Last week, was week 1 of my 18 week marathon training program. I selected an intermediate plan, because I felt the 18 weeks of training would allow me to build up my mileage at a consistent pace, with keeping my injury risks low.
Week 1 called for a total of 24 miles and the longest run was 8 miles.
It was a dose of reality for me. I have gotten used to not running on a schedule. For the last few years, I’ve not trained for anything specific. I ran when I wanted to. Whatever mileage I felt like doing. I averaged anywhere from 5 to 15 miles a week- give or take. Planning out an intermediate schedule, a few months ago, was quite different on paper, and seeing the mileage thinking, “I can do that,” to actually running it with exactly 18 weeks for training.
I dawned on me I have very little wiggle room. I can skip a short run here or there, if I’m extra tired, or sick, but the only way to really be able to run a marathon, is to get out there and run, on the days my plan calls for a run, and to run the distances. If I want to meet my goal, it doesn’t matter if it’s hot outside, or raining, or colder, or early, or later, or if there is a party I want to go to, or friends to see- I have to run the miles.
I had several doubts this week, and questioned if I really want to do this. Can I really do this? Am I committed to it? What am I willing to do, sacrifice, give up, in the next 18 weeks, to meet this goal? I had all these questions and not a lot of answers. But I decided to do my best to stick to the training plan for week 1.
I ran the 8 mile run on Saturday. It was about 93 degrees outside when I started my run. I actually like running somewhat in the heat. It’s a great endurance builder. I headed out to a lake, which I thought had some shade. Three miles in to the run (2 miles to get there, 1 mile of running around the lake), I discovered there was no shade, and it was HOT. I was running the slowest I’ve ran in a long time, with 5 miles still to go. I brought no water with me either. I do that too- I’m good up to 10 miles with no water in normal conditions. I didn’t really think this run through too well. I was able to stick my feet in the lake, with my Vibram minimalist shoes on, to cool off my feet, and that seemed to cool my body a little too.
But mile 4, 5, and 7, were probably three of the hardest miles I’ve EVER ran. The water in my shoes were now rubbing on my toes, and I could feel blisters forming on my toe, and bottom of my foot. The next 3 miles felt like 300. I thought, “I don’t need to do this. I can walk home, and be done. I’ll make up the mileage later.”
I seriously considered doing this, all during mile 4. I was hot, miserable, and not enjoying a minute of running. I was very close to stopping. But something wouldn’t let me. I knew if I stopped now, it would be too easy to stop next time it was hard. While I don’t think I have to suffer to run, I do think I build mental strength when I have to push myself, and that is more than half the battle.
The quote for this blog post came in my mind, several times. The full quote is,
“The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy… It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.”
My body was screaming at me to stop. But somehow, I found a way to let my mind take over. I stopped thinking about the heat, the pain, the blisters, the sweat pouring off of me, the sun, the crazy looks I was getting from people sitting in the shade, and I focused.
I started thinking that I really do want to run a marathon, and not only run it, I want to excel in it. I have a specific goal for it too. That wasn’t going to happen if I quit today. The difference in achieving my goal or not, will be my training and what I do in the next 18 weeks. That didn’t include me stopping my run because it was hard.
Then I had the thought that if I could finish the next 3 miles, I knew without a doubt, the first 8 miles of the marathon would not be this hard. I would have achieved a major mental edge.
I started on the return in mile 6, and took a wrong turn, and ended up having to run up an 11% grade hill for 2 blocks in the sun, in mile 7. It was excruciating and so hard, but I thought this will make me strong. I’m going to do the hard work now, and come November a marathon will seem easy.
After getting up that hill, the rest of the run, I ran much easier until my Garmin beeped at mile 8. I have never been so happy to have finished a run. It was exhausting mentally and physically, but I had done it! I didn’t quit, and I made my 24 miles for week 1!
As I was turning off my Garmin, I saw my time: 1.25 hours. I thought that had to be wrong. It felt like I had been running for 3 hours. I checked it later, and it was right.
It made me really excited because that is the slowest I’ve run in a long time, but I realized if I ran that today, in a marathon, I’d be just over 4 hours for 24 miles. Since this was such a challenging run, I felt pretty confident I could run 24 miles at a much faster pace, so I’m in really good shape and feel great about where I am after one week.
Thinking about that run, it made me see how much I do want to succeed at this. Every hot, sweltering step I ran on Saturday, was bringing me a step closer to my goal.
My training plan calls for 560 miles in the 18 weeks. I can’t know for sure, but I think I ran the hardest 8 miles out of the 560 on Saturday. I achieved so much more this past week than logging miles. I found out for myself how much I want this. What I’m willing to do. How far I’m willing to go. I found the answers to my questions in those 8 tough miles. The answers are, I have 536 training miles left to run, and one way or another, my mind and the will to succeed, will find a way to run all 536 of them.
17 weeks to go…