When Kali asked me to post about running I was pretty surprised. I hardly consider myself an expert and since she and I know each other in real life I thought SURELY she knew I'm not a "real" runner. I had this thought while out for a training run for what will be my second full marathon on October 20th. Hmm...SECOND marathon you say? Ok, maybe I am real. But I think what I mean is I'm no expert and not even close to elite but for the beginning runner it can be nice to hear things from one of us "normal" marathoners. I'd like to think I have a good perspective on the normal person's guide to running that the Deena Kastors, Shalane Flanagans and Ryan Halls of the world can't quite understand.So here are just a few tips for how to go from thinking about a 5k to toeing the line at a marathon.
For starters, do NOT sign up for a marathon because someone told you it would be fun. That person is lying. If you are a normal person you're looking at roughly 4-6 hours of running to finish a marathon. That means 4-6 hours of constant moving, probable chafing and generally beating the hell out of yourself. And for what? A t-shirt? A medal? Bragging rights? If those things aren't a big enough deal for you (and for most people, those mementos aren't enough once you get into it) then you need to dig deeper and figure out why you want to do it. Keep in mind that there is NOTHING wrong with running 5ks and being happy there. Some runners are about distance, some are about speed, some are about both and some are about none. Running is for you and once the Marathon Monster moves in you'll really learn a lot about what you're made of. The good, bad, ugly and stinky. Even if you have a training partner, there will be times when you're alone, calculating how long you can hold your bladder because the thought of moving from the couch ALLLLLL the way to the bathroom is more painful than your hill repeats and you'll wonder what you're doing it for.
Morning of my first marathon. You will stand at the starting line with some sort of overuse ailment
The best way to decide if you're ready for a marathon is to try to talk yourself out of running one. Once you tackle every possible reason why you SHOULDN'T run it you'll figure out what it is that makes it worth it. When and if you finally do take the plunge, you need to get savvy on some accounting. How much time are you willing to devote to this little hobby of yours? Training for a half marathon takes X number of hours per week. Training for a full marathon is probably 3 to 4 times that many. It seems like you'll just double the amount you run and be fine but that would be incorrect. You see, your half marathon long runs will now be mid week fartleks (p.s. learn some marathoner lingo...runner-lese?) and those need to get done on a Wednesday instead of those carefree Saturday mornings. For example, when training for a half marathon your runs may be something like 3 miles, 5 miles, 3 miles and a long run of 8 miles. If it takes you an hour or less to go 5 miles, that's not a huge time commitment during the week and spending an hour and a half on a Saturday morning to run 8 miles is perfectly reasonable but when it comes to marathoning you are likely to be looking at a 5, 8, 5 week with a long run of 16 miles. That hour or less after work has now become closer to 2. Is that reasonable for you to expect yourself to do? Your Saturday morning has just turned into a 3 hour run give or take. More importantly, you're going to need just a smidge of TLC and maybe a nap after the long ones. Do the kids have soccer practice? Are you a Friday night drinker? Do you just like to enjoy your Saturdays in general?
Saturday morning training run about a month ago.
There's also the actual monetary accounting. The range running shoes survive is somewhere between 300 and 500 miles. You will need to buy GOOD, QUALITY running shoes and probably more than once. These babies ain't cheap but if you're expecting to put in hours at a time in them, the Stride Right brand from Payless just won't cut it. In addition, you'll need to factor in the cost of clothes as you'll quickly learn that being able to ring out your cotton t-shirt a quarter of the way into your run is not only inefficient but also gross. In come tech shirts and chafe free shorts and if you're on the side of thunder thighs (i.e. ME) you'll be investing in some of that lovely body glide as well. And then comes the fuel. Not only the food and drink you'll need for your journey (26.2 miles is every bit as far as it sounds) but also the rest of the time you're awake. Oh yeah, and how are you going to carry it? Burning over 1000 additional calories a day and even 2000++ for a long run, (the average 150 pound athlete burns roughly 100 calories per mile says some scientist) really leaves you wanting a snack...and another...and one more...and then another...and then a meal...and dessert....and a snack. If you're at all familiar with my blog, I call this the Marathon Monster. He basically sits near your stomach and collects all the food you send down and somehow throws it out the window leaving you constantly wanting more. He also wants you to sleep. A LOT. We're talking that recommended 8 hours a night. The Monster doesn't care if you've made dinner plans or want to watch Grey's Anatomy, he will fill you up and knock you out. And it will be the best sleep of your life.
Have I talked you out of it yet? You'll notice I didn't actually write about any training tips. There's a reason for that, I'm not a coach. If you want to ask me my personal take on things like long run preparation, nutrition, or even how to fit it all in feel free to ask away! Even with kids, even with work, even with a life, you CAN make a marathon happen. But you have to want it. My story goes, middle school cross country runner, quitting for roughly 5 years with no running at all, a pledge to do a marathon by the time I finished college, a year of 5ks, year of 10ks, year of half marathons and by year 4 the 2010 Derby Festival Marathon. I finished, but it wasn't pretty. In fact it was so miserable I quit running again for another 2 years. And look at me now! Back at it again, second marathon, up more half marathons, a few more 10ks, countless more 5ks and a couple of triathlons. As much as I'll trash talk training for a race (and trust me, I do!) there is absolutely nothing like it. Even walking your first mile brings a sense of pride that I've never found anywhere else and it gets to be something that's entirely yours.
To answer the "How" question...I got nothing. If you don't want it, you won't do it. My greatest advice would be to seek advice! I have never met an endurance athlete (and yes, that includes YOU now) who didn't want to give advice. Even the jerks, even the fasties, even the slow pokes and even the pros (including my new possible pro triathlete coach...). We all have words of wisdom that is our own and that is passed down and you can literally learn something new from every single person. Make it work for you. No two people are alike, no plan is perfect for everyone and no tip is universal (except to avoid chafing at all costs...everyone can agree to that).
Be sure to thank Kali for her great week of kontributors (Kali...are you bekoming a Kardashian?) or yell at her if I've royally wasted your time and feel free to stop by the Ville (virtually or in real life) and see what's going on in the world of training!