Marathon Day is coming.
Months of training are over. The taper is over. Nearly all of the pieces that I can control are in place. Now it’s just a waiting time. A time to remember that worry is wasted energy. A time to remind myself to trust the training. A time to recall that I felt just as skittish before my first half-marathon.
My body doesn’t like to have a big jump in workload, so last year I already started by running longer long runs until I’d worked up to 18 miles (3 hours). Then I divided my training into two parts: training for spring half-marathons and then training for the marathon.
I’ve been reading marathon plans for longer than I’ve been running. I was sometimes nursing Matthias on a couch, stuck with whatever material happened to be within arm’s reach and it would happen to be Runner’s World. It’s always bothered me that plans have runners run 20 miles, no more. Yes, the body is used to a jump in distance each week and, yes, the body is rested with a good taper at the end. But I hear how difficult the running gets around mile 23, and how many people then take a month off from running after a marathon. I’ve also seen many runners in the last miles of marathons, and they look like they’ve reached a state I never want to reach. This just strikes me as weird advice. Why not train more thoroughly?
So Rainer and I wrote my own plan, based on other plans. I worked my way up to 23 miles (37 km). I put hills in. Minneapolis is not a flat marathon. I worried, and so I put more hills in. We live on the cusp of the Assiniboine Valley, and I have for years usually stayed on the prairie half of the city, especially for long runs. Not this year. Train hard so you know you’re tough enough. That’s one of my running mottoes. They say running’s 90% mental, and I know this has been true at every other distance. What that means is that you have got to carry with you 1) faith in your training and 2)vmemories of hard runs that you finished despite how awful you felt.
One thing that was new to me, and that ended up being wonderful, was an every-other-week approach to long runs. Every other plan I’ve followed builds for 3 weeks and then has a rest week. Something like 10 miles, 12 miles, 14 miles, 8. Then 14 miles, 16 miles, 18 miles, 12. Building and building and building, then rest. That’s what I expected this time. But when we did some research it seemed that there was another way: a two week cycle. One weekend we’d go 18 miles, the next 10, then 20, then 12. And so on. It left me feeling more like I was playing with running. It left me feeling fairly rested.
Unfortunately, this year I had to eliminate all of the speedwork I’d normally do in late winter. My persistent hip problems were…persistent. I’ve done physio, massage, chiropractic. Speed work was the trigger for taking my left hip from ‘a little kinked’ and sending it into a spiral of knotted pain. What this means is that I’m going to be slower than I originally thought when deciding to run a marathon. And I wasn’t planning a quick marathon by any standard. So I’ve got this mucky psychology about the issue. I never expected to be fast, but now I’m worried that I’ll be really slow.
I’m not entirely certain why this is such an issue. I want to run a marathon. That’s my goal. Not walk-run. Run. (Except for while I’m at a water station because no matter how I try, I always get the water right up the nose.) So why worry now about time? Why is it so discouraging to think of running it around 5 hours rather than around 4? I mean, isn’t the ability to run for 5 hours kinda freakishly awesome? My genetics and leg length are out of my control; so I’ll never be a racer, never be elite. Yet I’m still giving 100% just like they are. They’re just blessed with bodies that translate that effort into real speed. When it comes to the mental toughness to push, we’re both matched; I’m just doing it for longer.
That’s what’s on my mind today, as we pack up.
That and a dozen silly worries, like what if I get food poisoning? What if I can’t sleep? What if?
Ssshhh. Show up and run, Sarah. It’s your day.