I’ve spent the last 18 weeks training for my first marathon this Saturday. Was I ever in doubt that I could do it? No! When I decided to run it, I did so in my own self-confident and almost flippant kind of way. I was never worried that I could finish, I just said “Yeah, I’ll run a marathon or two next year.” After all, I’ve done some pretty big things in my life without hesitation. Along the way, however, I began to doubt whether I would even make it to the starting line. Now, in the final week, doubts are creeping in again. Little pains and lingering injuries are reminding me that I don’t have a bullet-proof body. At the end of the day, however, I need to trust the training that’s gotten me this far.
When I started, 6 miles was a long run, now that number is 20 +/-. I previously didn’t want to do anything but action sports, now I can run for hours at a time and not get bored. I have definitely seen drastic improvement and a change in myself.
Going into this race, here are just a few things I have learned.
1. The first step to achieving something big is taking the first step. I rarely set personal goals. I’m the kind of person who decides to do something and then goes and does it. I’ve stated that I will do things like write my first book (still haven’t), marry a beautiful woman (ok, I already did that), learn another language besides English and Spanish (still working on it) along with some other big things. Saying you will do something and actually doing it are two different things. It takes a first step to begin the process and the longer you delay that, the more unlikely you will achieve your goal.
2. You can’t BS a marathon. Related to the first point, running is a sport that you can’t BS your way through. You can talk about your abilities and accomplishments, but the timing chip doesn’t lie. Few people see or even know the hours of hard work that I’ve put in during pre-dawn hours day in and day out. There is nobody out there at 4:30 or 5 am to impress. My family isn’t impressed when I talk about a hard tempo run, or a quality speed workout. My daughter, for example, spotted a “jogger” on the way to school who was probably running slower than I can walk. ”Is that what you do?” she asked with a hint of disappointment in her voice. Kind of, but faster. She wasn’t impressed. The only way I can prove that I’ve actually put in the work is to show up on race day and perform. BTW, she was very excited when I brought home a first place award in my division for my first Half Marathon. ”Don’t get used to it” I said to myself.
3. Setbacks will happen, but perseverance pays off. As I began to increase my mileage, I suffered from shin splints, knee pain, calf strains and tendonitis. I also got injured so badly on a long run that I was forced to take 5 weeks off of running. During that time I saw a physical therapist who did painful things to my legs and I fought back my fears of not being able to compete in the race I had been training for. Instead of quitting, I attacked the gym with a vengeance, keeping my aerobic level the same or higher than when I was injured on the elliptical, bike trainer, weights and arc trainer. My first week of running after this period was extremely painful, and I felt like my legs were learning to run all over again, but eventually I found that my perseverance during the rehab time was paying off.
4. A plan is important, but so is flexibility. While I’m usually anything but a plan-follower, I’ve tried hard to follow my training plan. I get up at an insane hour of the morning to get my planned workout in so that I don’t run the risk of getting too busy to do it. I know that without a plan I would be doomed to just doing what I feel, and wouldn’t have as great a chance at success. Because of injuries (and life), I’ve also had to adapt my training schedule several times. If I’m feeling like my body is going to sustain an injury, I quickly switch the day’s plan and do cross-training. If I sense that a speed workout is going to do damage to my legs, I adapt it. Even if I don’t make my time goal for this marathon, I have successfully followed a long term plan through to the end. That is a big accomplishment for me.
If I do well or simply finish this Saturday, I am still excited about the positive change in my lifestyle. To run this race, I’ve lost about 40 pounds (from almost 217 to 174.) I’m no longer entering my 40’s looking at the downhill slide, but am looking up toward new goals and accomplishments (Ironman, new personal records, 100 mile Ultra.) This is one step, and after Saturday I will be a marathoner. Sometime after that I will be a Boston qualifier. Sometime after that….
Race theme song: “Never Let Go” by David Crowder Band
Dedicated to: Ervin Arthur Junkans - 06/12/1928 - 10/05/2011 - My father never quit in the face of adversity