Getting Through the Homestretch

Three months into marathon training. One month left to go.

At this point, the most frequent thought I’m having is “why would anyone do this more than once?”

I went into marathon training not really knowing what to expect. Now that I sort of know, why would I do it again? Seriously, why? (I’m guessing after I finish the marathon, I’ll know why.)

I didn’t fully appreciate how great the early weeks of marathon training were

Right now, I’m running more weekly mileage than I ever have (previously, I worked up to 25-30 miles/week, now I’m averaging 35 when it’s not a cut-back week). It’s wearing me out physically and mentally and I feel like it’s taking over my life.

Physically, obviously the more you work out, the harder it is on your body. You’re tired. You want to (and often do) eat everything in sight. On the days I get to sleep in, I sleep for 10 hours. (This is why I don’t have kids.)

Time wise, I really feel like this is taking over my life. Most evenings after work, my routine is run, eat, shower, prepare for the next day, bedtime. Boooring. My entire weekends are planned around my long run. First world problem for sure, but I feel bad when I tell my friend “no, I can’t come to your band’s show, even though I really do want to, because I have to go to bed early for marathon training.” I feel so self-centered. Especially when said friend generously purchased an “I <3 Fast Women” shirt. I also feel like the most boring person ever.

But I feel like the hardest challenge is mental.

I love running. Obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t have started this blog. I wouldn’t have signed up for a marathon. I enjoy the act of running, it doesn’t feel like a chore, the way so many other people view exercise.

But right now? Totally feels like a chore. And my marathon training plan is my chore chart. I lace up my running shoes not because I want to run, but because Hal Higdon said I should do 5 miles that day. Or 8. Or 19. Whatever. He’s the expert.

So how have I been getting through it?

During Saturday’s 19 miles, I thought about two people who can’t run, to remind myself how lucky I am that I can. (Even if it doesn’t feel so lucky at the time.)

Vera is battling an injury, and has not been able to run for months. I know how hard it is for her, and how determined she is to run pain-free again. She would love to be able to drag herself through a 19-mile long run in the humidity, if it meant she could run.

Vera and I during the rainy Applefest Half Marathon last fall

I’ve mentioned many times that I’m running the Chicago Marathon on behalf of the American Cancer Society in memory of my uncle. He was a marathoner. He ran the Chicago Marathon many times. But he lost his battle to cancer in 2003. As hard as running is right now, it’s a zillion times better than fighting cancer. (That was the same mindset that got me to agree to chair a Relay For Life event [twice] for the ACS, and speak in front of hundreds of people.)

My uncle wrote his mile split times upside down on his bib while running! Chicago Marathon 1988

I also think about how happy I will be on October 7. I keep visualizing the very last stretch of the marathon, and crossing the finish line. I’ve worked this hard, I don’t just want to achieve that goal, I have to achieve it. I’m so close; I have to know what it feels like to be a marathoner. And it will be a feeling that for 28 years, I didn’t think was really possible. Actually, for 27 years, I didn’t even think about, period. I remember spectating some of Vera’s first marathons and thinking “why the heck would anyone do this??” I never once thought “I wonder what it would be like …” Nope, just “these people are crazy.”

But now I’m one of those crazy people and I am crazy enough to see this through to it’s crazy conclusion.

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17 Comments on “Getting Through the Homestretch”

  1. I feel ya on the chore part of this marathon training. It is like a part time job! Guess that is why I like the HM distance better (well, so far). Keep up the good work – we are in the home stretch!

  2. As I was leaving work late last week with the 10 miles staring me down that night, I was telling a coworker the exact same thing. I love running, but it really has been hard trying to fit all the training in between summer trips and projects and everything else going on. It’ll be nice to have a down week or two before starting up a little training going into the ZOOMA half.

  3. I definitely know how you feel. I remember it feeling like a major chore getting ready for my first. Then, I ran it and keep pressing forward, it is a little crazy…but good crazy!

    1. I have big plans to spend my free time doing strength work, since that is always my weekly goal, and I never do it!!! But in all likelihood … I see myself in yoga pants cruising Facebook …

  4. Great post, very eloquently put about the ups and downs of marathon training. On marathon day, you’ll be very very glad that you put in those hard workouts ’cause the marathon will be just a little bit easier as you’ve conditioned your legs to take the pounding necessary to get through 26.2 miles. Yes, I also thank my lucky stars that I am able to run those grueling/not so much fun workouts because I also know two people that wish they could run, but can’t.

  5. Hang in there!! It isn’t the marathon that is the tough part… it is the training. Chicago is my third marathon and it is funny how much marathon training is just who I am and a part of my summers. For my other two marathons I mentally burned out before I physically did. For this one I am, for the most part, mentally in it. Physically I am exhausted.

  6. The marathon is more a mental challenge than physical, in my experience. I know it sucks right now. And honestly, it will probably suck up until race day. I promise though, the second you cross that finish line, it will be totally and completely worth it. (and if its not, i owe you a beer. so now you have a win/win situation.)

  7. Ahhhh….the Labor Day training blues. I always feel like I just can’t make that last month of training. That I just want to run the dang race now and be done with it. That’s how I feel every year coming off of Labor Day weekend. I’m all done with marathon training.

    I know how badly the training sucks but I’m still in complete envy of all of you out there pounding out the miles. I wish I were out there too. I’m sad that I won’t be on the start line with all of you on 10/7 and I’m sad that I won’t be a Chicago Marathon finisher for 2013. AND….I don’t even like marathons. They suck. Running short is so much better but the marathon is contagious and nothing I’ve ever done feels the same accomplishement wise.

    One more month, you’ve totally got this!

  8. I was thinking something similar to everyone else… that by the end of the cycle you are just SO over it. But race day ends up being amazing. And you find you are missing that feeling you get after a really long run. I bet you’ll be in for more 😉

    (And honestly, I usually like running better when I am not training for something, and I tend to run more then too! Something about feeling like I don’t “have” to do it.)

  9. I do hear you. One way to think about is if it was easy then everyone would do it all the time. I think you have to keep some perspective though. Don’t look at the training coming to an end, because in reality it never does. Your marathon is your life this is just a small snipet of it. Whether your goal is just to finish or you have a time in mind you put in the work to reach your goal. To me it works like this: G+WIT=GA(Goal + Whatever it takes = Goal Achieved) You just have to keep moving forward. Life changes and you decide what is most important to you.

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