Over my final four weeks of training for marathon #2 I’m sharing some thoughts on the marathon. This first week I wanted to share some of my thoughts on what it takes to train for a marathon.
I have had a fairly uneventful training cycle. Things have been going smoothly and I’ve been getting all of my runs in. I’m consistently running more mileage per week and more days per week than ever before. Going into this training cycle I was a little intimidated by that and worried I would get hurt or burnt out. The weather has been more hot and humid than last summer which has made for some really unpleasant runs. However, I found that I was still enjoying marathon training as much the second time around as the first.
Initially when I expressed my intimidation to my husband he pointed out that I didn’t have to do anything and encouraged me to take things one week at a time. I tend to look at the big picture (in running and in life) and get overwhelmed. I took his advice and began looking at each week as the big picture and focusing daily on what I was to accomplish in training that day.
This strategy worked for me. I have been hitting my mileage and paces and finding joy in the time and effort spent training. Of course spending all that time running has given me a lot of time to think about my training too. I started comparing my experience training to those of my friends and several blogs that I follow. We are all tackling different training plans with different mileage and workouts, facing similar challenges, but continuing week by week to push through towards our goal race.
As I approach the final few weeks of training for my second marathon I’ve been thinking a lot about the work that goes into successfully training for a marathon. Marathon training requires time, patience, commitment, and a heck of a lot of running. This is all obvious, but what gets me up in the wee hours of the morning to fit in a run when I’d rather sleep in? What inspires me to go to bed early on Friday night and roll out of bed before the sun on a Saturday just to run for 3-4 hours? What motives me to keep kicking during a hard workout when my brain tells me to quit and my body is tired?
Any runner that asks themselves these questions may have different answers. I once read a comment on a race Facebook page from a disgruntled non-runner that was angry about hitting traffic due to a race. It said something along the lines of people feeling the need to “prove” themselves. This has stuck with me for a while. Part of me was annoyed, but then part of me just wanted to laugh and respond, “Oh wow, you really don’t get it.”
While I am sure there are runners out there that train in order to prove themselves (to themselves or others) that has never been it for me. Frankly, I’m not sure that is even enough for any runner to successfully complete a marathon training cycle. Because while it takes commitment, motivation, time, and a heck of a lot of running, what I truly believe it takes to successfully train for a marathon is a genuine love of running long distances.
I love long-distance running. I love long-distance running so much that there is nothing about the thought of running 16, 18, 20 miles on the weekend that makes me cringe. I don’t end the week thinking “Oh boy I’m going to need xyz to get me through my run tomorrow.” I don’t love the heat, humidity, or extreme cold. I do love running enough to face those elements. It’s not about being motivated or feeling like a badass for toughing it out, it’s about doing what I love. Feeling like a badass is a reward.
During some recent miles with my friend Katie (Hi, Katie!) I brought this topic up. I wondered if a genuine love for running is what makes marathon training so much more enjoyable for some while other seem to drag themselves out the door to get their training run done. Katie pointed out that it also takes a love for the training process itself. The love for the process is specifically important for the marathon because a marathon can throw some adverse situations at a runner and the race may not turn out the way they’d hope. It takes that love of the training process to get through those 16-18 weeks knowing that it could all fall apart on race day. It takes a love of that long training process to be patient as improvements come slowly.
And hey, maybe a runner doesn’t love running on a Saturday for 2+ hours. That’s okay. They are not less of a runner. They are not failure. I don’t love 5Ks. They make me want to puke. I think it feels horrible. Even thinking about it makes me cringe. So I don’t race 5Ks. If you don’t genuinely love running long distance, if it makes you want to puke, if you think it feels horrible, if thinking about it makes you cringe, then don’t do it. Because training for a marathon takes a genuine love of long distance running and a love for the long, slow improvements seen over 16-18 weeks. And if you don’t love it then you risk losing your joy of running.