Today I have Marathon Training Brain, so that’s what we’re going to talk about.
In December of last year, I finally “qualified” for the 2012 New York City Marathon. I ran nine New York Road Runners races, I volunteered at the New York City Marathon Expo, and I was finally — as the three-times-a-week emails reassured me — “in.”
But the marathon, which is on November 4, always seemed so far away.
It still seems far away now, but my inbox is flooded with NYRR emails reminding me about the marathon (I know, I’m in, please cool it with the emails, we have plenty of time here), and fellow runners are starting to think about training plans, goal times and race day outfits.
OK, maybe not race day outfits. That must just be me.
I want to wear red.
I don’t have a training plan set yet, and I don’t know what sort of weekly mileage I’ll be looking to throw down. I don’t know if I’ll do two or three 20-milers throughout training, or if I want to go for a 22-miler, which I know some people choose to do. The actual training numbers aren’t my priority.
Before I can map out a training plan — and by that I mean before I have someone else do it for me, because no one should take my advice, ever, and I should not be allowed to make a training plan in hopes of race day success — I need to get my brain ready to go. Most times it’s not my body that holds me back when I’m racing — it’s my crazy little brain and all its irrational thoughts.
So while yes, my big New York City Marathon Goal is to run a sub-4 hour race, I have lots of other goals to help me get to that point.
Now is the part where I tell you those goals:
Back off at signs of injury. After a tiny brush with injury this winter/spring, I know I don’t want to be back in that dark, scary, emotional, I-will-kill-everyone place. I know that aches and pains during training are inevitable and most times they are nothing to worry about. But if something feels more injured than sore, I will back off, take days off as needed and basically not be an idiot.
Stretch. Foam roll. Yoga. Ice. I always say I’m going to do these things. I bring my Stick to work with me, and it just sits on my desk, feeling sad and neglected. I really need to be better about stretching after my runs, foam rolling once or twice a day and making it to, like, one yoga class a month. That seems reasonable.
Don’t obsess over every single run. Sometimes a run is just a run. Sometimes it means nothing. Bad runs over the course of 16 or so weeks are inevitable. So are good runs. I think it’s important to evaluate and analyze the important runs, but every single one is not worth a scientific dissection. There are times when I can pinpoint the reason behind a bad run: I did a strength class the night before (I’ll never learn), my stomach was acting up, I drank a bottle of wine for dinner instead of eating food. Then there are times when a run just sucks. That’s OK.
Run with faster people. This includes Coach Cane’s Thursday night running group, which I am scared of, and my fast fast friends. I feel fortunate to have so many speedy humans in my life, and I think I need to take advantage of that.
I’m always afraid of holding people back, or going out to run with them and not being able to carry on a conversation as I huff and puff and they cruise along at a “comfortable” 7:30 pace. But running with these people will make me stronger, faster and more hardcore. Right? So friends, can I tag along? Gian, maybe next time you win a race and a trip to Portugal, I can try to hang on to that 4:50 pace for a few seconds? (J/K, me and my cowbell have other plans.)
Man up and register for some races. I haven’t run a race since January. I haven’t raced a race since December. Honestly, I’ve been scared. I’m scared of going out for a race and doing a bad job, and being slow, and feeling disappointed. But I need to get over it. When did I become such a little wimp?
Last night I finally logged onto some sites with grand plans to click that tempting little “Register Now” button. Maybe tonight. Somehow last night’s “Register Now” pages turned into “Click here to submit your order,” and it’s weird because instead of a race registration I now have a pair of purple running shorts coming my way. Oops?
Spend a decent amount of time outside my comfort zone. I run comfortably almost all of the time. I need to let it hurt a little more. I need to not fear the numbers on my watch, and not force myself to slow down when I’m supposed to be doing speedwork or tempo runs. Pushing is good for me.
Focus on my training and no one else’s. Ah the comparison trap. Let’s save that for another day, OK? But this is an important point, and one I need to remember.
Everyone is different. Some people can handle very high mileage. Some people can run marathons every weekend. Some people only can — or choose to — run three times a week. So when Long Run Saturday rolls around each week, I need to not log on to Twitter and panic when I see that a fellow NYCM runner is doing a 20-miler the same weekend I’m doing a cutback week. My training is my training. My training is what will get me to the start and finish lines. Your training is fun to read about and stuff, but your training does not affect me.
Don’t race my training. Guilty as charged. I do my long runs too fast. I love knowing that I can hold an 8:44 pace (slightly faster than my marathon goal pace) for 15 miles.
I have been told over and over to save that shit for race day, and yet I keep doing it. Why? Who am I trying to impress? I don’t know. Can I just say it’s “because I’m new to running” and you’ll let me off the hook? Great, thanks. I need to slow down my long runs. I like doing the kind of long runs that end with a few miles at marathon goal pace. I also like having someone smarter tell me what to do instead of trying to figure it out myself.
Maintain perspective. It’s just a race. Yes, I’m going to put everything I have into running a strong race in November. But I’m not a professional runner. I’m not getting paid to do this. I do it because I enjoy it and because it’s fun. How I do at the marathon does not determine my overall success or happiness in life.
Remember that most people do many marathons before finally reaching their goals. This will only be my second marathon. I read so many blogs and talk to so many people who ran track in high school and have been distance running for years. I didn’t even run my first race — a 4-miler — until four years ago. I’m still so new to this sport, and I need to remember that and keep my goals in check. I’d love to shave 14 minutes off my marathon PR, but I need to prepare myself for if that doesn’t happen. I know I won’t give up. I know there will be more marathons.
So those are my goals for now. What do you think?
Oh also remember I have no idea what I’m talking about. I guess a lot. I’m not a coach. I’m new. These are my goals, not necessarily ones you should adopt for yourself. That’s your friendly weekly disclaimer reminding you “don’t do what I do.”
Basically, I want to train smartly, I want to stay healthy and I don’t want training to be stressful. I want to run, I want to love it, I don’t want to burn out and I don’t want to over-think things and obsess over them.
Get ’em while they’re there. I Heart Sweat shirts are on sale now at iheartsweatapparel.com. If the size/color combination you’re looking for isn’t available in the drop-down menu, it’s not because “my site is broken.” I assure you the site is not broken. (Right, Brian?) It’s because that size or color is sold out. Sorry.
And because I promised a giveaway winner, congratulations to…
Madi, you’re the proud (I hope) new owner of a hot little I Heart Sweat shirt. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your preferred shirt size and your mailing address. I hope you love it!
Happy shopping, happy sweating!
NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT TRAINING: If you’re gearing up for a fall race, what’s on your mind? Thinking about goals? What’s most important to you right now?