“Any idiot can run but it takes a special kind of idiot to run a marathon.”
When it comes to working out, running, eating healthy – all of it – I tell it like it is. Sure, I always try to see the upside of things but I don’t shy away from the struggles and “suckfests” that come with living a healthy lifestyle.
In the past, I’ve blogged about the less-than-glamorous side of running and have been open to all the quirks and crap that can come with being a runner. Let’s face it, running, while great for the body, mind and soul, isn’t all rainbows, unicorns and smiling selfies. There are plenty of awful moments that come with it.
I think people need to know both the good and bad. No one deserves to be blindsided. It’s like, I hope people tell me the real, ugly truth about being pregnant and having a baby, not all the happy bullshit of “It’s such a miracle.” “Pregnant women glow.” “Childbirth is an amazing experience.” Oh please (insert eye roll). Can I get a #cmonman?!
So I’d like to talk a bit about the truth of training for your first marathon (much of this applies to those of you training for your first half marathon too so please read on). Those who have decided this is the year they’ll run their first full or half, that’s awesome. Whether the race is this spring, summer or fall, there’s plenty of time to make that goal a reality.
You already know you’re going to have to commit a lot of time and energy to running, that’s a given. But there’s a lot more that goes into preparing for a run of this caliber.
The Sacrifice Goes Beyond the Miles
The comments I most often hear from non-marathoners are always related to the mileage. From the, “You did a 16 mile run today?” on a Saturday afternoon to the, “I can’t even run a mile without stopping,” when you log a typical Tuesday night 10k. And my favorite, the disgusted, often horrified looks when they find out a marathon is 26.2 miles.
Yes, running a long way without stopping is obviously a huge part of full or half marathon training. But there’s more to training than just covering a lot of miles in one run. The commitment and sacrifice that enables one to do that is much larger.
I’ve had to forgo Friday nights out on the town for girls’ nights, birthday parties or random acts of fun. I regularly miss out on post-work happy hours. I’ve had to skip weekend trips out of town to see friends or family. And it always sucks to have to tell people why. Most don’t understand why I’m making the choice, and it’s the worst when they feel like it’s personal to them, like I’m not going because I don’t want to hang out with them. I get it, I wouldn’t understand either.
The simple truth is, if you want to succeed in a goal of this size, running has to be your first priority. Making sure you get in the weekend long run and log all your weekly miles, plus any speedwork, hill training or other specialty running – it can be frustrating and exhausting. But when it boils down to it, it’s just a sacrifice that one has to be willing to make.
It’s Not Just About You
Speaking of the sacrifice, it doesn’t all fall on you. Yes, there’s a lot of personal investment in training for a full or half marathon – unless you have a running coach constantly with you, no one is going to force you out of bed for early runs or make you head straight to the gym after work to hit the treadmill. But others feel the effects of your quest more than you think, especially if you have a significant other and/or children. I blogged about this last year in an effort to recognize and thank my manfriend for putting up with all the crap that goes with my personal goal.
Here are a few of the fun (actually, not fun) examples others have to deal with:
• You’re frequently tired and ready for bed by 9, even on weekends – not fun for others.
• You’re always hungry or, worse, hangry – really not fun for others.
• Your top priority and main focus in life becomes running – definitely not fun for others.
• Rest and nutrition are extremely important so social commitments often have to go by the wayside – obviously, not fun for others.
And, probably the hardest thing others have to deal with is seeing you on the bad days. When you have an awful run, when your knees hurt, when you’re ready to throw in the towel – it’s tough for us, imagine how hard it is for someone you love to see that.
Your Appetite Will Astonish You – And Controlling It Is Hard
Did I mention you’re always hungry? It’s amazing how much food runners can put down to begin with and add all the extra calorie burn, suddenly your appetite rivals that of an NFL lineman. You feel like a bottomless pit, you rarely get full and, even if you do, it passes quickly. During the height of training, it’s not a terrible thing if you can reign it in to a reasonable amount – but that’s so much harder than it sounds (you’ve heard of people who actually gain weight training for a marathon? It’s true and this is why). The worst part comes post-marathon when you’re no longer burning all the calories but your appetite hasn’t yet reset to non-marathon status. Let me tell you a little story to illustrate.
One summer, a friend and I went out for breakfast a couple weeks after we had both run a marathon. When I casually ordered the French toast platter AND an eggs and hashbrowns combo meal, and he proceeded to order two items as well, the waitress looked at us like we were messing with her. We both assured her we wanted two breakfasts and, more importantly, we would finish all the food. Her look then turned to disgust, primarily towards me, the smaller and female offender in this ridiculous display of excess. The food arrived with a smirk; I’m sure she was thinking to herself there was no way in hell we’d finish it all. Well, we did. And it was glorious. And I think she judged us worse for it than if we wouldn’t have finished. Our photos are probably hanging up in the kitchen like common criminals in the post office.
So yeah, you’re gonna eat a lot.
You Will Question Yourself More Than You Ever Have
If you feel you’re a mentally strong person, that’s good – keep that as long as you can! Because there will be plenty of times during training where you’ll feel defeated and like you can’t go on; where you think you should just give up because you’re going to fail anyway. The good news is, these moments typically pass quickly, although there will be at least one run that is so awful, so unbearable, so out-of-the-norm that it makes you break down and cry (I’ve blogged about this before but it’s worth repeating because it will happen). Whether your speed isn’t there, you feel like you can’t finish the last five miles or your brain has finally woken up and realized this crazy thing you’re doing, there will be plenty of moments that shatter even the most confident person.
That’s just some of the ugly stuff, the mental stuff, that I think a person should be aware of when they decide to make this kind of commitment. So why do people do this? I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t worth it. It totally is.
There’s no greater feeling than finishing a tough run or crossing the finish line of your first marathon. It’s empowering. It’s the kind of rush you can’t get unless you actually do it. It can be tough to endure weeks and months of hardship for just the one moment but don’t forget: Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.
Do you have any horrific stories to share about training for your first marathon? It’s best to get them all out there so please comment with yours!
Those of you training for your first race, shoot me any questions you have on Twitter @runlikeagirl311.