With the Boston Marathon taking off today, I felt it very appropriate to share my own experience with running, as well as share some advice that I've discovered since I've started training especially since I'm not only running my first marathon this year, but am also attempting to qualify for Boston. Thousands of runners compete in this race every year, many of whom have become my inspirations, teammates, and friends, and I can now, finally, appreciate what they're going through.
My experience with running isn't simply a story of my journey through the past 8 years, because there really isn't much to tell...up until 20 weeks ago. Starting then, my life went through a major shift, and since then my running journey's become...intense to say the least. 20 weeks ago running completely took over my life, and will continue to do so for the remainder of 2018.
This is the life we accept when we take on the marathon.
In the Beginning
How did I even get here? How did I go from the girl who could barely finish running a mile in high school to training for a marathon? I'm still not exactly sure?? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It seems like just yesterday I hastily stepped onto a treadmill in the gym at my college, feeling intimidated and self conscious. I could barely run a mile. I'm unsure at what point I decided "This is me now. I'm a runner lalala."...but it happened. Somewhere along the line it happened, and...this is me now.
I decided to start running my sophomore year of college. I had a void I needed to fill and a few (*cough*fifteen*cough*) pounds that I needed to shed. But I didn't start with running. Initially, I found myself drawn to the elliptical. Let's be real, it's just a little less intimidating. I was on the elliptical everyday. I wouldn't miss a workout. The elliptical was my baby. But still, I remember gazing upon the treadmills as I clambered and clunked along for hours on end, telling myself that running was too hard and just wasn't for me. I mean, I could barely make it through the mile fitness test in high school. I sure as heck couldn't run a mile now. Plus, I have little legs. Plus plus, I just wasn't built to be a runner.
Then, one day it all changed. Miraculously, painfully, it all changed. One day I walked into the gym and almost lost my mind. There was a person on every. single. elliptical. GAH. I had class in an hour and felt anxious to get my workout in. I had nowhere else to turn but to Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan...woops, I mean the treadmill. I wasn't stoked. No no...I was pissed. But honesty, over everything else, I was afraid. This fear seems comical to me now. At the time I had no idea that when I took those first few steps on the treadmill, running at a 10:55 pace, stopping every half mile to catch my breath, it was the beginning of a life changing journey that would redefine me as a person. I had no idea that I'd fall in love.
I don't have to tell any of you who've tried running what a painfully amazingly agonizing this journey is. Pushing yourself every day, seeing how much farther you can run every time, how much better your body feels week after week. Some of us give up on it, which I totally get. I do. It's one of the hardest things you can put your body through. But some of us...the lucky ones...we stick it out. We push past the pain and the shortness of breath and the shin splints and the little voice in our heads that tell us to stop...and we end up falling head over heals obsessed.
Back when I first started running I told myself that once I could run 6 miles I would curb it and not go any further than that. It was my way of both establishing a goal while keeping things realistic. I didn't want running to take over my life....
Take another look at that previous sentence and throw your head back in laughter. We all know that didn't happen. What was I thinking? That rule went straight out the window about 6 months in. I still remember the day I ran 8 miles without even realizing it and said "Welp...guess I'll just keep going.". Then, at some point along the way, I ended up drinking the Kool-Aid and started training for a marathon.
Back then I didn't want running to take over my life. But if you ever think, even once, that you can get through marathon training without it taking over your life, you're wrong. You're so wrong. In fact, you're dead wrong.
That Marathon Life
Let's be real...running is running. Most of us can handle putting one foot in front of the other and running a couple of miles a day to stay healthy. (And if you haven't started doing that already do yourself a favor and get on it!) We get into a routine and running becomes a part of our lives. We go from 2 miles to 5 miles to 8 miles, yay! We sign up for a 5k, 10k, then a half marathon. We feel empowered, post about it on Facebook (because if you don't post about your run did it even really happen?), and look back on all that we've accomplished. We are in love.
Marathon training is all of these wonderful things, amplified by a thousand, and then so much more piled high on top of that. There was no disclaimer when I opened up my training plan that warned me how drastically this would take over my life in every respect possible, more-so than any other running experience in my life. Let me break it down for you.
Step 1: Train Your Life
When you train, and I mean seriously start to train, every day, every week, and every month up until your race revolves around your training schedule. This is what I mean when I say "Train your Life". Your mornings, your lunch breaks, your weekends are all planned around how many miles you have to run. I've had to strategize every day of my week and every month of the year around my training. What tracks are accessible for my speed workouts on Thursdays? When can I travel? What will the weather be like the day I have to run 11 miles? Should I do my tempo run on a day that I have to play volleyball, or maybe shift it over a day?
If the weather's bad, you find a way to keep running. If you hurt, you find a way to keep running (intelligently without causing injury). And if you're sick or injured...don't keep running! (Tisk tisk). You recover, obviously....but the entire time you're just laying there frustrated that you can't get your ding-dang run in. (You know what I mean...)
Weekends: What about the weekends?! We live for the weekends. My weekends usually consist of hiking, biking, skiing, and hanging out with friends. Then I started training. This winter my Sundays have become long run days, and everyone close to me now knows that I don't get a life on Sundays. My runs can take up to 3.5 hours and by the time I'm done I'm too exhausted to do anything else. All I want to do is recover. I don't really go out on Saturdays, and if I do I try to avoid drinking too much (although I did have an amazing 11 mile run on a hangover....so follow your dreams I guess). I've skied the least amount I ever have in my entire life this winter. Sundays have always been ski days for me, so adjusting has been...difficult. This change, choosing one thing that defines me over another, makes me incredibly sad, but I keep my eye on the prize.
