26 lessons I’m learning through marathon training {Part Two}

Well, it’s been a while! I know I said I’d periodically update during marathon training…but nobody should be surprised that I didn’t 😉 Good intentions count for at least something, right? 😛

At least I’ve come back to update with the part two of this series {26 lessons I’m learning through marathon training} seeing as the race is 10 DAYS AWAY (September 27, 2014)! Phew!

To read about my journey chasing that 26.2 mile dream & hear about what I’ve learned through training for my first marathon, be sure to check out my previous post .

Without further rambling (don’t worry, there’s plenty of that below), here is the second installment of lessons learned during training for my first full marathon.

14. Sacrifice is necessary. You can’t do it all, physically or mentally. Though there are many runners out there who log far more training hours than those who are marathon training, it is still a lot for the average person to juggle training with other life commitments. It’s time consuming…more time consuming than I anticipated. I have to make a plan of when I can fit my training in. Most days, that means 4:30 am before school. Sleeping in on Saturdays? Not during this season of life. Saturdays are long run days, made for early wake ups and hitting the pavement before temperatures rise. The first thing I had to consider making weekend plans was when I would fit my long run in. {And expecting me to be useful after a 20 mile training run? I wish I was superwoman, but we won’t talk about how I useless I feel after long runs!} Because you can’t possibly do it all (no matter how hard you try), you have to figure out your priorities. Something has to give a little in order for you to be able to give it your all in your training commitment. For me, I had to reevaluate my priorities. The area I was most willing to “give a little” (aka lessen my standards) ended up being housework. I hate messes. I like clean. But I found myself unable to maintain an immaculately clean place—and I had to learn to be okay with that! That laundry pile will still be there after I return from my long run. Breathe, Molly. It’s okay. Go anyway. Of course, we ended up moving smack in the middle of my peak training where the mileage was the greatest. So yes, I will admit that our apartment is rather unsettled. Functional, yes—decorated and fully unpacked?—that’s a different story. It certainly drives me crazy sometimes, but it will get done post-marathon. There’s no need to stress myself out about that silly stuff, especially when it doesn’t bother my husband.

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goal of mine that I’ve had to table for now is reaching my goal weight. Though I am pretty close to my goal, training has caused me to plateau, and I’ve been unable to reach that number. But that’s okay, because training is my focus right now! Contrary to popular belief, most people actually gain some weight while training for a marathon. Your body gains a lot of muscle (which contributes for some of the gain) + your appetite HUGELY increases (I call it “runger” and having the “runchies”). Crazy, huh—running all of those miles yet not shedding any pounds (and many times gaining some!). All worth it, though—this journey is far more gratifying than any silly number, anyway. I know my day will come, eventually—I will press on towards my goal and get there when I’m meant to, post-marathon.

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15. Your confidence will grow…and so will your humility. When you work so hard for something and experience small victories along the way, it is natural for your confidence to grow. I know I say this often, but I honestly never dreamed of a lifestyle that involved running—much less willingly running. I am proud of the sacrifices and hard work I’ve put in to get to this point. Some days I feel on top of the world from training. I am proud of these bulging leg muscles that I’ve earned with each mile and workout. Sweating has never felt better! But also, I’ve never felt more humbled. Some runs are just AWFUL. You really question yourself and your abilities…you discover your weaknesses. Training is grueling, and it reveals both your strengths and weaknesses.

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16. Nothing great ever comes from your comfort zone. How cliché does this sound—but this journey has revealed the TRUTH of this! Running 26.2 miles still scares me. But I’ll keep pushing because that’s where the magic happens. How will I ever grow and change without leaving my comfort zone? You don’t know what you’re capable of until you push yourself to try. The mind is more powerful than the physical body. You can do so much more than you think you can—you just have to push yourself and dig deep enough to continuously do so. I have discovered that whether I think I can or can’t, it is true. If I don’t think I can manage to get through my run today, I let the weakness of my mind win. If I tell myself I can and will, I am training my mind to be stronger—and I succeed.

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17. Setbacks are a part of the journey. I mean, I knew going into this that I should anticipate some setbacks. But truthfully, I didn’t anticipate the magnitude of some of these setbacks—or the nature of them. Injury is common when training—more common than I thought, but the toughest setbacks were always mental! I dealt with the dreaded boot when I developed tendinitis (from overuse/overtraining), but fortunately I only had to wear the boot for a little over a week. One of the biggest setbacks was having to take nearly an entire week off from training due to sickness. I thought I had just gotten a cold from the students at school, but it developed into something fierce—sore throat, no voice, congestion, cough, stomach issues, throwing up, fever & chills—the whole nine yards. I ended up having to miss one of my 20 mile training runs because I was in the thick of being sick, and if you know my perfectionist tendencies, this caused me so much anxiety. However, I have had to learn that REST & RECOVERY are just as important as running. I’ve also had a few horrible runs, including one where I ended up having to cut it short and call for a ride home while in tears. Bad times happen. The critical part is deciding to not give up because of a setback. Sometimes courage is that small voice inside of you saying “I will get up and try again tomorrow.”

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18. Perspective. Glass half full, half empty—we all know that life is a matter of perspective, and training is no exception. Treadmills can be your best friend or worst enemy…it’s all about your perspective. They can help you avoid the heat, save you from the suffocating humidity, pouring rain, or cold temperatures—or they can cause you to go crazy from boredom. They can be your avenue to speed work and hill work when you don’t have ready access to hills or a track—or they can be your worst nightmare. It really is about perspective. I have to remind myself of this constantly, especially since I’ve done a lot more treadmill running lately since school has started back up (I have yet to invest in a headlamp to feel comfortable running in the early morning darkness).

