When I signed up to run the ING New York City Marathon back in March I really didn't know what I was getting myself into. I was intrigued by the marathon and wanted to give it my best shot. I pictured myself doing all the things that I thought marathons did, like ice baths, foam rolling, compression socks. I thought if I acted the part then I would be a real marathoner. The problem is, nothing ever goes according to plan. Even after finishing the Harrisburg Marathon I still don't feel like a marathoner. I don't even feel comfortable calling myself a runner yet. Despite all this, I learned more than I could have ever imagined. I think it is important to write down these things so I don't forget them the next time around, and hopefully they provide some help to others. So here we go.
1. Long runs will end up consuming the entire day
I lucked out in that I could do my long runs on Friday since I didn't have class and then have the rest of the weekend to do weekend things. The trail that I did my long runs at was anywhere from 30-45 minutes away depending on traffic so that added 60-90 minutes to the whole trip total. The actual runs lasted anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on how long I was running plus a few minutes here and there for switching out my water bottles. I would have to wake up early in order to eat breakfast in plenty of time. Then after the run I often would take a nap because I was tired. My day would start at 6:00 and I wouldn't be back to the apartment until 1:00. This ended up working out for me since I had no Friday classes but it sure took up the entire day.
2. Expect setbacks during training
The month of September was pretty rough for me. Instead of really pushing myself and getting into the heart of training I had to take a week off from running to rehab a strained quad muscle. Even before that week I had backed off of training quite a bit to try to relieve some of the pain. Then I had to ease back into training. I didn't really plan for anything to go wrong and so the rest of my training was messed up. I did the best I could for the rest of training but that setback really messed some things up. I am now allowing for setbacks in my training so that if something does go wrong it won't greatly affect my race.
3. A running partner is a wonderful luxury
I did almost all of my training by myself and I was fine with it most of the time. I truly like running by myself so I really didn't mind it. It was the long runs that really got to me. I was constantly doubting myself and I often cut runs short because I thought I was doing terribly. For my last three long runs I asked my dad my bike alongside with me to keep me company. What a difference. The time flew by and I knew I couldn't bail out early. I still don't have anyone to run with though (hint, hint anyone who lives in Baltimore County).
4. Long runs are invaluable to training
Due to my minor injury in September I got behind on my long runs. I did two 14 milers, a 15 miler, a 16 miler and a 20 miler. Next time I want to do a lot more long runs to get more comfortable running for longer distances. While my training did get me across the finish line in under 5 hours I know I can make significant improvements with more endurance training. I also think it's important to do some longer runs during the week to held build endurance. My brain hasn't quite caught up to my body so I kept thinking 7-8 miles was too much plus a long run but when I did try it I did absolutely great.
5. Bad runs are just a part of the program
At the end of the summer I wrote a post about how I had been having some really great training runs. I most likely jinxed myself because I had a whole slew of bad runs throughout September. Bad runs are annoying but they will always happen.
6. Strength training and other forms of cross training will help keep you healthy and happy
When I first started marathon training I was also training for a triathlon. I ran 3-4 times a week, biked twice, swam once, did yoga 1-2 times and did strength work 2 times a week. I saw great improvement in every area and I felt great. Once school started and I was pretty much only running I strained a muscle in my quad. I don't think that was a coincident. I put so much importance of the actual running that I neglected to do anything else. Not again.