Marathon training season for fall races is nearly upon us. The first weekend in June is always met with a mix of excitement and fear. I get to see my team, the Pink Nation! My running will have a definite purpose. I get to usher in a new generation of marathoners as a coach (that’s one of the best parts!) I will settle into a routine that comforts me, despite the fact that each new mileage jump, especially as we transition into double digits, brings a special type of anxiety. Yes, even though I’ve run 8 marathons. And I get another chance to chase a PR. I think that’s the part that is the most intimidating.
As gyms reopen and more people feel better about interacting with the real world armed with an immune system that has been taught to fight Covid, I am gradually getting back into weightlifting. The other day, I chose to do a few back squats. Pre-pandemic, I had reached a meager 140lb 1 rep max, so I felt relatively comfortable trying for 3 sets of 5 reps at 95lbs to work on building my base again. The next day, I headed out for a miserable run on tired, heavy legs, and started laughing, thinking to myself this is how it feels to finish a marathon. And I felt like I needed to share…
If you’ve never run a marathon, and you never thought you could, but you want to know what it might be like, do I have an idea for you.
First of all, just about any reasonably healthy person can run a marathon. Second, you don’t have to be fast, just disciplined and persistent. And third, there’s a unique satisfaction from finishing a race of this magnitude and being able to call yourself a marathoner.
But do you really want to know what it feels like to finish running a marathon? Here’s an experiment for you:
- Step 1: Go to the gym. Do a serious weightlifting leg day, whatever this looks like for you. Ideas for this grueling torture include doing Karen (an appropriately named girl WOD in the Crossfit world that is 150 wall balls for time with a weighted ball), a heavy base day of back squats (try 3 to 5 sets of 5 at 70% of your one rep max), or heavy walking lunges (think 50 or so on each leg while holding the heaviest dumbbels you can handle).
- Step 2: Wake up the next day and skip breakfast and coffee. Revel in the misery of your sore muscles, your empty belly, your uncaffeinated soul, the stiffness begging you to return to bed. Think about your poor life choices as you wince while navigating the stairs.
- Step 3: Go for a 10k run. Pretend that you have already run 20 miles, your energy stores mainly depleted, your lungs burning. Really sense how heavy and painful every step feels from all that weightlifting you did yesterday. Bonus points if you run in the rain or the sweltering heat and humidity of summer. Wish for the completion of your run ASAP.
- Step 4: As you climb the stairs back into your house, repeat this mantra: Stairs are stupid.
This little simulation will shed some light on the painful, bad parts of running this race. But it will never prepare you for the good stuff: crossing the finish line with a crowd waiting, the happy tears, the satisfaction, the culmination of hard work. You might even form the ultimate running partner bond in sharing the experience with a friend. Of course, I can’t forget to mention the proof of your accomplishment: the medal and the swag. It’s kind of awesome.
I apologize in advance for the deluge of running topics that are about to start taking over more of my blog posts in the next several months! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.