. Weight lifting, yoga, swimming, and cycling, for example, build strength and flexibility, not to mention help prevent running injuries.
Nutrition: It’s easy to overeat during the weeks you run the scary miles. Trust me on this one, as someone who has lost a large amount of weight, I will look for any excuse to indulge. In the past, I’ve spent the whole month of high mileage runs methodically plotting out the junk food I would enjoy. Sadly, this “no holds barred” mentality has led to poor performance and weight gain. I continue to struggle in this area, and it helps me to remind myself to “eat like an athlete, not a moron.” Eating the right fuel prior, during, and after your runs will not only assist with your energy levels, but aid in recovery as well. Just like you plan out your long runs, map out your nutrition strategy. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Support: If you aren’t part of a running group (online, in person, with a friend), I suggest you reach out. Running for hours and hours can make you feel like a crazy person without other crazy people to hash out every detail. You need support on your long runs, not just on race day. Be specific in your request for help. Your friends or family may not have a clue on what you need. They are proud of you and willing to help, just give them a nudge in the right direction.
Believe: The scary miles are about taking a leap of faith in yourself. There is a reason why less than 1% of the nation has finished a half or full marathon. You are brave, my friend. You have dared to imagine an extraordinary goal for yourself. Week after week, mile after mile, you are closer to that finish line!
“It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.” – Rod Serling