So, You Wanna Run a Marathon?
Oh hai there friends, isn’t this a beautiful day to be FREAKING OUT ABOUT YOUR NEXT MARATHON? The Chicago Marathon is six months and twelve days away, which - true - is still a ways away, but also close enough that I’m kinda, sorta, maybe giving Chicago 13 some serious side-eye.
I ran three 3km (2 mile) runs this week (proof!) and each km left me gasping for air, and wiping sweat off my face, so, as you can imagine the thought of 42.2km (26.2 miles) on October 13 is a little overwhelming.
But. But I’ve done this before and I know the process, the routine, and the hard work that stands between me and Chicago. And, I’ve learned from my past three marathons and hopefully, with all my fingers and toes crossed, I’ll be able to draw from my experience and make marathon #4 the marathon with a cherry on top.
So, from memory, and to add to my So, You Wanna… Lose Weight? Start Running? Run Races? Hike to Mt Everest? series, here’s what I learned from running the Chicago and Las Vegas Marathons in 2010, and the Berlin marathon is 2011.
- A Marathon is far. Really, really far. Like, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious far. It’s a distance pre-set to push the human body no matter who you are. Which means, it is a gonna be h to the -ard. HARD. But! But it’s also possible. Know that. Believe that. I am a *huge* advocate that anyone (injuries excluded) can run a marathon. No one was born a marathoner, hell, no one was born a runner, everyone works for it, everybody fights for it, and yes, everyone can do it.
- Run with a group. I think this is my absolute number one tip. Running groups are fabulous and I am over the moon with excitement to re-join the Running Room in Toronto this summer. When you’re part of a running group all you have to do is show up. Show up and then you’ll run. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. If you’re in Canada, the Running Room is fantastico and has Marathon Clinics at all locations - join, and don’t look back.
- Respect the distance. The beauty of running is that no matter what, no matter who you are, if you go again and again and again you’ll improve on your running skills. No matter what. Which also means as you slowly increase your mileage, and your base distance increases, it’s suddenly easy to think, “oh, whatever it’s only 18k (11 miles) in the morning.’ False. That’s still damn far, so sleep, eat well, and hydrate.
- Rest days are Important. I think a common mistake people make is that when they think of ‘marathon training’ they think it’s a ‘running-everyday-and-far-everyday’ type of thing. It’s not. Most schedules have people running about 4 times a week, with only 1 run increasing each week in mileage (your “long run”). That’s 3 days a week off to rest up or cross-train (yoga, weights, CrossFit, etc.).
- Cross training. Well, yarrr, tru dat. When it came to cross training for Chicago, Las Vegas and Berlin, I wasn’t exactly a top student in this department, butttttt this time I’m going at it differently. CrossFit will be done at least 3 times a week on top of marathon training, which I hope will improve my core, and strengthen my muscles in the hopes of making me a better runner, and a runner with less injuries.
- Shoes are SOOOOO IMPORTANT. And this marathon season I am making a HUGE switch. I am planning on running Chicago 13 in minimalist shoes (these!) (as apposed to these). I’ve read *a lot* on barefoot running and I like what I’ve read. It makes sense, and considering I ran my previous marathons on cloud-type shoes, this time around I’m hoping to run it nearly barefoot. Obvs I’ll write a lot more about this as time goes on, but so far? Two thumbs up for minimalist shoes.
- The easiest way to become a better runner? Lose weight. *insert swear words here* So yuppppp, there’s that, and hot damn it’s true. Beyond speed work, beyond hills, beyond running and running and running, the best way to become a faster runner is to LOSE WEIGHT. Of course, this is easier said than done (see archives for proof), but I can’t help but think *I have to lose weight* for this marathon, why? Because running a marathon chubby is just making the whole process way harder on yourself.
- You have to train. To me, saying you completed a marathon means you completed the 4 grueling months of marathon training. The actual marathon day is simply the celebration to four months of sweat, blood, hard work and tears. Running a marathon is about the training, it’s about the dedication, it’s about committing to something and following it through. It’s about choosing to stay in Saturday nights because your long run is Sunday, and about following through with a goal. So yup, don’t half ass it, if you’re going to do it, decide, commit, and do it.
- Be prepared for anything. Remember that time in 2010 when I ran the Chicago marathon for the first time and it was 35 degrees out? Yup? Cool life. Stuff is going to happen on the day of your marathon, and it’ll be stuff you won’t be able to control. It’ll suck, but you’ll have to deal with it, so don’t expect a perfect marathon, or day for that matter, because anything (a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g.) can come your way (bathroom issues, garmin issues, coral issues, injury issues, weather issues – to name a few).
- Marathons are AWESOME. FREAKING AWESOME! With the exception of reaching Base Camp, Mt. Everest, I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered anything like crossing the finish line of a marathon. It’s the most spectacular feeling and sure to cause tears in even the toughest of the tough men. It’s a wonderful experience and something I think everyone should add to their bucket list.
- Believe in your body. Right now when I think about my performance this past week (three 3ks/2 miles) it’s a hell of a thought to think I could ever get to a half distance again, let alone a full, but I have faith in myself that I can do it. When you’re training for your first marathon this point is particularly important, because you’re going into the whole process blindly, but believe in your legs, if you train them, and look after your body, you can do it. I cross my heart and promise you that.
- Schedules, and charts, oh my! I love love love love love Excel. If I had to marry one Microsoft program, Excel and I would live happily ever after. Ha! But really, I thrive on charts and organization and colouring in squares, and crossing things off, and planning, and goals, and oh my I’m getting excited just thinking about this season’s charts and graphs. So yup, plan-plan-plan. And then blow it up, and paste it here, and there and everywhere.
- Tell your friends and family! Hell, stand on a mountain top and yell “I am going to run a marathon.” In my opinion, telling everyone you know is key to success. My blog, this blog, helped me a lot when I was training for my first marathon. I said I was going to do it, and I really wanted to do it, but having accountability helped when the going got tough.
Alrighty then! I’m sure I’ve forgotton something, but PHEW! I’m pleased I got this out and on paper, as it’s a great reminder for myself to believe in the process and my legs. Quite frankly I’m terrified of the next few months, terrified of my lazy-lazy moments I’m sure to encounter, terrified of not losing weight, terrified of failing at this, but I’ve done it before, so I can do it again… right? Right.
Marathon training week two - let’s do this!