The great thing about marathon training plans is that the coaches that design them generally know that the average person cannot continue to up their mileage, week after week, see success, and not throw their hands in the air yelling “SCREW. THIS.”
Unfortunately, coaches do not allow an entire week, in the middle of training season, where the runner goes for not a single run. Not one. Okay, maybe a 5K where you mostly walk and goof off in pursuit of a medal and some post-event alcohol, but that barely counts.
Fortunately, I do not have an actual coach to yell at me, just some guidelines and numbers on a calendar. Also fortunate is that I know myself well enough to know that I cannot get through an entire program perfectly, and that life and vacation and motivation loss just happens. The smartest thing I did at the beginning of training was start two weeks early because last week, I needed a break. Just the thought of running tired me out. I wondered if it would even be a big deal if I just didn’t run the marathon. Who really cares if I don’t do it? NBD, girl.
I took the break I needed. I did a fun run Saturday, but besides that, I came home after work and watched movies that I’d wanted to see for a long time. I deep cleaned my apartment. I caught up with friends. I spent time with my family. The thought “I really need to get back to running” crossed my mind more than once. But then I let it go. I decided I was taking the week off to let my mind rest and to refuel my motivation stores.
Yesterday was my first day back, and besides some stiffness in my legs (come on guys, wake up, vacation is over), I felt great. My mind was in the right place.
I am fully aware that my greatest obstacle is myself. Last time I did this thing, I was highly distracted and not very smart about doing what I needed to do. It’s difficult to explain where I was at last time around, but I’m in a completely different and more positive place now.
Why is this? I’ve thought about this a lot and here are the reasons I’ve come up with for being much more successful this year (disclaimer: I’m clearly not an elite runner. In fact, I’m like, the world’s okayest runner and there is no reason why anyone wants to know my training strategies. These are things that have personally helped me, and that maybe someone just starting out with anything, running or not, might find useful. I understand if I am completely ignored, it is A-O.K.):
- Hands down, number one reason is what I spoke about before: flexibility. When my body needs a break, I allow it. Giving small breaks because I can tell I need it has allowed me to keep myself from falling off training completely, and has allowed me to avoid one week becoming two. Or three. Or never running again.
- Fueling: I’ve been focusing on eating whole, unprocessed, and mostly plant-based foods. I’m not trying to say that Velveeta Mac & Cheese doesn’t still have a grip on me, but hey, I’m trying here.
- Variety: My mid-week runs don’t have a ton of flavor, they are pretty much done around the same couple blocks every run. However, I have been really lucky to have had so many options for my longer runs. Several longer runs have coincided with different races that I’ve signed up for (that I tend to use as training runs), and have gotten me off pavement and onto trails. I’ve done runs in my parents’ ‘hood, mapped out courses around my boyfriend’s place, and conquered different terrains during trips to South Carolina, Traverse City, my grandparents’ house in northern Michigan.
- Consistency: consistency consistency consistency. This actually rivals flexibility. When I don’t think about it too much, or give myself an out or an excuse, I get it done. When I don’t talk about dreading it, I don’t dread it. When I get home and automatically change into shorts and running shoes, the run happens. Sometimes it doesn’t go well, sometimes I don’t enjoy it, and sometimes I end up walking most of it. But I got out there. And the next time I get out there I might have an amazing run because of that not-so-fun run. I also know that consistency is the only thing that is going to give me progress. I cannot make sustainable gains in running ability or in health over night. This is a huge, long, and often painful process. Consistency allows me to form good habits, find what truly works for me, see results, and continue the process of bettering myself. The marathon will be over on October 18th, but the battle for greater health and wellness will indeed rage on.
- Mentality: No one cares that I’m doing this. Literally, not a single person. I am the only one I’m doing it for, and I am the only one that suffers or benefits from it. No one cares if it takes me 8 hours to run the marathon, or if I finish, or if I even show up. No one cares, and no one is forcing me to do this. In fact, everyone is probably pretty annoyed that I’m still talking about it! It’s a challenge, and it’s one that I’ve put myself up to, so I might as well enjoy it as much as I can. It’s amazing that my body didn’t start recognizing what I was doing from last time and completely shut down (girl, you said we weren’t doing this again and I believed you). I appreciate that I have the ability to do this, and that I have been blessed with health and an able body. I am going to take advantage of it. I might even learn something about myself in the process.