For the past 19 weeks, I have been training for a marathon and the race is finally here; only 1 week away! For me, this next week includes lots of rest, hydration and mental preparation. Since December I have been doing exactly the opposite of rest; including strength training and running 4 days a week on a strict schedule of precise mileage in order to ensure I am ready for the biggest challenge of my running abilities; a full marathon.
I knew that training for a marathon would involve logging a ton of running hours, saying “No” to that weekend glass of wine or two, and effective carb loading (my favorite). I also knew I would be doing a lot of extra stretching, foam rolling, icing and educating myself on proper fueling and hydration techniques. What I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t just training my legs to run farther; I was also training my heart to recover from stressful periods of running and I was training my mind to go that extra mile, to pick up the pace when I need to and to believe in my abilities.
Running a marathon isn’t for everyone; in fact, less than 2% of people in the United States have completed one. I personally have wanted to do this for many reasons but I never thought I could. I’ve ran countless 5k and 10ks and about a dozen half marathons, but running twice that distance seemed impossible. My dad took up running in his 40’s and immediately excelled at it; even running the Boston Marathon once. I admired his ability to throw himself into the training and reach that goal he set for himself; so, when I decided to run a marathon I knew I would have to take the same approach.
My weekly training runs included a short run, medium run, short run and then a long run on the weekend. For example; Monday I would run 4 miles, Wednesday 6 miles, Thursday 4 miles and Saturday 10 miles. The mileage slowly increases week by week, and eventually your Saturday runs are 15, 18 and 20 miles long while your weekday runs are 5, 8 and 5 miles long. Running this far requires careful hydration planning; ensuring your body is full of water and electrolytes the day before a long run, continuing to hydrate while you run, then properly replenishing your body after a run to help with recovery. In addition to hydration, I had to learn how to properly fuel during my long runs; which including trial and error of several different energy gels, chews and bars. Some would give me stomach cramps, some would make me run to the bathroom too often and some would simply taste horrible. I eventually found that Clif Energy Blox and HoneyStinger Energy chews worked best for my tastes and I eat every 5-6 miles or 1 hour of running.
There are also a lot of non-glorious parts of marathon training that no one tells you about. There’s blisters on your feet, calf cramps, knee soreness and worst of all, body chafing. On my 20-mile run I made the wonderful discovery that butt crack chafing is real and Body Glide anti-chafing stick is now my new best friend. I have to give a ton of credit to my husband; who helped the process by giving me dozens of extra foot rubs, re-filling my ice packs and helping me stretch my hamstrings when I was too lazy to do it myself.
In fact, I don’t think I could have completed these 5 months of training without the help of my dad or my husband. The hubby constantly reassured me when I doubted myself and never failed to remind me how impressed he was with my dedication to the training and the progress I had made. He would gently nudge me on the weekends when my alarm went off at 5am for that long run; partly for encouragement and partly because he didn’t want to hear me hit the snooze button again. He sent me encouraging text messages like “Run hard, beautiful!” or “You got this, babe!” when I was out for a run, and he listened to all of my research findings on marathons, running and everything in between. I was doing what I learned from my Dad, throwing myself into the training process and soaking up everything I could.
My dad is nothing short of a hero to me, in his own ways. As soon as he realized I was serious about marathon training, he wanted to be a part of it as much as he could. He reformatted my training schedule to ensure I hit all of the necessary mileage benchmarks and cleared his weekend mornings to go with me on my long runs. He can’t currently run himself due to knee pain but that didn’t stop him from buying a Razor scooter and scootering next to me for 14, 15, 16, 18 and 20-mile runs. We spent hours running on those quiet weekend mornings talking about fueling, hydration, heart rate monitoring, pace management and his running experiences. I enjoyed listening to his stories and I absorbed every ounce of running education he gave me. Without his knowledge to help guide me, I can honestly say I wouldn’t feel prepared enough for what I’m about to do.
But there’s no turning back now; I’ve put in the hours, I’ve logged the miles and I’ve accomplished so much more already that I ever thought I could.
Get ready Cincinnati, because I’ll be there in 4 days and I am ready to CRUSH this marathon. See you on the other side of the finish line!