What I’ve Learned About Marathon Running

I started writing this post in January 2013 when I had several friends who were about to start training for their first marathons. I started the post, got distracted, didn’t finish it, and totally forgot about it. Until today.

I’m happy I found this post today, a day I certainly could use a refresher in these simple marathon truths. Sunday was the Portland Marathon, and I was pretty bummed not to be running it. On top of that, I had an awful week of running (more on that later), so I certainly needed a reminder that this whole journey is supposed to be hard, and eventually my good days will outnumber the bad. I just need to keep trucking along and believing in myself.

With only four (update: I’ve now run five since I started writing this) marathons under my belt, I’m far from an expert. But I have learned a thing or two. If you’re looking for a training plan, this isn’t it. Here are five lessons I’ve learned from training for and running marathons:

  1. Be consistent. You know what sucks? It takes four months to get in marathon shape, but just a few weeks to fall out of it. Be consistent with your training and you’ll see results.
  2. It’s going to hurt. There is just no way around this. In training, you’re going to have runs that don’t feel so great. During the marathon itself, it doesn’t matter if you’re an elite runner or a middle of the packer like myself, those last few miles are going to hurt. Be ready for it and take comfort in the fact that everyone around you is also hurting.
  3. Speaking of “hurt,” learn the difference between to-be-expected training pain/discomfort and an actual injury. If you’re just tired, run through it. If you think something is injured, take a break from running — no race is worth damaging your health! Rest, see a doctor, do whatever it takes to be healthy.
  4. Running is a bi-polar bitch of a sport. One day you feel like you’re flying and could run forever. The next week you’re struggling to maintain what should be an easy pace. Stick with it — the highs will balance out the lows. And the highs are pretty freakin awesome. Good God, I sound like a drug dealer…
  5. Be kind to yourself. There will inevitably be setbacks (sickness, injury, missed runs because you’re working late, weather, laziness, etc.), but when you resume running, scale back your expectations. Don’t beat yourself up over missing a few runs or running not as fast you “should” be. Accept that you are where you are, and create a plan to get where you want to be.

After last week, I’m focusing on #5 and accepting where I am with my training. What lessons would you add to the list?

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