September 19, 2010

EXPECT to BE a MARATHONER

On Friday morning, I ran my second of two long runs while visiting South Florida. I wish I could say both runs were awesome, that I felt great, and was optimistic about the marathon after completing them. But I can't.

The first of the two long runs was 13 miles last Sunday. Even though I started out at 6:30 am, it was hot, ridiculously humid, and I felt like quitting by mile 3. I wanted to turn around and run home and when I realized that I needed to push through what I was feeling and run 10 more miles, I started to cry. I continued and finished my 13 miles, but returned home feeling defeated.

Friday's 11 miles weren't much different. Again, it was ridiculously hot and humid. Again, I wanted to turn around and go home, this time at mile 5. Even though I started out with a fuel belt full of water and gatorade, I was out of fluids by mile 8 and didn't know how on earth I would finish. After a rather unpleasant experience trying to find a water fountain I could use at a snobby local tennis club, I was lucky to sneak onto some other courts and get some water to finish my last few miles. But they were a mix of both walking and running, something I've never had to do.

I don't remember training for last year's Philly Half being so difficult. In fact, it seemed so easy. I didn't follow a schedule and didn't really plan how many miles I would run. I just listened to my mind and my body, and headed out for runs a few days a week when I felt like running. Sometimes I ran 3 miles, sometimes 4, 5 or 11. I ran the entire Philly Half with a huge grin on my face and felt like I was on top of the world for the entire race.
Phily 2009 Start
Big smile & wave at the start at the Philadelphia Half Marathon in 2009.
I remember seeing my parents at mile 6, watching them jump up and down screaming my name as I ran past them with a huge smile and a wave. Back then, mile 6 felt easy. So why has mile 6 felt like torture for the past 2 weeks?
Phily 2009 Mile 6
Still smiling at Mile 6!


I've been doing everything right. Following my schedule, eating and drinking what I'm supposed to. I've even been going to bed at a reasonable hour. So what gives? I racked my brain trying to come up with an answer, a solution, anything at all to help me figure out how I could get back on track and get my head back in the game. Aside from my running schedule and mileage, what is the most significant difference I can find between last year's and this year's training? And then it hit me: my mind! Maybe it's the fact that my head isn't in the game!

If you had asked me what I thought about while I ran last year, I would've told you I thought about how incredible it would feel to cross the finish line. Last year, my running thoughts were always happy. I often found tears in my eyes but not because I was miserable and wanted to go home; I would get really emotional at the thought of how strong and accomplished I would feel to cross the finish line. How proud I would be of myself. But this year, my mind couldn't be in a farther place. My last few long runs have me thinking how difficult it's going to be to run for so many hours. What if I can't do it? What if I can't breathe or my knee hurts or if I just plain fail?

Um, Erica, hello? It's no wonder my runs have been so defeating! I'm not even giving myself a chance to succeed. Instead, what if I thought less about how difficult it would be to finish the Marathon and thought more about how awesome it will be to run those 26.2 miles?

So new plan:
1- Expect to finish the Marathon on November 21st, 2010. No, not just finish it: finish it STRONG with a huge SMILE on my face.
2- BE what I want to be. I AM going to BE a MARATHONER. No doubt. Know that it will happen.
3- Have FAITH that failure is not an option.

Believe it or not, I am actually looking forward to my next long run. Next Sunday, I will run 16 miles back on my home turf and I will LOVE it! It will be the longest I have ever run and I will RUN HAPPY, I will FINISH STRONG, and I will BE a MARATHONER in training. And then I'll come back here and blog all about it so stay tuned....

13 comments :

  1. Funny! I just wrote about adjusting my goal of running a marathon today. Off for five or six miles now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sounds like you've been going through a slump but you WILL be better now that you acknowledged it. 16 next week will go great and our half will be amazing and fun!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great attitude! You're right...it's so much more mental than physical. Don't burden yourself with "what ifs". You WILL finish, and you WILL be a marathoner. Heck, if I can do a marathon (with the longest finishing time ever recorded in the history of marathons! Yet I am a marathoner nonetheless) then you can do it. And it's ok to walk some. Tons of people do, especially in a full marathon. Train strong and finish strong!

    ReplyDelete
  4. You will be a marathoner! Your positive attitude will see you through with a huge smile!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Your focus is sure the main challenge of the day. You are a tough athlete. Don't underestimate the impact your recent career move, vacation, climate adjustment and family visit has had on your training schedule. You will get back on track next week, re-focus and finish STRONG!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great that you are focusing on your attitude.. Running is such a mental sport!
    You are going to do GREAT! Keep running strong and keep up that wonderful attitude! You WILL be a marathoner! --and it'll be the most amazing feeling ever :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. The training is tuff and is so worth it. That's what makes accomplishing the marathon so amazing. After you've finished your race you'll look back at all the effort it took to get you there and you'll know it's you that made it happen. Keep up the great work.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Visualization makes such a great difference! Lately my running thoughts have been happy, too, and my runs have been bliss. Listen to your body and HAVE FUN!

    ReplyDelete
  9. aw you'll be awesome! no one ever said it would be easy so there will definitely be those ups and downs, but soooo worth it in the end. you'll be forced to have a good attitude on marathon day ... tons of people will be cheering for you and you'll have an amazing time! (i'm actually getting a wee bit emotional as i write this thinking about that feeling!) good luck on sunday! oh and p.s. thanks for the gluten-free diet pep talk :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wrote a whole long comment that got erased so I'll be brief:
    1. maybe last year's experience less typical, normally highs, lows and blahs through training.
    2. don't underestimate the weather, no matter how positive your thoughts. You mentioned florida and humidity...
    3. Yes, the mind matters and seems like yours is in a great place

    ReplyDelete
  11. There is no doubt in my mind you'll finish the Marathon strong and with a trademark photogenic smile. You got the right attitude and more than enough willpower. While training for my first (only this past June but it seems like an eternity ago) I had runs where I wanted to give up, puke on the sidewalk, and go home (sometimes all 3 at the same time) but in the end, all those runs and emotions help you get stronger. Perhaps in no other sport is this so apparent as you will spend 4 to 5 hours 'alone with other people' and believe me, that is a lot of time. My tip is basically keep the good feelings, forget (suppress) the bad ones during the race and it will help you go on when every single atom in your body is screaming for you to stop.
    Secondly, even a 5 degree difference in temp and humidity can really affect you A LOT. And since you said it was hot and humid, well, there you go.

    ReplyDelete
  12. marathons are mostly just mental, and i'm so glad you recognized that!! your body can do it-you just have to make sure your mind is on board to! and it is SO worth the training and effort! the runners high when you finish the race is like no other! good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you EVERYONE for such incredible encouragement & support! I read & re-read all of your comments the night before I had to run my 16 and they really helped me get thru the run. I wish I could figure out how to reply to and thank each of you individually!
    You all continue to remind me how incredible the running community is and how lucky I am to be a part of it. Much love & respect to you all :)

    ReplyDelete