This seems like a moot point – a given for most people but there really is no workarouand here. Running 26.2 miles is no joke. Even if you’ve done it before. Unless you’re some kind of superfreak naturally gifted athlete, mere mortals can’t just up and run 26.2 miles without building up to it. I knew this. And although I didn’t NOT train, I didn’t train nearly enough and certainly didn’t do it the “right” way. And boy did my lack of training rear its ugly head – it showed up in the pain in my knee and my back; it showed up in my having to walk and take breaks to stretch; and it showed up in my pace and finish time. So, take it from me, training is key!
Many newbies find it hard to believe but running a marathon is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. I would venture to say it’s even more so a mental challenge. When your mind is telling you your body can’t take one more step, you have to fight that voice with a stronger one that says you’ve come too far to quit. You’ve invested too much time. You have people watching you, tracking you, willing you to the finish line.
My first two races were almost unbearable. My mind wasn’t right. By the third, though, I learned a trick. I don’t count the first 13 miles. It’s just a warmup. In this case, a warmup through one of the most beautiful cities with 40,000 of your closest friends and thousands of others cheering you along. My race doesn’t start until mile 13.1. At that point, I’ve only got 13.1 miles left to go. Piece of cake.
The first half was spent in pure gratitude. For having the health and stamina to be able to run. The financial ability to travel and pay race fees. Feeling the sunshine on my face and the cool air on my skin. For knowing I had so many people back home and so many strangers on the course wanting me to finish. And so when I was in the not-as-pleasant aches and pains of the last half, my mind…my perspective, carried me through.
People can be a blessing or a hindrance. Some people just don’t get it. They don’t get why you would want to undertake this challenge. Don’t get why you can’t go to happy hour as much or why you would spend countless hours on a weekend running in the insufferable Miami heat and humidity. Why you’re “abandoning your kids” or “being selfish.” Those people can derail you from this undertaking, but only if you let them.
But the truth is, you can’t train for a race like this without some type of support. Especially when you have young children. Even with minimal effort put forth into training, you still have to get some runs in. And that requires time away from other pursuits and people. Including your family. This is especially true on the weekends when you’re most likely to get in a long run that can range anywhere from an hour to 5, depending on your pace. And if you’re anything like me, running takes a lot out of you, rendering me virtually useless for the remainder of the day. After a long run, all I want to do (and have the capacity for) is eating my weight in food and falling into a coma. Which, of course, is not always possible. Or fair to the family.
This is when you need your people. The people you train with or have trained with. Your running/tri tribe. Your family.
When fellow racers carb load with you and accompany you to packet pickup. When your people reach out to you before the race with motivational texts, voice and Facebook messages. When you know they’re tracking you on race day. When you’re receiving messages along the way. And then, when feeling a little defeated around mile 18, you look up and see a most unexpected but appreciated and necessary message of support from dear friends on a giant screen on the course. When your reclusive daughter battles her hatred of crowds (and of sunlight), to come out to the race and run after you screaming, “go mom, go!!!”in the process breaking her favorite messenger bag. When you check your voicemail and hear messages from your little ones back home giving you the courage to battle through the pain and persevere. It buoys you.
When your husband agrees to stay home to deal with an impending category 4 hurricane, which has cancelled school for two days, leaving him with the challenging task of watching the kids without a break for 4 days so you can go spend time with your oldest daughter and check running the Chicago marathon off your bucket list. And you come home to a clean house and there haven’t been any casualties since both he AND the children are still alive. Marginally.
Proof positive: you can’t do it alone.
No matter how much I’ve trained for previous races, one thing is always certain for me. Some type of pain. Whether it’s muscle soreness or tight IT bands, back or knee or ankle issues. This is where my love/hate relationship with my frenemy the foam roller comes into play. And ice. Both help. Bigly. (I hate myself a little right now.)
Another lifesaving tip to keep in mind after the race – go downstairs backwards! You’re welcome.
After all the training and the sacrifice, the pain and the tears, nothing compares to the feeling you get when you cross the mile 26 marker and you know you’ve only got a few hundred meters to go, and you approach the swelling crowds and the cheers grow deafening and you see the finish line ahead. You know that your determination and tenacity, and in my case, your mediocre training, your sheer force of will and the collective energy of the strangers around you and the loved ones back home got you there. And when they place that medal around your neck, you know it was hard earned. And that mantra you’ve been repeating to yourself for the last 5+ hours rings true:
She believed she could. So she did.
In closing: running 26.2 miles is not for the faint of heart (or the bad of knee) but it is certainly not an insurmountable task. So if you’ve ever considered taking on this challenge, I encourage you to do it. You’ll learn some amazing things about yourself and discover you truly can do anything. You are a badass!!
Call to Action: Take up a scary new venture. Test yourself. And tell me about it!