I knew from the start that I would want to document my experience as I trained for and – I’m happy to announce – COMPLETED a 26.2 mile marathon, but now sitting here I have no idea where to even begin!
For the sake of my brainstorming and your insight, a few alternate titles that I came up with for this piece include:
Marathon Training: chafing in obscene places
Marathon Training: gaining muscle / losing social life
Marathon Training: I drink beer now
Marathon Training: an 18 mile run is only two 9 mile runs or three 6 mile runs or four 4.5 mile runs or…
Marathon Training: a prequel to 7 a.m. physical therapy appointments
Marathon Training: cursing young mothers who run push their 3 small children in a stroller all while sprinting past me
It’s laughable, the amount of time, effort, sweat, tears, stress, gel packets, and exhaustion went into my training. It’s insane how high and happy I could feel after a great run, how running exponentially changed my mood for the better, and how the few great runs always seemed to outweigh the frequent not-so-great runs.
On a physical level, I am probably in the best shape of my life. I feel so strong, my endurance has never been better, and don’t even get me STARTED on my resting heart rate! In about 20 weeks I’ve wiggled my way into my skinny pants (with room to SPARE!) and I feel good; a sort of comfortability in my body that I have never felt before!
On a mental level, I am exhausted. Running has got to be one of the most mentally challenging exercises out there. There’s nothing like being 3/4th’s into a long run and looking ahead to see not one but TWO hills waiting for you. Could I walk? Yeah. Did I walk? Definitely. But the guilt I felt after walking to the top was always way worse than the temporary pain of running it.
A little trick I started, mostly because it was an excuse to do something besides run, was to read more books as an exercise for mental endurance. I figured if I can sit down and read for a few hours without getting too distracted, I could run for a few hours too!
On an emotional level, I cried a lot. I was frustrated a lot. I experienced ultimate highs and ultimate lows. I think t; getting my brain and my body to sync up, setting realistic yet challenging goals, and being nice to myself if things didn’t go as planned. I was scared I wouldn’t be ready in time, that I wouldn’t be strong enough, that my injuries would progress, that I would gain new injuries. I was so nervous for the actual marathon, and I was constantly stressed about it, but even if I had to walk 2 miles home, even when my hamstring was on fire, or my feet cramped, or my farmer’s tan emerged, even when I had to run off the side of the parkway to pee in the bushes (this happened multiple times, actually), I never regretted a run because I always felt SO good after. I may have been exhausted by the time I got home, but I would be in such a better mood and mentality.
Overall, marathon training was well worth the effort and exhaustion. I’m physically, mentally, and emotionally smarter and stronger than I was when I began back in February, and it’s not something I want to lose. It’s been three days since the “race” (not at ALL a race by the way), and I’m actually wanting to go out and run! I actually miss running?
Stay tuned for a detailed description of the very beginning and very end of my marathon experience (because I think I blacked for about 18 miles in-between).