This Friday Five’s theme is “5 reasons to run a ____.” Now, I could name a million reasons to run period, but obviously when given the choice to pick something specific to run, I challenged myself to pick 5 reasons to train for a marathon. The key word here is “train.” A while back I wrote, when I was young and naive and injury-free, about how much training meant to me even if I never see the start line for Marine Corps Marathon this weekend. That post proved to be morbidly prophetic, as there was quite a bit of time these last few weeks I didn’t think I would see the start. While I’m determined on Sunday to give it my all to finish the race, I also haven’t been able to run farther than a couple of miles in the last few weeks so even if my weakened hip and smooth, long run-free feet hold up, my cardio is almost shot. (The recumbent bike just isn’t the same.) There’s a lot that might go wrong on Sunday and as much as I’m hoping for the best, I’m trying to prepare for the worst.
But I trained, and whether or not I cross the finish line in Arlington on Sunday, there are 5 things I’m very grateful for that I went ahead with this training plan.
1. It will make you a stronger runner for shorter distances.
Normally I’m a “race as many possible races” kinda gal, but during my 18-week training plan, I only had 4 races planned. I PR’d at 2 of them, and both of them were huge milestones for me. I’d been doing speedwork early on in my short runs for marathon training and I completely credit that with managing to squeak below the 30 minute mark in the 5K for the first time on a hilly course at the Autism Speaks 5K on July 4th. Then, my weekly long runs that got longer and longer than I’d ever gone before made the Annapolis 10 Miler feel like a cakewalk and I blew my previous 10 miler PR out of the water without ever feeling like I was pushing too hard. Whether or not I can put a 26.2 sticker on my car on Monday, marathon training made me stronger in the 5K and 10 miler distance, and the numbers are the proof.
2. You will learn invaluable lessons about your body.
After my 18 mile long run, I knew something was wrong with my right hip beyond just the average post-run aches and pains. After consulting a physical therapist I learned I had muscles in my hip and core that I never knew were there — and consequently was not working to strengthen. They are the stability muscles that prevent injury to the hip joint when I land with each step, and by not engaging them, I developed hip bursitis. Going forward, I’ve learned the hard way that Pilates and other strength-training type workouts will be absolutely mandatory in my training routine, even if it means running three times a week instead of 4 to make room for an extra Pilates class, or rolling out of bed early to get a strength workout in on the same day as a short run. On that note… you also learn not to overtrain. I definitely have still more to learn (who doesn’t?) but right now, once I’m ready to start full on training again for my next goal race, instead of just taking it easy and slow-paced at the marathon on Sunday so as not to re-injure, I’ll be less upset if I skip a run and more deadset on getting my strength-training in.
3. Saturday morning long runs
I’ve never been in a healthier lifestyle than when I wasn’t going out partying on a Friday night after a long day of work so I could be up and at ’em early on a Saturday morning to knock out my long run. I only ran with friends a couple times for my long runs. Most of the time, Saturday morning long runs became the most peaceful and refreshing way to start a weekend. I could be done before 11am and feel like I had accomplished something monumental already for the weekend. I’m treating Sunday like my long training runs – there may be a lot going on around me, but I’m going to channel that peacefulness of just running long instead of sleeping the day away, not rushing, just enjoying the beauty of the world, during the race on Sunday.
4. Commiserating with friends
Several of my friends were training this summer and fall for Baltimore, New York, Navy-Air Force, Richmond, and Marine Corps itself. Whether we were doing our long runs in different places or, as above, together, we could complain or high-five, whether in person or virtually, together, about this ridiculous experience we were putting ourselves through. Courtney, Julie and I did speedwork together – Mar and I were on essentially the same long run schedule – my friend Jill downloaded my own training calendar to get herself ready for the Baltimore Marathon (and spoiler alert, killed it this past weekend). Whether you choose to run physically solo or not, connecting with friends over marathon training means you’re never totally alone.
5. I’m tougher than ever.
My friend Suz of Suzlyfe put it best, when I first got injured – “But what you have to remember is you’ve taken on something monumental, something most people would never dream of taking on.” I made mistakes along the way, as many first-time marathoners do (check out Courtney’s great post for examples you should avoid should you choose to take on the 26.2). I may not cross that finish line Sunday (although damn it, just try to stop me, medical servicers and weak hip! I’ll crawl if I have to!) but I had the courage to start. When people shook their heads at me and told me I was crazy when I told them “I’m training for a marathon,” I just smiled and shrugged and laced up. When my mom begged me not to run on Sunday, and even before I got injured asked me why I had to try to run a marathon this year, why not wait another year, I sent her the link for the Spectator Info. I’ve always been a person who hears “no, it can’t be done” and says “yes, maybe you can’t but I can” – my forearm doesn’t have the words I’m a renegade, it’s in my blood inked on it permanently for no reason.
Tell me it’s crazy. Tell me it’s impossible. That’s exactly when I’ll want to try it.
Have you ever done something monumental that people told you you wouldn’t be able to do?
What’s your favorite part of training for a marathon?
Will you be racing this weekend?