How does it feel when you train for something for 5 months and then the universe gets in the way of that goal? Not as crusing as some of you might think.
Back in December, I decided to take the plunge and start training for a full marathon. With some family in Nashville, and a very cheap race entry fee for the Rock N Roll Nashville Marathon, it only made sense to go for it. I wanted the experience of training for a marathon. All the (literal) blood, sweat, tears. All of it.
Luckily, the training program at Fleet Feet for the LA Marathon lined up pretty well with my training plan so I decided to jump in and become a mentor. Nashville was about 5 weeks after LA so I wanted to do the buildup with FFSB. All I needed to do was adjust the long runs a little, develop a good base and get through a couple solo long runs. Training for this thing wasn’t going to be easy so I wanted to surround myself with encouraging people to help me get there.
Training for this marathon was the first cycle where I really felt results from what I was doing. My weekly mileage had a steady increase and had 1-2 decent hill or speed workouts per week. AND I actually looked forward to the long runs!
Even through the first few weeks, I knew training with this group was going to be a blast.
I had been running trails for so long that I forgot how fun it was to the roads. I saw so many parts of LA that I would never have seen if I hadn’t run with this group.
3 or 4 weeks in was when I really started to feel the payoff. I could get through the first 8 miles of a run with ease. I remember on my first 15 miler almost bursting into tears at mile 11 because I still felt fresh. It might have had something to do with all those endorphins too… My legs were adapting to the training and I my mentality was commited to keep pushing myself.
If there was one thing I learned while training for this beast:
TRAINING FOR A MARATHON IS VERY TIME CONSUMING AND A HUGE COMMITMENT.
If you’re not willing to spend most of your time running, cross-training, eating and sleeping during the 4-5 month training cycle, don’t bother trying. Running a marathon is crazy hard and it takes a huge amount of time and mental capacity to take on. Having a good support system is also key. Having friends and family who have an understanding about the amount of work going into acheiving this goal is very important. You’re going to have to forego that occasional birthday brunch or concert because you have 18 miles to run and you won’t want to do much else afterwards. And that’s ok.
Before I go on- quick shoutout to my amazing training partner and co-mentor ZHARA. She kept me going through many of those tough, painful miles during those 15+ mile long runs and she was essential. Probably couldn’t have done this without her!
Note: Now that I type this, it’s also key to find a good person to run with. Solo long runs are realllllllly tough to get through. Add ‘training partner’ to that support system.
After all the long runs, hill workouts and post run burritos, the LA Marathon was upon us. And the training for those running the race had come to an end. At this point, I had made so many AMAZING new friends. Training for a marathon together brings you to a certain level of ‘close’ that you don’t really get with other friends. Casual conversations about pooping, puking, boob sweat, spitting and salt stained faces come up often and you realllllly get to know the people you are with. And that’s ok.
Right before the last long run of the training cycle (I think it was a 22miler and 18 for me since my race was still a ways off), we all huddled together for one last pow-wow before we started. Countless Saturday’s of build up, many double digit runs were behind us. This was the point in the training where it was time to DO this thing. If we could run 22 miles, we could do 26.2. Simple as that.
And sure enough, everyone finished that long hot 22 miler and we were ready to be marathoners.
In the weeks that followed, everyone who went out to run LA Marathon FINISHED IT. I was so happy and proud to have watched all the amazing people I had mentored snag that goal and bask in the glory. It was so inspiring.
And then it was my turn.
The toughest part of this training cycle was the final month leading up to my race. I needed 2 more pretty solid long runs in order to really feel ready and I would have to run solo. I set my sights on that imperative 22 miler. I planned out a strategic route dropping me back at my car every 6-7 miles or so for food, water and fresh clothes if need be. I woke up at 6am and went to work.
Again, I can’t say how lucky I am to have such a wonderful support system here. During my first 6 mile loop of this 22 mile run, my good friends Erick and Katria joined me before they needed to head out for a wedding shower. Rocky followed me in his car during the second 7 mile loop. (Big thanks to Amy Poehler for keeping my mind at ease with her fantastic book ‘Yes Please’. SO FUNNY. )
After the first 13 miles of this run, I was starting to feel it. I’ve found that no matter what kind of shape I’m in, getting through the 10/11 mile mark is always really tough. My legs start to tighten, stomach doesn’t want to eat and my mind starts to get bored but somehow I always find a second wind. I landed back at the car again to refuel and that’s when I saw my amazing friend Steve gearing up for a run. He decided to join me as well which was unexpected but it turned out to be exactly what I needed. His company made a HUGE difference and my legs had a little spring in them again. THANKS STEVE!
