05 14 2015.

what i’ve learned while marathon training

It’s hard to believe how fast the last 5 months have flown by. It’s even harder to believe that I’ve been training to run a marathon for five whole months! I don’t think I’ve ever commit myself to anything so thoroughly. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that in just a few days, I’m going to be lining up behind a timing mat in Eustis, about to run my first marathon. I’m so excited! I’ve been giving myself motivational speeches and listening to energizing music. I’m so ready for this.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting these past few days. Being so close to the end of Sugarloaf training, I have a lot of thoughts about how my training went and I realize that I learned a lot. I learned so many things that I didn’t expect to learn – and I’ll be the first to admit that I read many many many marathon blogs, race reports and reflection posts. So I’d like to share this before I run the marathon, since I know I’ll have a whole lot to say after as well.

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I stopped questioning my alarm clock. Some workouts just have to be done in the morning before work. That means a 5:00-5:30 wake up call. After 5 months of morning workouts, I learned to just get up with my alarm. Eventually, my body actually adjusted to the new alarm time and 6:00 became my normal weekend wake up time. I haven’t hit a snooze button since 2014.

I learned the value of a good night’s sleep. Sure, it’s fun to hang out well into the night with friends – but when I’m getting up before 6:00 every morning, I definitely feel the pull of the warm bed come 9:00. I always thought that I was some kind of anomaly and that I could function very well on little sleep. I learned very quickly what training on 4 hours of sleep felt like versus 8 hours of sleep. Suddenly going out at 9 (my new bedtime) isn’t so appealing.

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I was hungry. I read a few “what to expect while training for a marathon” blog posts and this one popped up frequently. I knew it was coming, yet I was really underprepared for just how hungry. I wake up and I want breakfast immediately. Then I think about food and plan my next meal from approximately 10 minutes post-breakfast until 10-minutes before I fall asleep. No amount of food ever seemed like it was enough. So I just learned to eat. If I’m hungry – eat. As long as I was making healthy decisions about what foods I put in my body, I gave myself a free pass to do it as often as it was necessary. I’ve had a few training runs where I felt hungry the whole time and it was awful! I opted for stronger, nourished, and maybe a few pounds heavier – over fatigued, weak, and smaller.

A “bad” run doesn’t equate to a bad runner. There were a few times where both my mental state and my physical state were tested to their absolute limits. I wanted to quit my run so badly. I felt like a terrible athlete, and even worse, my body felt like it was so underprepared for the workout. Yet I knew that none of that was true. A day or two of recovery or cross training workouts and my next run would end up being stellar – better than ever! Bad runs happen. They’re not indicative of what race day is going to be like. Though it’s hard – try nearly impossible – to convince myself of this during the bad run, I just have to remember that I’ll be stronger for the struggle.

I had to make compromises. Training for a marathon is an all-consuming kind of thing. I knew that going into it. Training meant that I had to cut social events short, opt out of certain things – and even give up day hikes while training. I was someone who had a full schedule before I started training so I had to compromise on a few things and put other things on the back burner. I don’t regret any of this one bit – in fact, I’m happier that I had a schedule determined for me – one that I just didn’t dispute.

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I needed a team. Marathon training can be a lonely venture. I found out pretty quickly that my training runs – tuned specifically for my pace and sprinkled with striders, hill climbs, etc – didn’t fit so well with run groups in the area. I joined up with the group runs a few times after starting with my training, but found that I ended up running alone anyways to try to get my timing just right. I learned that the best kind of team that I could have would be in the form of support. I came to appreciate when friends and family members understood why I needed to leave early, arrive late, or that I couldn’t show up all together! I’m especially thankful when they’d work around my schedule for social events. Marathon training can be frustrating for both myself and my friends, so I was so grateful that I had a few trusted individuals who allowed me the flexibility that I needed to maintain a well-balanced social life and personal life.

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I love running alone. When I began running a few years ago, I ran alone. I knew barely anything about pacing myself or running in general – so I hated it. It took running in a group setting to really get me motivated. Until I began marathon training, I still preferred running with a group of people. After almost 500 miles of training runs, most of which were run solo, I can say with absolute certainty that I now love running alone. It’s become such a meditative time for me – my happy place. I really get in the zone and my thoughts just roam free. While I still look forward to the (rare) occasion that I get to run with some friends or my mom – I’m a solo runner at heart.

Trust in others. I’ve always been a Type A kind of person. I felt that as long as I was in control of a situation, everything would work out – from group projects back during my school years to micromanaging my own training. Taking the leap of faith and allowing someone else to determine what my training looked like was a huge step for me. Without Coach Kelsey, I never ever would have trained as hard and as honestly as I have. I never would have entered the pool. I never would have run 10 miles of Yasso-800s. I never would have PRd my last half marathon. Trusting that my coach was training me, specifically, really was a breakthrough. And it’s worked. Here I am – less than 3 days from my first marathon and I know that I’m ready.

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Trust in myself. Prior to marathon training, I didn’t have a lot of faith in my ability to handle certain things running-wise. I didn’t trust that I could fuel just before or during a run. I didn’t trust that I would enjoy long runs. I didn’t trust that I would see a five-month training plan through until the end. I didn’t trust that my body would respond well to running long distances regularly or even that it would recover from them just as well. I learned that I am capable of things I haven’t even fathomed yet. My body has endured five months of the hardest physical training it has ever been through and without complaint. I have so much confidence in my body’s ability to run that I know – one way or another – I will cross that finish line.


3 Comments

  1. Karen Raymond

    I can’t wait to see you run this weekend! You have inspired me in many ways…not just with your running but with how you have grown so much in just a few years! You have gone from a pretty sedentary person to a marathon runner! ( and you have a few Tri’s under your belt too)! I’m a very proud Mom !

  2. Nikki

    Kelsey

    You are going to do great! I am so proud of you and I can’t believe that this weekend you will be running a marathon. Make sure you get your thermal blanket as a souvenir!

  3. Wow-your mom learned how to post a comment. i expect to see some from her on my blog now! Great job on all your training and good luck this weekend.

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