Thursday, March 14, 2013

26.2: Training

The journey to 26.2 miles is a long one. It is a journey characterized by discipline and dedication. Self-doubt reigns until a "can do" attitude insists the new goal ahead is attainable.

"BEGIN MARATHON TRAINING" is written in my date book in bold, red letters.

I began my training on October 30th, 2012 with a 3 mile run. I decided to follow Hal Higdon's "Novice Training" with the goal of simply finishing a marathon. My training plan was 18 weeks of running four times a week.

The first nine weeks of training was all familiar territory to me. The maximum distance was 13.1 miles. I had run multiple half-marathons and knew this distance was very doable. I had never run 13.1 miles as a training run so I was a bit doubtful about how I would perform. I remember enjoying the experience on a gorgeous, sunny day two days before Christmas. I ran the distance at a quick pace and was pleased with my accomplishment.

It was two weeks until I was scheduled to run a distance of 15 miles and I was looking forward to the new challenge when I came down with the flu on January 4th. After the initial agony of realizing I just had to let the virus run its course, I began thinking I had been defeated. As I recovered, I was filled with so much self-doubt I almost convinced myself the missed training runs would be insurmountable.

My sweet husband and a few friends convinced me otherwise... I was so thankful for their confidence in my ability. I was slow-going for a couple of weeks after my recovery but knew I had to "get the miles in" to be able to reach my goal of completing a marathon.

The day I ran 18 miles (my maximum training distance), I began my run slowly. I started trying to talk myself out of running the full distance on that brisk, sunny Monday. I had almost convinced myself to stop at 9 miles and run 18 on Wednesday... when I realized I wanted to say out loud, "I just ran 18 miles!" and I kept running. I finished the run feeling stronger than ever. I had defeated my own doubts and accomplished a seemingly impossible goal!

The last two weeks of training, mileage decreases because the runner starts "tapering" before the marathon. At this point, an 8-mile run felt like 2 miles. I felt so strong. And fast. And healthy. I was also full of anticipation. I didn't doubt myself any longer. My children asked, "What if you don't finish?" I told them, "If I have to crawl, I will finish the marathon."

And, I did.

The most amazing aspect of training for and completing a marathon is what it tells you about yourself. It sets before you what feels impossible. The training challenges not only your physical ability but your mental ability. For me, there was also a spiritual component. I needed to know I could complete this goal. Training for a marathon allowed me to know myself better. It brought out my strengths and my weaknesses. Training empowered me and defeated me. In one run, I could be totally broken down physically, ready to surrender to the pain and exhaustion... but my mind would say, "You can do this! You're almost there. Don't stop!"

Several of my runs were shared with my sister, Mandie, and my friend, Stephanie. The bond between us remains even after our races are finished. We rejoiced in our success and we suffered through our failings. We journeyed together.

I challenge you to go for the seemingly unattainable. I started running seven years ago at my husband's recommendation. At first, I slogged through one mile. I hated running. I told my husband, "Who cares if running adds an average of seven years to a person's life? You spend all those extra years running!" He smiled at me and said, "Just go. Just move. Just run. You will learn to love it." He was right. He had already experienced the thrill of running a marathon and completing an Ironman.

He knew all that I still needed to learn. I'm thankful he encouraged me and believed in me. Now, I believe in you.