I concocted this list after my rookie 26.2 in 2011. It was a powerful experience. The last few miles were so seemingly impossible and I was so thankful to be done. DONE. However, I hadn’t even made it back into my house that afternoon after I finished before I turned to my husband and said, “You know I want to do that again sometime, right?” To which he replied, “Can you wait until the kids are older?” It’s not insignificant the sacrifices made by my family while I’m logging miles…and hopefully two years constitutes “older” enough. I don’t even have to cross the finish line this time before I can already say…”You know I’m going to want to do this again, right?”
26.2 things I learned from training for and running a marathon…
(in no particular order of significance)
1. Double-caffeinated Espresso GU makes a reasonable substitute for coffee on an early morning long run.
2. You should never shave in unmentionable areas the day before a long run. Seams chafe in the most uncomfortable places.
3. BodyGlide, GU, and Nuun (or pick your other favorite brands of similar products) ARE worth the money.
4. Training for and running a marathon will make you feel weaker and more defeated than you’ve ever felt.
5. Training for and running a marathon will make you feel stronger and more invincible than you’ve ever felt.
6. There are no words to express how important the companionship and support of running buddies are in the training months.
7. Identify the person who motivates you most…that person you don’t want to ever see you give up. Plant him or her somewhere between Mile 23 and 25.5 of the marathon course on the big day.
8. Letter the shirt you wear on race day in HUGE letters with your first name – it’s amazingly powerful to hear complete strangers shouting encouragement to you personally! For an extra boost, make eye contact with that random stranger who believes in you and who is cheering for you by name as you run by.
9. Identify a person or purpose to which you are especially deeply committed. This is the person or purpose you need to remember for the last few miles of the marathon. For me in 2011 (when I ran on the “Run to Stop MS” charity team and dedicated those miles to her) it was my Mom…who could never run and who died too young. Even though she would have thought I was nuts to train for and run a marathon – she would have been there if she could…not yelling (she only yelled when she was mad at me, which seemed to be often when I was a kid)…but watching with tears in her eyes.
This time around, although my Mom is always close to my heart and in my mind, these training and marathon miles are for my Dad (and I’m running on the ALZ Stars charity team, raising money for the Alzheimer’s Association in his memory – PLEASE consider a donation in honor of him and in support of me!). My Dad never missed ANYTHING I participated in…he was at every volleyball game, every band concert…I know he’d be along the marathon route (in his lawn chair with his Diet Pepsi and purple balloon at Mile 17!) if he could. And in my mind, he will be.
10. Identify several other highly motivating people who are willing to donate several hours of time to catch a glimpse of you breezing (or shuffling, depending on which mile marker it is) by…you can NOT have too many supporters on the big day. Know where to look for your cheerleaders, if at all possible. Have them tell you which milemarker and which side of the course to look on. Nothing worse than missing a friendly face screaming encouragement at you!
11. The training miles, cross training and strength training will give you confidence and toned muscles like you’ve never had before (and that you won’t want to ever lose!). Indulge in something nice that shows that off. No guilt.
12. Carbs, protein, and more carbs are your friends. Never let an opportunity pass you by to eat more carbs.
13. Your perspective on many things will forever be changed once you train for and finish a marathon. It’s a metaphor for many things in life…you’ll have time to contemplate that on the myriad of long runs.
14. Find your perfect pre-long run or race breakfast and don’t mess with it. For me, it was a PB&J on oatnut bread with a banana. On marathon morning, I doubled that before I left home…and there was still plenty of time to digest and hydrate before you corral up.
15. As hard as it is to get your arse out of bed early, there is nothing like watching the sun rise while you run. Takes your breath away (literally and metaphorically).
16. Enlist all the support and encouragement you can. Make sure those closest to you (who will be making the biggest sacrifices to support the time and effort it takes you to train) are on your side. The people who have supported me in my training, whether joining me on a run, or simply making it possible for me to carve out time to get in a run, mean the WORLD to me!
17. Blog, journal, or post your thoughts throughout your training (and save them).
18. Never throw away your marathon shoes. You won’t be able to look at them without your eyes welling up with tears after you cross that finish line. For good measure, leave that marathon timing chip on them too.
19. Don’t expect to get in a good post-marathon run for quite some time after you run 26.2. Take a full week COMPLETELY off. Slow and easy after that – it took me almost a month before I felt like I could have two good runs in a row (on subsequent days) at a pace I wasn’t ashamed of!
20. Find a running buddy for the marathon. If you don’t have one lined up beforehand, make a friend (or several) in the starting corrals. The first 10 miles that I ran by myself went by pretty easily (it was only 10 miles, after all!), the next 10 were also pretty easy because I had someone to talk to. Once I lost my running buddy at Mile 20 (because I had to take a pit stop), the last 6.2 on my own were tough, very tough. Refer to #7 and #10. BUT…don’t waste TOO much energy talking or gesturing…you need all the energy you can muster.
21. You will become an inspiration to many, although you won’t feel worthy. There’s something incredibly empowering and humbling at the same time about completing a marathon – I still haven’t figured that paradox out.
22. Carry a few supplies with you: iPod stocked with the MOST inspirational songs you can imagine (but use earphones ONLY in case of absolute motivational emergency. You want to hear and experience every sound on marathon day). Little bit of Kleenex or tissue (you will most likely need a pit stop, and there may or may not be any in the port o potty!). Water (if you’re used to running with a handheld bottle or hydration belt – bring it. There are plenty of water stops, but even when they’re located every mile towards the end, it might not be enough. I was SOOOO glad I ran with my belt!). GU/chews/energy shots (you can also have friends have them ready for you as you run by. I started with 4 GU packets, consumed 4 GU packets, and finished the marathon with 5 GU packets – you do the math!).
23. Make sure you have friends and family take pictures along the way – last time my friends were actually kind enough to snap pictures and post them to my Facebook wall so people could keep up with my progress. I LOVED that!!
24. Don’t let your head win. It will tell you somewhere between Mile 20 and 25 that you’re crazy and you can’t do it. You know better, so don’t listen to those nasty voices inside your head.
25. Give high 5s and sweaty hugs to your friends and family along the way. Until they run a marathon for themselves, they have NO IDEA how important it is to have people out there cheering for, you, but you can show them (and no one complained about my sweaty and stinky hugs).
26. Run the tangents – if you run the middle or the outside of the course, you’ll rack up extra distance that adds up. I ended up running 26.6 miles – and 26.2 is more than enough!
.2 (arguably the most important 385 yards of the whole deal)
You have proven that you can do anything that you set your mind to and train your body for. Anything is possible. Enjoy every minute and give thanks that you’re able to do it. A mind and body that will train for and finish a marathon are things that should never be mistreated or taken for granted.
19 days. Twin Cities Marathon, I’m coming for you. I’ll be ready.