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19. Community. Seeking out support, advice, and wisdom from others who are interested in running and who can empathize with the journey you are on is a key factor in maintaining motivation. Never underestimate the encouragement other runners can provide! I have been so blessed with new friendships from this experience. Running friends are truly the best—they will keep you going when you feel like quitting. And trust me, you’ll probably feel like quitting at some point!

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20. Muscles matter. Incorporating strength training into your regular training routine may seem like a no-brainer, but initially when your motivation is 100% for running, it can be hard to discipline yourself to strength train. That was at least the predicament I found myself in. I was in the “honeymoon” phase of training where I just CRAVED running; taking precious running time away to strength train was a turn off. However, strength training provides a plethora of benefits—improved performance (I’ve been able to improve my pace by focusing more on strength training), a break from running, less susceptibility to injuries, and getting stronger in general! Now, as I’m nearing the end of marathon training, I would much rather strength train than run (but that’s another story for another time). I have become ADDICTED to lifting…I love it! The stronger you are, the better you feel.

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21. You can do 30 more seconds of anything. When it seems like running to that next stop sign is impossible, remember that your body can withstand pretty much 30 seconds of anything. Remembering this has helped me train my mind to DIG DEEP and stay tough. The mind becomes much stronger just as the body grows stronger. That was definitely the most underestimated part of this journey…the mental facet. Running has become 80% mental and only 20% physical for me.

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22. Learn to enjoy the journey, not just the finish line. I admit, on many of my long runs, I had gotten so wrapped up in just FINISHING that I’ve failed to fully enjoy each mile. Each mile is a GIFT. As cliché as it sounds, I have to remember that there are many people out there who aren’t able to run but wish they could. And I have to remind myself of the blessing of running that all the time, especially in the midst of some painful moments.

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23. The dreaded running slump is harder than I imagined. It is normal to become burned out with running. HOLY MOLY HAVE I EVER EXPERIENCED THAT!!! 🙂 From what I have read and heard from others, running slumps are very normal. Passion naturally tends to ebb and flow throughout the training process, and I did expect that—but not to this magnitude. Running turns into a requirement rather than an escape or a hobby, and I expected that to a point. But there were literally a few weeks during training that the last thing I wanted to do was run. I would have rather done nearly any other physical activity—it was that bad. Sometimes to get through a slump, it is best to take a little time off to recharge and remember why you started. However, I found that even just small changes to your routine helped combat the running slump. Changing your running route (city vs. country roads vs. treadmill, etc.), adding new music to your playlist, finding a running buddy, setting small goals with rewards…I tried it all. Some helped more than others, but they all helped! When the slump got really bad, I found myself searching Pinterest for inspiration and encouragement to keep going. And pathetically enough, that helped. 🙂

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24. Food is fuel. You’ve probably heard that phrase before, but training has taught me just how much our food choices affect the body’s ability to function well. Healthy eating is a lifestyle of mine now, so that wasn’t a huge change, but I did develop a further appreciation for how food nourishes our body. If I made poor food choices the day before, I usually felt the effects of that on the next day’s run, and vice versa. Exercise does not give you a free pass to eat whatever you want (even though some days I wish it did!). In fact, it makes it even more imperative to fuel your body WELL if you expect it to exercise well. Food isn’t just calories; it consists of precious nutrients that strengthen or weaken our bodies. Quality matters over quantity of food. Some days I feel like I have never eaten more in my life, but I am learning to listen to just what my body is needing. I am all for the occasional treat and indulgence—know that for certain!!—but I have come to also truly crave the nutrients and energy food can give us.

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25. Allow yourself to be a beginner. This is something that I struggled with throughout training…I have only just begun to grasp this in the past week or two. As a recovering perfectionist, I always feel like I have to perform 110%. Having grace with myself is difficult, but giving grace to others is no problem. As the marathon date loomed closer and closer, I found myself battling some anxiety. Of course, some of this is perfectly normal as it’s my first marathon—most people would be anxious and nervous. However, this anxiety felt more than the expected amount. I realized it’s because I’m so afraid of not performing at a top-notch, respectable level. I’m afraid that I will disappoint others and myself with my pace. I’m afraid that I’ll feel like less of a runner if I have to walk during any point of the race. The list goes on and on. Thankfully, my husband and other friends have helped me grasp just how ludicrous my fears were. I just started running a little over a year ago. I’m about to run a full marathon. Most people don’t do this. How could I be a disappointment? Who cares what my finish time is or if I need to walk at some points throughout to finish strong? I’m not trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon or even break a personal record. Regardless, this WILL be a personal record! But even more, what an experience to embrace! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or place too much emphasis on pace. Yes, challenging yourself and improving your pace can be good, but if you constantly worry about your pace and obsess over the small details (like I had been doing), it can suck the joy out of the journey. Focus on finish lines rather than finish times. The experience will be happier and more gratifying!

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26. Do the work and leave the results to God. No one is sure to have a good race. Depending on the day and numerous other factors out of our control, you can never predict how race day will go—or how any run will go, for that matter. I have given my best effort through training and done what I can, but ultimately, the outcome is up to God. That’s why I plan to do my best on race day and leave the rest to God. I will trust Him to carry me to that finish line. Run for His glory rather than your own, and then thank Him for whatever you’re able to accomplish through His strength. This might be the most important lesson I have learned—if only I had learned it sooner.

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To sum it up, marathon training has been absolutely life changing in ways I never could have anticipated. I will forever cherish the hardships and successes I experienced while chasing my dream. I am thankful for my friends and family who have supported me in this endeavor, and most significantly, I am thankful for God who has been my stronghold through it all.

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“Keep your dreams alive. Understand that to achieve anything requires faith and belief, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe in JESUS.”