I remember hitting 20 miles on this run and thinking ‘Holy crap, I just ran 20 miles!!!’ That was a big moment for me. I had a little over a mile left on the bike path back to the car. I was almost done. I blasted some QUEEN and kept telling myself to keep moving foward. No matter how slow I was going, just keep moving forward.
Done. 22 miles done. At that point, I knew I could run a marathon.
And that was it! I was ready to do this thing. So many miles, so many weeks, so many gels, pretzels, jelly beans, pop tarts went into training for this thing and it was time for the payout.
A couple of weeks out I started to look at the weather report for Nashville. In April, it really could be rainy, super hot, super cold…. WHO KNEW. At this point it was looking to be kind of thunderstorm-y and somewhat hot. I started looking into tips for running a marathon in the rain but as the race got closer, marathon day was shaping up to be very hot and very humid.
About a week out, Rock N Roll sent out this ‘heat advisory’ email with details about what to do in extreme heat and if need be, the race officials will pull us off the course if it gets to be too hot. My first reaction to this email was ‘ehhhh they’re just saying this because they need to cover themselves in case something happens’. But after going to the expo and they had signs posted everywhere about the heat, I started to think this could be a real issue.
Quick Note: We had an AMAZING winter here in SoCal. The massive amount of rain and cool temps brought us FANTASTIC running weather. But that amazing winter didn’t give me the training I needed to get through 80+ degree temps and 85% humidity. At this point, I had to start to prepare myself for a different outcome.
Without getting into a whole long race recap, I’ll just do a quick overview. When I walked outside at 5am that morning, it felt like the jungle. It was 5am and I was in a tank top and shorts and didn’t need anything to stay warm. The air was so thick and sticky and that was the first red flag. The next major red flag was the amount of sweat beading down my face during the first MILE. I think I knew right there this wasn’t going to happen. I wanted a STRONG marathon finish, not me literally crawling across the finish line after 7+ hours of suffering and me absoltely hating running and never wanting to do it again.
Even with these thoughts going through my head, I still pressed on. I wanted to see what happened. Maybe a we’d be blessed with a little rain. HA RIGHT BAHAHAHAHAH
Long story short, at mile 11 the race officials cut us to the half marathon course. There was a split where the marathoners stayed straight and the half turned right. I was running with a couple of other girls at this point and as we approached this split, we saw a bunch of cops and race officials moving across the road. They basically coned off the road here and forced everyone to make that right hand turn.
As soon as they told us this, I breathed a sigh of relief. They had made the decision for me. Even if I wanted to finish this thing, I couldn’t. Knowing myself, I probably would have pushed through the awful, sticky and hot conditions and either hurt myself or succumed to heat exhaustion. It was so bad. It felt like I was running through a sauna and I was doing everything I could to keep myself comfortable. Dousing myself in water, drinking gatorade, stuffing my sports bra with ice and nothing was working. There was no avoiding the heat.
It wasn’t worth it. So, I didn’t get my marathon finish. No medal, no offical time.
Back before the race when I started to have doubts about the weather, I looked up other marathons in the area within a week or two and see if I could jump in and still make the training worth while.
But then I thought about the $150+ race fee. And for what? A medal? An ‘official finish time’?
I realized I was already a marathoner at heart. And I didn’t need the medal or the finish time to reflect that. I’m sure all of you have heard some form of the saying “Life isn’t a destination, it’s a journey”? I know I’ve seen countless mugs, hallmark cards and pinterest quotes with a version of that quote.
I wasn’t about to make the bad weather ruin my journey to becoming the runner I am now. 2 years ago, running a 10k felt like a huge struggle. Now I’m running 20-30 mile weeks on a regular basis because I want to. If I hadn’t decided to take on that training program and really go for this goal, I wouldn’t have met the incredible people along the way. I wouldn’t have had those breakthrough moments at mile 11 with a runners high feeling those hard workouts start to pay off. I woudn’t have had that essential 22 miler where I surprised even myself at how I managed to do this.
It’s not about the finishers medal, it’s about the journey getting to that mindset knowing I can run a marathon. And that’s all I really need.