This is a very belated and overdue post. And maybe a bit of a head scratcher since I never did complete a marathon. (I’ll share why at the end of the post). Last year my brother Bruce and I made a pact to train and run a marathon together. I’ve always said I had no desire to cover that kind of distance unless it was the Honolulu Marathon but when he asked, I figured why not? I had no idea the mental toll marathon training has in addition to a physical toll.
In January, I began training to run the Bear Lake Marathon in Utah in early June. I can’t tell you how hard that transition into regular training was, but it was so necessary! At that point, I was 10 months postpartum and while I had been working out, it was very irregular and I was still carrying extra weight. Having something as big as a marathon to train for was just what I needed to get my butt into high gear.
I spent months running on the treadmill which was NOT fun. Every now and then the weather would warm up a little and I would brave the snow covered paths to get some outside time.
It was so fantastic when it finally warmed up enough for me to stay outside and I logged a lot of miles along a stretch of highway in our small town.
I had a LOT of time to think on those long runs about what I was undertaking and I figured I would share a few of those thoughts with you.
Marathon training is more mental than physical
Don’t get me wrong, it is tough on your body, but it is so tough on your mind! I would spend the whole day before a really long run dreading the next day.
When you’re running along and see you still have another hour to go you start fantasizing about calling for a ride home.
Your training consumes a lot of your brain power. Bruce and I talked on the phone a lot about our runs, how they went, and how we were feeling because you need a lot of support to bolster you mentally. I would highly recommend undertaking something like this with another person because your spouse who has never even run a 5k will NOT be able to relate to how you’re feeling.
Your Body Hurts a Lot
I don’t think I’ve ever slept a deeper, more fatigued sleep than when I was training. My legs would feel like heavy logs when I settled into bed and I barely moved or dreamed at night I was so exhausted.
Yoga and foam rolling helped, but I was training while working and taking care of an infant, so I didn’t focus enough on the things that would make me feel better.
For awhile I struggled with severe achilles tendon pain, and then I had to take a week off due to extreme pain in one foot.
When I do this again I’ll make sure that I dedicate more time to after care to reduce injury and fatigue.
It Takes SO MUCH TIME!
Speaking of time, it takes so much time out of your schedule to train. This is one endeavour that you can’t be sporadic about your training, you have to stick to your schedule and everything else has to work around it. I had to find sitters all the time so I could go on my long runs. We had to arrange all family outings around my training. Nothing could ever take precedence over a run; with the exception of when TyTy was sick. Training didn’t matter then.
Bruce struggled to find the time to train, also working and balancing a young family. I feel like this is a sport for people without kids or who have older kids with less demands. We both really felt the pressure to balance work, family, and training. Bruce even got up and did his runs before work at 4:30 am!!! I was NOT that dedicated and waited until Tynan went to bed at 7pm to hit the treadmill for my runs.
Weight Melts Away
Now, this may not be the case for everyone, our bodies are different. Both Bruce and I had some extra lbs on us when we started and we both lost a lot of them!
For me, it felt like it happened overnight. I was training away and then one spring day posted a picture and everyone commented on how thin I was looking. I had to look back at the photo a couple times before it hit me that, yes, I had lost some weight.
In total, I lost about 15 pounds and Bruce lost 25 pounds.
You Are Always Hungry
Along the lines of losing weight, as your mileage goes up, so does your hunger. By the last month of training, I couldn’t believe the scale of my appetite. It felt like I could never be full! I did my best to stick to healthy foods but I ate them in high amounts.
I remember one event where my whole family went out for Thai food and I ate just as much as my brother Ben. You know Ben, the 6’3, 245lb former wrestler, current MMA fighter? Yeah, I ate as much food as he did. And it was glorious! Ha ha!
You Get Sick of Music and Podcasts
When training, you spend many, many hours listening to music or podcasts. I struggled with this because it didn’t matter how many albums I downloaded or made on Spotify, I was so sick of listening to music. But I found when I switched to podcast, it slowed down my pace because I liked having that pulsating beat to keep me going.
It’s Not Impossible!!!
That is the biggest takeaway for me- marathon training is not an impossible undertaking! I’m a short sprinter and have always struggled with any distance longer than 200 metres. But at the end of all this, I was able to prove to myself that I can do it. I can stick with a training plan, I can get in those long runs that seem like impossible distances. It takes a lot, but it’s doable!
In the end, I never did complete that marathon. I found out I was pregnant two weeks before the race. I planned to run anyway, as many women run safely through their pregnancies. But at the urging of my doctor I chose not to because I never had completed a full 26.2 miles before and there is a risk of hypothermia or overheating which would be very bad for a developing fetus. It was bitter pill to swallow as it felt like I put in all that time and sacrifice for nothing.
Bruce wound up moving down to the half marathon because a sprained ankle kept him from training the last month. He said it was a good thing I didn’t push it as there weren’t many hydration stations, the course terrain was very difficult, and he didn’t think I would have fared well.
Maybe the Honolulu Marathon is calling my name?
Have you ever trained for a marathon?
What did you like or dislike?
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