The First Last Marathon

Posted on October 2, 2016. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , |

What makes you think you can run a marathon?

I ask myself this question during every half marathon, somewhere around mile 9.

When my legs feel alternately like lead and pudding.

When my mental endurance is wearing thin. (Who’s the %#$*& genius that put a hill here?)

When my throat is constricted from repressing the threat of vomit, the result of accidently chugging Gatorade when I’d asked for water at the stop.

What makes me think I can run a marathon?

I don’t ask myself kindly. Not around mile 9. The question is, instead, peppered with expletives I wouldn’t dream of repeating in public.

sunrise-at-camp-capers

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”   Henry Thoreau

I wouldn’t dream, in fact, of asking this question, however kindly, to anyone else who’d tell me she was going to run a marathon. Just one. Her first. Maybe only. Going to at least, at last, try.

I would simply nod and say, of course. Of course you will. And mean it.

You’ve decided, I would say, and so you will.

First, you decide. Second, you do.

It’s as simple as making up your mind.

As difficult as finally, absolutely, irrevocably deciding. The doing, then, is comparatively easy.

And so I have decided. I will run a marathon. My first. Perhaps my only.

The Austin Marathon, on Sunday, February 19, 2017.

I decided finally on May 1. Planned and posted my training schedule on my refrigerator on August 1.  Registered, irrevocably, last month.  Now it is time to do.

Comparatively easy.

But I’ve decided to run a marathon twice before. Both times ended in training around mile 18 with injuries that would keep me from running for a year, longer.

Six years passed between the first and second attempt. Another six between then and now. And with them the shifting of time and place and focus. The anxiety and pain of starting over. Again. Not running. Barely walking. Not making it even one quarter mile, and surely not up that hill. And then the slow and steady progress, the readjusting of goals.

But not the determination to reach this goal, a marathon. Just once.

So I am ready to try again. The only failure in not trying at all.

And I am ready to write again. Because this marathon training is about more than running.

 

 

 

 

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13.1 Things I’ve Learned from Half Marathon Training

Posted on November 7, 2014. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Only two weeks left to the Shiner half marathon, a race my friend Amy and I have been training for since the first week of August. There is always something to learn—or to remember that I’ve forgotten—as the result of training.

  1. Never get a pedicure on long run day. It is not a way to pamper yourself. It is not a form of pleasure. Sharp objects pushing at your cuticles, snipping away bits of skin. A tool resembling the cheese grater in my utility drawer scraping off mounds of dead skin. Sometimes this is fun. On long run day, it is not. It is a form of torture for sensitive post-run feet. Ice baths, on the other hand, are a form of pleasure. ice bath
  1. Long runs are so much better with a running buddy. It took me nearly 15 years of running to figure this out. Not only do the miles go by more quickly, but I can’t think of a better way to get to know someone than by running with them. You meet each other at your best and at your worst, and you talk about things you probably wouldn’t if you had to look each other in the eye across a wine glass or coffee cup. 
  1. Drive somewhere to do your long run. I learned this from my friend Stephanie. When I started half marathon training coming back from an injury over a year ago, I mentioned how nervous I was to do that week’s long run alone—5 miles, longer than I’d run in more than two years. She immediately offered to pick me up that Saturday and take me running. I was nervous—not only about the run, but about having to pack up and prepare for the run. Which is, of course, the point in going away, Stephanie explained on our drive to the park. It simulates race day preparation: getting up early, packing your stuff, fueling properly, and generally getting yourself together. Great training. (Stephanie’s kindness and friendship was also my eye-opener to lesson #2. And she is the genius behind the ice bath process.)
  1. I love running in the dark. I already knew this, but it’s reaffirmed all the time. There’s something soothing about dulling one sense and heightening the rest of them.  It’s peaceful. Thoughtful. Joyful. Plus I seem to run faster when I can’t see how fast I’m running.
  1. But I should probably get a head lamp. This was also reaffirmed on a long run with Amy and the local Fleet Feet marathon training group, who’ve let us crash their early-morning parties a couple of times. New route, new potholes. Not very smart without light.
  1. Don’t short yourself on speed work days. I’ve taken to doing all my speedwork on the treadmill so I can’t slow down. 800s and mile repeats used to scare me, but now I embrace them.  They truly do make you faster.
  1. I don’t love tapering. That’s the phase I’m starting now. It’s hard to run fewer miles when you know your race is right around the corner. It takes a lot of mental discipline to rest, but it’s so necessary.
  1. I can go seven weeks without drinking. Not that I drank a lot, but I enjoy an occasional glass of wine with dinner, a night out on the town, a martini at the end of a long day. This current break started during the first of two high mileage weeks, when it occurred to me that it would be easier to get out of bed and run without any alcohol in my system. It was, so I did it again the next week. After two weeks, I didn’t want to break my streak. It’s been awesome to train alcohol-free.
  1. But I can’t go seven weeks without chocolate. I mean, really. Isn’t alcohol enough? Something’s gotta give.
  1. I am a genius. Just in this one thing: I chose a race that begins and ends at a brewery–before I ever thought about not drinking during training. Not just any ole brewery, but the Shiner brewery, some pretty awesome Texas beer. Knowing this is waiting for me at the end of the line makes lesson #8 a happier thing yet. shiner-spoetzl-brewery
  1. I am stronger than I feel and faster than I think. I only wish I could stop myself from feeling and thinking, at least about my perceived limitations.
  1. But that’s what Girls on the Run is all about: pushing yourself past your mental limitations, outside of the box you (and your surroundings) have trapped you in. I see the girls in our program differently during training. They always bring me joy, but during training they inspire me to make the seemingly impossible possible.
  1. There’s no reason I can’t run a marathon. I never have. But I am willing to try. Again. See lesson #12.

.1    I still have a lot to learn.

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