The Marathon: What This Runner Has Learned

November 17, 2007 at 10:12 pm | Posted in Marathon Suggestions, Reflection | 12 Comments

I am a firm believer in self-reflection.  You know, objectively evaluating your performance, attitude, ability, preparation, etc.  Maybe I overdo it, (I’ve often been told that I over-analyze myself, my relationships, my performance) but I feel that reflecting helps me grow as a person. 

Reflecting on one’s marathon experience is essential, especially if another marathon is in the plan.  After each of my seven marathons, I’ve spent a great deal of time pondering over what I did wrong and what I did right.  This time, I’m considering the ENTIRE marathon experience, which, in my mind, includes training.

  • Training needs to be balanced. You may be scratching your head right now, but don’t worry, I’ll explain what I mean.  When you train for a marathon (especially when you train with a time goal in mind) you must strike the perfect, delicate balance between hard and easy runs.  Let’s face it, the only way you’ll get faster is to practice at a faster rate.  But speed work should be done once a week, not several times per week.  At the height of my training, I was running an “easy” 8 miles one day, followed by 10 miles of speed work the next, followed by another “easy” 8, followed by 10 miles of hill repeats.  Add racing and long runs with the last 7 or 8 miles at goal pace, and you’re looking eye-to-eye with an injury.  (Trust me on this one!)  An easy day should at least a 1 minute per mile slower than your 5k pace and should be no longer than 6 miles.  
  • Running a marathon while injured is STUPID!  That’s right, I said STUPID!!  Worse yet, it’s idiotic.  Lucky for me I’m no worse off than I was when I began the race last week.  But I really took a risk running 26.2 miles with an injury. 
  • The first 5 miles of the marathon should be used as a warm-up.  I’m not suggesting that you run at a 10 minute pace for 5 miles if your goal pace is 8:00 per mile, but I am suggesting (as Tom suggested to me) that you run your first few miles 20 seconds slower than your goal pace.  This allows your body to conserve energy to run the latter miles faster.
  • Have a nourishment plan.  I chose to wear my hydration belt for the marathon and would do this again.  I emptied 6 packs of GU in my GU flask; however, I don’t think I even ate 2 packs.  I simply forgot to eat the stuff!  This was, perhaps, one of the dumbest things I did last Saturday.  A MARATHONER MUST KEEP NOURISHED AND HYDRATED!  In fact, I hardly drank water (I know, you’re shaking your head right now).  What I did do was drink Powerade (it was provided along the course and I carried it in my water bottle).  Thank God I had the good sense to do this otherwise I could have landed in the hospital.
  • Have regularly scheduled walk breaks worked into your plan.  Some folks walk for a short time at each water stop, others walk every 10 minutes.  Whatever your preference, practice this strategy during your 20 mile training runs and don’t veer from it on race day!  (That is, until the final 10k IF you’re feeling up to it.) 
  • Have fun!  This I did right.  (Phew! I can finally give myself a pat on the back!) While running Richmond, I slapped every child’s extended hand, chatted with people I met along the course, studied the scenery, and smiled.  It was wonderful.  In other marathons, I focused so intently on pace, goals, form, etc that I didn’t take time to enjoy the whole experience.  This time I did, and I’m glad I did.
  • Run a marathon with people you know.  Richmond marks the 5th marathon that I ran alone (without friends or family, that is).  Trust me, it’s lonely.  My first marathon I ran with 5 other local runners and we had a ball.  We all traveled together, stayed in the same hotel (separate rooms), carbo loaded together, waited for each other at the finishline, and then drove home together.  There’s nothing like having a support group!  Some folks who work at my local Fleet Feet are talking about taking a van to Virginia in the spring to run the Shamrock.  Count me in!

I’m sure I’m forgetting something here.  If you’d like to add to my list, please do! 



October 17, 2007 at 10:01 pm | Posted in blogging, friends, Marathon Suggestions, Training | 4 Comments

Well, tomorrow is decision day regarding my participation in the Columbus Marathon this Sunday.  To those of you who’ve never experienced an injury prior to a marathon, be thankful, very thankful.  The months of grueling track workouts, hill repeats, 21 mile runs with the last 7 at marathon goal pace, tempo runs in 88 degree weather are poof! seemingly up in smoke. 

I am happy to report that I went for a 4.4 mile run this afternoon and had very little pain; just the first several steps of my run were very slightly painful.  Really, the pain was insignificant.  On the downside, my legs felt fat and heavy and my mind tired.  Now, if I rest completely, and I mean not even a mile of running, I think I could finish Sunday’s marathon.  However, my goal for the past several months has been to qualify for Boston.  So, do I go to Columbus just to run and not focus on qualifying?  Or do I wait a few weeks and run a November marathon? 

If you would kindly voice your opinion, I would be ever so grateful.  Also, if you have any helpful website you’d like to suggest, I’d welcome your suggestions with open arms.

Thank you to my friends Tom, Amy, Bella, Mary, Kathy, and JP for checking in on me, even if it’s only periodically.  Some of you have sent me emails daily inquiring about my physical and mental health.  You’ll never know just how very much your compassion and concern for me has meant.  It’s great to know I have friends!

In case you’re wondering, my total miles run to date = 1513.65.  I guess that’s something to be proud of, anyway.

Marathon Mistakes

August 24, 2007 at 7:47 pm | Posted in Marathon Suggestions, Racing, running | 4 Comments

I recently received an email from Complete Running titled “10 Mistakes to avoid on marathon race day” and I thought that it was a pretty comprehensive list.  After reviewing the list, I realized that I’ve made many of these mistakes in some of my last marathons.

I thought those of you training for a 1/2 marathon, marathon, 30K, or ultra marathon might benefit from my paraphrased version of this list.  (Okay, I’ve changed several of the points entirely!)

10 Mistakes to avoid on marathon race day

1. Eating anything for your pre-race breakfast you haven’t eaten previously before a long run.

2. Arriving to the race with less than an hour to spare.

3. Wearing any clothing in the race that you have not run over 13 miles in. (Yup, that means no beautifully coordinated, brand new outfits!  Been there, done that, BIG mistake!)

4. Starting without double knotting your shoe laces.  (Or, putting a lubricant product on your feet in hopes of not blistering.  I actually did this before a marathon without ever having tried it, and my feet were such a mess when I finished that I had to wear slippers to work for a week!)

5. Vowing to run the entire race with your running partner.  Trust me, it usually doesn’t work!

6. Eating too little the day before the marathon.  Okay people, (and I’m probably talking to ladies here) this is no time to watch your carb intake.  Wolf down those bagels and that pasta (careful with the sauce, though) and enjoy every bite!  Your body will thank you at mile 22.

7. Sight-seeing the day before your race.  Again, I did this in Washington, D.C. the day before the Marine Corp Marathon and I was exhausted the next day.

8. Drinking an electrolite-replenishing drink other than what you drank during your long runs.  Find out well in advance of your marathon what they serve on the course and try it out during your long runs.  It’s important to know if your system will be able to digest the beverage easily or if it will make you sick. 

9. Forgetting to carry GU, Power Bars, or some other form of nurishment with you while you run the marathon.  AND do bring at least one extra GU pack, etc.  You never know if you’ll need it!

10. Waiting too long to drink during the race.  My coach recommends drinking every 2 to 3 miles small amounts of liquid.  This is one of those things with which you have to experiment.  The point is, have a plan for drinking!

If you have anything to add to the list, I’d love your suggestions!  Happy running! 🙂

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