Travel: This probably wasn't super necessary, but I chose to give up traveling this year due to training. The only travel I'm doing is for races (yay runcations!). I personally know that I won't run if I travel, so I chose to avoid taking any big trips. In keeping this mentality, I really can't travel until June, and then, from July to October I'm in another training cycle. So obviously we're going everywhere when June hits (...I signed up for a triathlon that month so HAH no we aren't).
Bring on the PAIN: Your body will hurt. Some days a lot more than others. I've never had pain from running quite as much as this. My feet hurt, my quads are sore, I have...just a few blisters...and my left knee often bothers me. My hips ache some days. If you have any other physical obligations in your schedule, plan accordingly. I play volleyball competitively on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and I've had to adjust my training schedule immensely to make sure I can have the energy I need to play while also getting my runs in. It's been stressful and hard.
I've had to be incredibly adamant about recovery, something I've never had to think about before. I've invested in rollers and recovery sessions....and you guys I'm really freaking out because my marathon is a month away and I just really don't want to get hurt. :/
But the biggest pain hasn't been my knees or my hamstrings or my hips (even though WOWIE my hips hurt). Omg I'm just so hungry. Yes, let me repeat. I AM SO HUNGRY. ALL OF THE TIME. I am so hungry...*stomach grumbles* I want to eat everything in sight, and when I do I'm still hungry. Just...so hungry.
Step 2: Get Yourself Some Support
Another thing they don't tell you when you start to train for a marathon (and this part is my favorite) is the incredible support you'll need, receive, and give to/from those around you. Here's a few people who can do the trick.
A Gary Coach: Let me tell you about the man who was my initial support system and was the catalyst to how this whole marathon training and Boston Qualifying talk began. It all started with a man named Gary. I met Gary the morning before running a 10k up in the mountains of Colorado. He was competing in a 100 mile mountain bike race (I KNOW...I know) and we somehow got hooked up and chatting. I won't go into too much of it, but we got talking about running, found out he'd run Boston umpteenth times, and he offered to train me. This has been the greatest gift. Having someone create a training plan for me and being accountable to a coach has made a world of difference for me. The training plan gives me structure, and having a coach to report to is something I thrive off of as an athlete. I've never been able to follow a training plan, but having someone I need to give updates to has forced me to get my workouts done. He's given me training advice, told me how to go about recovering from injuries, advised what paces to run my races, and calmed me down when I freaked out over getting sick multiple times through my training. If you have a coach you can utilize, who can push you, who you're accountable to, I can't recommend it enough.
A Running Tribe: I think you all know from my last post that I've been fortunate enough to find my running tribe. What I haven't put into words is the fact that I don't think this journey would've gone nearly as smoothly if I didn't have this tribe. You can knock social media all you want, but when I see one of my running mates post about their long runs, knowing they're in the same boat as me, it's empowering and motivating. I'll say it again because it's true: surround yourself with the people you want to be. Since I've surrounded myself with supportive women who are going through the same things I am, whose lives revolve around their running schedule and training, it's become my new normal and made it that much easier to stick to my training.
A Partner: Over everything I would be hard pressed to not give a shoutout to my partner, best friend, and boyfriend, Paul. There has not been a single, more supportive person during this entire journey. He's basically been my Colorado Gary because Gary doesn't actually live in Colorado. He's sat for hours on end on weekends waiting for me to finish training runs and half marathons. He's nagged me to put my running clothes on and has literally pushed me out the door on numerous Sundays to make sure I take my long runs. He's sat in a lawn chair with a beer in hand at the local track while I did my speed workouts. He's biked next to me for 15 miles as I yelled out in pain and almost threw up because I decided to eat an entire pizza before my run. He's rescued me when I was 9 miles into a run and underdressed in a snow storm, and he's brought me more water when I've run out 7 miles from home. (How am I this bad at preparation?!) And let's not forget...he's graciously accepted being on photo duty. (Because remember...pics or it didn't happen.) If you're going to take on the extraneous task that is marathon training, make sure you get yourself someone like this, because it's made a world of difference in keeping me on track. Thank you for everything you've done the past 20 weeks, Paul. <3 (mooshy mooshy gush :D)
It's not rocket science. Find yourself support, understanding, and a tribe of people with a similar goal to help you because it will make all the difference in keeping you focused and helping you to continue to put one foot in front of the other.
Step 4: Regret Nothing
I know I may have made marathon training, and running in general, sound completely AWFUL. I promise you it's not. (Ok some days it is, but stay with me here) Yes I hurt, yea I'm STARVING (Did I mention that yet? Maybe?), and yes, a lot of my free time has been dedicated to running. But this is all so worth it. I regret absolutely none of it. I feel strong, empowered, and in control. It's been my responsibility to keep up with my training. It's been on me during the bad weeks to push past whatever runs I may have missed and continue on. This entire training plan has given me structure and a goal, and the success of all of these factors is solely on me. Not Paul, not Gary, but me. It's forced me to push myself and test my physical abilities, as well as work on my mental toughness, something I had never had to do before.
Training for a marathon, like beginning to run, has been one of the most demanding, painful, and mentally challenging things I've ever experienced, but it's also been one of the most rewarding, motivational, and life changing things that has ever happened to me. If you're thinking of running, I beg of you, don't over think it and
(Sorry, guilty pleasure) But really...in the end, it's the most rewarding, character building, life changing experience you will ever take on. You won't regret it. I promise.
A Closing Thought
The marathon did cometh and the marathon did taketh over. It also taketh my weekends and it taketh my energy and it taketh my money and it taketh my ability to feel full. But it giveth so much more....and I wouldn't have it any other way...-eth.
Good luck to all those running Boston. You are my inspiration, motivation, and role models. I'll see you there soon. :D