I am finally getting around to writing my Richmond Reflections. It took me awhile to digest it all. Now, Richmond feels like ages ago, almost like it didn’t even happen! I went from thinking about it all the time and talking about it a lot to nothing. It’s over. After months of build-up. I thought I’d be really happy it was over. I am, in a way, but I’m sad too. I loved having a training plan, not having to think about my work-out for the day, and having such a set routine. I loved working toward such a big goal and overcoming obstacles along the way. I miss the endorphins! I’ll save my “What’s Next” for another post. Here I’ll just focus on the big things I learned from the Richmond Marathon and the training leading up to it.
Go with the Flow – You can’t control everything.
Being very Type A, I dealt with a lot of frustration when I was injured during training. I pushed myself back into running too quickly, reinjuring myself. I’ve gained more patience throughout this experience and understand I can’t force my body to get better. I can do things to help myself heal but it just takes time. Some things are outside your control and you can’t let that upset you.
A training schedule is just a guide.
With the above point, relax if you miss a training run! It’s more important to let your body heal. I learned this the hard way. A set training plan from a website doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone. Everyone’s body is different. Don’t stress out about having to stick to a defined plan. Get your runs in but listen to your body too!
It’s important to stretch.
This is how I got my first calf strain (before training began in July). I did a barre class the day before for the first time and didn’t stretch out enough after the class or before the run the next day. I also realized the importance of stretching (and yoga!) for recovery. I don’t know how I didn’t get injured before this.
It’s important to cross-train.
It’s hard to find time with a busy schedule to include running, yoga and cross- training, but for our next marathon, I’m going to really work on getting a day in each week. Towards the end of the training, I started to experience pain in my hips and the PT said I needed to do squats and lunges to build up strength, as well as core work. Building up strength can help prevent injury and help you keep a good form while running.
Enjoy the journey. The marathon is just one day.
I kept trying to remind myself of this. I mean – it’s my blog’s tagline! But I often got caught up and too focused on November 16, marathon day. Looking back, some of my favorite memories are from my, Mike’s and Matt’s long runs together. I loved the routine training gave me. I loved going to bed early on Friday, waking up on Saturday and going for a long run and constantly hitting distance milestones. It was such a great feeling and so much fun to do with Matt and Mike. I thought the marathon would be the ultimate long run but some of our training runs were much more fun and enjoyable (not cold and rainy!). I learned so much in the months leading up to the marathon, making me a stronger runner for the future.
Ibuprofen and running 26.2 miles (with IBS) is not a good combination for my stomach.
Never again. I’ll deal with the running pain rather than the awful stomach issues post-marathon. I have stomach issues enough without ibuprofen on top of it. Plus I never tried this before marathon day. Not a good idea.
Make sure you train for the terrain.
Richmond was HILLY. I knew that going into it but didn’t realize just how hilly. Maybe it was my perspective too since I had trained on JUST flat terrain due to my calf strain and then the extensor tendonitis. I had avoided hills at all costs. Hills aren’t necessarily bad but I was not prepared, unfortunately. There was a trade-off: train on hills and risk re-injuring calf or avoid hills and allow calf to heal.
Electrolytes are essential.
I fueled really well (although I wish I got some caffeine in). I drank nuun the entire time and wouldn’t change a thing. However, I carried my handheld water bottle. Next time, I’d definitely choose a hydration vest. I ended up developing some tendonitis in my hand (between thumb and pointer finger area) from carrying the handheld for all my long runs.
Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.
I don’t try to count calories but I think I am more cognizant of my hunger level, because of marathon training. When running, I have to pay attention to when my body needs more fuel. I think I now take this outlook to everyday life. I have a new perspective and have learned to listen to my body more. The day and night before long runs, I really paid attention to my food intake so I wouldn’t have stomach issues during the run. I started eating more meals but smaller meals throughout the day.
Don’t build it up too much.
Ok this is just hard to do, especially if it’s your first marathon. It’s hard not to put pressure on yourself to run your best on marathon day. But there will always be more marathons. It is just one day. It’s not an amazingly transformational experience. You go out and run for a really long time.
It’s not incredibly fun.
I thought it’d be so much fun. What was I thinking? I did have fun until mile 18 when I hit the wall. I thought I would just be on a running high throughout the marathon. I thought I’d be running on adrenaline and would really enjoy the culmination of all the training. Some parts were fun but some parts were really the opposite of fun. The good thing is that the more time that passes, the more I remember just the really fun times.
Mental strength can only get me so far.
When I hit the wall and people kept passing me, I couldn’t understand where my mental strength was. When I stopped to walk, I felt so disappointed in myself. Why couldn’t I mentally tell myself not to walk like all the people around me, who probably would like to walk too? Where was my mental strength?! This brings me to the point below…
Run more than 1X per week.
I had not run for 3 weeks before the marathon because I wanted to let my extensor tendonitis heal. I should have tried to do some shorter runs to try to keep my confidence up. In addition, for several weeks I just did the long runs on the weekend. Due to busy schedules and injuries, I decided it was best to let my body rest and heal. Because of that, I wasn’t used to running while tired. I went into most long runs refreshed and energized. Mike had followed the training plan with Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday runs (as well as Saturday runs). My PT told me to stick with two days during the week to let the calf strain heal since when I did 3 days, I reinjured myself. I just wasn’t used to running on tired legs, making the wall seem so much harder.
Being married means you’re a team.
I was so glad to have run into Mike around mile 19/20. I saw him at a pivotal moment when I wanted to give up and sit down. The time leading up to the marathon had been such a journey that we completed together. That’s what it’s all about. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I realized then, too, what I had to keep reminding myself during the training – to enjoy the journey! I knew that finishing the last 6 miles would be much more enjoyable if I were with Mike. At that point 4 hours was probably not possible. I was a little disappointed but, since I wasn’t going to hit my goal, I didn’t care about time – I cared about enjoying the last 6 miles with Mike and not injuring myself!
I realized marathon training is so much more than just running. I learned and grew as a person – and had fun! I became more educated on different aspects of running, training and overall health. I learned what it’s like to really push myself and deal with obstacles that come my way. I think we’ll all go into our next marathon (yes – we’re doing another one!!) better prepared and relaxed about it. It’s hard to grasp what 26.2 miles will feel like until you do it!