I am a little more than 2 weeks out from my second marathon. This round of training has been much different than my first round of marathon training. I am by no means an expert in running or marathoning, but I have learned some valuable lessons in these last two rounds of training.
Lesson 1: injuries happen
Injuries are not just reserved for elite runners cranking out mile after mile each week. They happen to all of us at some point in our running lives. This round has been much easier on my body than the last round but I did have some bumps in the road along the way. Listen to your body, don’t try to cram in missed training, and let yourself heal. It can be hard when an injury takes you out for a few days but don’t rush back into it or you could do more damage to your body.
Lesson 2: Stop comparing
I spent much of 2014 comparing my times to others and letting myself be discouraged that I wasn’t faster. In reality, I should have been celebrating the PR’s I was nailing, the distances I was covering, and the miles my legs were taking me. I couldn’t see those as victories because I wasn’t what most people consider “fast”. I am now embracing my times and recognizing them for what they are: strength, improvement, and growth.
Lesson 3: Understand the struggles
Fueling has always been an issue for me. I struggle with when to fuel, what to fuel with, and how much I really need. Some of it has to do with things other runners have told me. That goes back to lesson 2. Stop worrying about others and do what works for you. I struggled in Chicago because I lost some of my gel packs along the course. I became desperate at the end and took every scrap of food I could find along the course from the bananas volunteers were handing out to pretzels being handed out by spectators. I also resorted to drinking Gatorade which I stay away from in races because it causes major bloating. I should have learned this as I went into last Friday’s 20 miler but I was stubborn. I have one more long run before the marathon and this will be focused on covering the distance with the proper fueling. I will fuel even if I am feeling good because if I push too far without it, there is no recovering from that and the last part of the run will suffer.
Lesson 4: Carbs are my friend
I am a runner that needs carbs. I have tried restricting but realized my long runs suffered. Some people have told me it isn’t necessary for running but I have found that for me they are. I now fuel up on healthy carbs leading up to my long runs and it has made the difference. What works for me may not work for others and that’s ok but I need to perfect my strategy to get results.
Lesson 5: Ask for help
When training for a marathon, it can be easy to be overwhelmed with training, work and family. I found this was happening to me as I headed into peak training weeks. Finally I had to ask for help and give myself permission to forget about things that didn’t really matter. So, this year my hubby wrapped ALL the Christmas presents, I shopped online and I skipped the Christmas cards. I started to feel guilty but I realized that it’s ok not to get to everything and Christmas will still happen as planned.
Lesson 6: Use the right training plan
It is super easy to find a plan in a book or on the internet and use it to run a race. It can lead you to a successful finish in many cases. In my case, a one size fits all approach didn’t work for me. I tried a plan and it was geared at someone faster than I was. I became burned out, tired and by the time I reached the start line I was over trained which led to a finish but one I fought hard for. This time around I hired a running coach who developed a plan just for me based on my capabilities and paces. It has made all the difference in the world for me. I have found myself running distances more easily and being able to hold a more consistent pace. I am hoping this is an indicator of a positive outcome for marathon number 2.
Lesson 7: Running is mental
The body is capable of amazing things. It is often your head telling you to give up not your body. Once I finished that first marathon, I find it easier to push through my training runs. In fact, most of the time when running outdoors, I leave the music and running apps behind. I run based on feel and have found that approach has allowed me to push myself when necessary and also when to hold back.
I am sure this list will evolve as I continue to run more marathons because my love for distance running isn’t ending anytime soon. I am a lifelong runner and am looking forward to my next adventures.