I’ve started my third week of marathon training and I haven’t had a panic attack — yet. This is not to say that I haven’t already had my doubts about switching to the intermediate plan. The back to back runs on Saturday and Sunday (long run day) scare me a bit. Okay, they scare me a lot.
This past weekend I had to run five miles on Saturday followed by nine miles on Sunday. On my old plan, we always had a rest day before the long run and it was a rare occasion when I would race two days in a row, just about the only thing I could compare this to.
On Saturday, I was supposed to run the New York Road Runners MLB All-Star 5k in Prospect Park benefiting Hurricane Sandy Relief efforts. This was somewhat of a late addition to my racing schedule but I felt I needed to do this for the Sandy Relief fundraising. Of course it was hot and humid so I ran two miles very slow miles before the race. I’m sure everyone in my starting corral appreciated my soggy sweaty mess while we waited for the race to start.
I don’t run 5k races often, maybe once or twice a year, so this distance is somewhat of a mystery to me on how to race it aside from run fast. Prospect Park is also a bit of a mystery to me as I don’t run there often and never quite know when that giant hill is approaching. Overall I was about a four minutes off my 5k PR and considering this was really a five mile run I felt I did pretty well.
I did not feel I was doing pretty well when I started my nine miles on Sunday. Again it was humid but I at least started a bit earlier than the previous week. My legs felt sluggish and one hamstring felt tight and I started talking myself out of doing the whole nine miles. I stopped to stretch things out and that helped physically but mentally I just wasn’t there.
I kept thinking back to my previous marathon training years and remembered that the first few long runs were always miserable so I vowed to trudge on. But those negative thoughts kept making themselves more prominent. Somehow I convinced myself to break the run down into segments, not by distance because that was doing me in, but by minutes. Run at a steady relaxed pace for two minutes, keep it up for another two minutes, and so forth. Eventually, the miles were adding up and I started to feel good and get into a good rhythm. Then that is when it hit me. The thought that kept me going.
No matter if we are beginners or advanced runners, elite runners like Meb Keflezighi (Dudes, I totally spelled his name correctly without looking it up!) and Kara Goucher we all have those mental issues we have to work out during a training run or race. I’ve read articles where Meb and Kara have talked about this and that is one of the great things about our sport. No matter what our level we all share many of the same challenges. (I almost wrote hurdle and realized that would have been a really bad cliche and pun. You can thank me later.)
I have talked to several runners in my club and all of always agree that we always feel out of shape during our warm-up runs and also have to deal with the mind over matter issue during long runs and races. It’s comforting to know that we all deal with it and can relate to each other in some way.
What was even better was that this whole thought process took my mind off my miles and before I knew it I only had one mile left of that long run I was convinced I was going end after three miles. It may not have been pretty and I’m not even sure where my pace compares to other runs of a similar distance. That’s okay, it was about getting the distance completed and feeling satisfaction with doing just that. As runners we know that, it’s just really hard to believe it sometimes.