In 2011, I ran my first marathon. Since I had previously labeled myself as a non-runner and never thought I could run 26.2 miles, I was so grateful and proud to be doing it. I knew that I was slow/average, but I didn’t care. My loose time goal was to finish in 4:15, and I came in at 4:21. I was happy and proud of myself — I didn’t care about those six minutes.
In 2012, I made my first attempt at running a sub 4-hour marathon (spoiler alert if you’re new to my blog: I am still chasing that goal). I no longer was happy just to finish; I had a specific goal in mind. I ended up missing the sub-4, but I finished in 4:03:23, an 18-minute PR. I was happy, but left wanting more.
For the last three years I have been chasing that sub-4, trying and failing numerous times. Success has been measured solely by finish times, and I have been frustrated by this plateau I can’t seem to break through. I’ve wasted so much energy comparing myself to other runners who seem to effortlessly run sub-4s and BQs. In short, I’ve felt like a loser and ashamed by my lack of progress. This is obviously not a fun way to approach running.
As I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t run much for several weeks after the Honeywagon Half Marathon. Because I lost so much fitness during this time, there was a big part of me that wanted to bag the Tunnel Marathon in September. I mean, if I’m just going to run another 4:xx marathon, what’s the point?
Unfortunately, Dad seemed pretty fired up about the race, which made quitting a little more difficult. So I thought a lot about it, researching training plans and examining my old training logs.
The one thing I kept coming back to was how much I enjoyed my first training cycle. There were times when I got sick of training and the sacrifices it required, but overall it was my happiest and most satisfying training cycle. So I asked myself: What was different about this training cycle? How could I emulate this in the future?
Here are the key changes I’m implementing to make this training cycle more like my first:
I will not compare myself to other runners. When I ran my first marathon, I only read one running blog. By the time I ran my third marathon in 2012, I probably read six or seven, and the list has continued to grow. I’ve fallen into the comparison trap so many times, and I need to stop. Every runner is different. We all have different natural abilities, unique life circumstances that affect how much we can train, etc. Comparing myself to anyone — regardless if they are faster or slower than I am — is just dumb.
I will work hard, have fun, and not stress about the outcome. I had a time goal for my first marathon, but really its only purpose was to guide my training. Although I am training for a sub-4, I am also aware that this is a really ambitious goal given my current fitness level.
I will make running fit into my life, rather than make my life fit into a training plan. Making this decision was so liberating. The reality is that I don’t have a ton of free time during the work week. I have a husband, a full-time job, and a 40-minute commute each way. I also like to sleep, and 5 a.m. is the earliest I’m willing to wake up to run. I don’t need to feel guilty about this! I’m not an elite runner — running is a nice highlight in my life, but it isn’t a focal point.
What does this mean from a training perspective?
This means that I’m not following a training plan: I’m going totally rogue on this one. I used to love training plans, but I haven’t followed one all year, and it’s working for me right now. I love the freedom of doing what I want when I want.
Essentially, I’m doing what works for me and what makes me happy. I’m going to work hard, do my best, and see what happens on September 13. I usually am pretty burnt out by the time I get to the end of a training cycle, but I’m hoping these changes will help me enjoy the process more.