Marathon Training: Week 11

“Motivation remains key to the marathon: the motivation to begin; the motivation to continue; the motivation never to quit.”

-Hal Higdon

As some of you know, I’ve been training for my first marathon for a few weeks now. I just completed registration and booked my flights for the Madison Marathon in November, and it’s all feeling so much more real now.

The plan I am following (Hal Higdon Novice 2) had me start off at around 20 miles a week, and now I am doing 30+ miles a week. This past week I finished at 36 miles, which included an 18 mile long run. With the marathon just 7 weeks away, I am almost at the peak of training so I’m pretty deep into it at this point.

Marathon training has been both similar and different from half marathon training. Both experiences have been similar in that they require immense dedication, motivation and planning to get all the scheduled runs in. I pretty much have to revolve everything in my life that doesn’t involve running– hanging out with friends, running errands, work life, etc– around these runs. For example, if I have plans to go out with friends on a Tuesday, I most likely will not be getting up early to go for a run the next morning. So, I’ll know I either have to do it the next day after work, or the day after next (Thursday). Since I run 4 times a week, I’ll know I need to run Monday, Tuesday, and either Thursday or Friday, and then one day on the weekend for the long run. However, if something else comes up during the week and I’m no longer able to do the run as planned, I’ll have to reschedule my week again to fit it in. The mileage of the run also matters– shorter runs (6 miles or less) I have no problem doing after work, but longer runs I much prefer to do in the morning, as running after a full day of eating usually leaves me feeling really heavy and crampy. Things can get pretty stressful pretty quickly as I’m constantly trying to ensure that I meet my weekly requirements.

While the planning and discipline of training for a half and full marathon have been the same, the intensity is certainly different. For one, the most I ever ran while training for a half was 13 miles, whereas for a full I obviously have to run longer distances. I’ve gone from running two hours max on a long run to running 3+ hours. I’ve felt pain in places I never thought I could feel from running. The outside of my hips, balls of my feet, random areas of my knee, even my shoulders have felt a new sort of pain I’ve never felt before. Luckily the recovery is quick and I’m good to go a few hours after the long runs, but it is pretty crazy how painful it can get. I can only imagine how I’ll feel after 26 miles.

Another difference in my marathon training experience thus far is the reaction I get from people when I tell them I’m doing a marathon. For the half, the reaction mainly involved subdued excitement and encouragement– however, the reaction to the full marathon involves a lot more of “Oh my god, you’re crazy,” or “A FULL marathon??!?” or “Good luck, I would die at mile 3,” or some variation of the three.

I guess I am the crazy one now. I always thought I could maintain some of my sanity if I kept at the half marathon level, as I myself also thought of marathon runners as crazy people. I mean, why the hell would anyone want to run 26 miles just for the hell of it?

I guess that’s why I’m doing it. I want to accomplish something that only a very small percentage of people in the world have done, I want to work really hard for something and have it pay off, and I want to challenge myself and open my life to new experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Although I’m feeling a good amount of pressure and stress, which I’m sure will only intensify as training continues, I’ve had such an enjoyable experience thus far. This program is such a good fit for me; with only 4 runs a week and doable mileage, along with the benefit of good weather, I really have nothing to complain about. In fact, I shouldn’t ever complain about training– this was my own, deliberate choice. I am grateful to have the health that allows me to set these crazy goals and run these long distances.

It is truly incredible what your body is capable of doing if you set your mind to it. I’m just praying my body is capable of finishing off those 8 miles I have yet to cover.

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