Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Weak of Meaning & Tips on Preparing for a Marathon

I blogged last on Sunday of last week.  That was my most recent planned rest day, although not my most recent rest day in fact.  Today, I'll provide an update since then and use this as an opportunity to describe what I think is useful for preparing for a first marathon.  A friend shared with me yesterday that she wants to try to run the full marathon at the Baltimore Running Festival this year.  That is an awesome goal.  So, in the context of talking about this week, this will also reflect my philosophy.

My workouts this week included an easy six around the extended neighborhood on Monday.  An unplanned day off on Tuesday because there were just too many other things to do.  Ten miles on the track on Wednesday.  An easy 5.9 with a friend on Thursday. And a progress that was supposed to be 7 but turned out to be 6.7 on Friday.  Today was a planned day off.  While it was tempting to move Friday's workout to today (as I had moved each of Tuesday-Thursday one day forward after missing Tuesday), I was advised to take the day of rest.  I'm either experienging a cold or my first spring allergies and I am aiming for my fastest 5K in 27 years next Sunday.  Rest is my friend at this point.  My total mileage is now 793.5.  It puts me just outside Pocahontas, IL, still on US Route 40.

Having said that, it does feel weird to sleep till 6 on a Saturday.  And for me that is sleeping in as I have a child to get to a lacrosse game at 8:30 (the game is at 9).

So, let me talk about my philosphy of training for a marathon, especially a first, in the context of my Wednesday long track workout.  The workout consisted of 8 laps of warmup (~2 miles), 8x800 all around around 3:00 (fastest was 2:53, slowest was 3:02, and 5 of the remaining six were less than one second off 3:00).  Then nine laps cool down.  The fact tthat I was able to get eight in a row at a target pace led me to think about what I might write about as eight principles of running. As the week moved on, I thought abou how to relate Thursday's and Friday's runs to those principles.  And then, when my friend asked me for advice, I thought that I coudl tie this all together.    

So, from my workout on Wednesday here are eight principles of running, of life, and of preparing for a first marathon.

I: Have a plan.  There are tons of places to get plans these days.  There are plans on the web.  There are plans in books. There are training groups that have plans.  For those who hang out in circles of runners, there is very likely to be a friend who has a plan that can be recycled.  And for those with enough resources, people can be paid to develop plans for individuals.  The key is that there needs to be a plan.  And the plan has to be followed.  Plans help to ensure two things.  Plans help to ensure that a runner has built up to the distance.  And plans help to ensure that that build up occurs safely.  Injury avoidance is the key to marathon completion.  I ran a 3:02.

II: Life happens.  Despite having a plan, and depsite having a lot of passionate runners in my circle of friends, no one I know is a professional runner.  As such, there will be a need for flexibility.  When the plan changes sometimes it means that workouts can be swapped.  Sometimes it means that workout will be shifted.  Sometimes it means that workouts will be missed.  But the key is to remember that there will be a need for change.  A need for flexibility.  A need for accepting that things will need to be adjusted.  All can be good.  The key is to accept.  This reminds me a lot of what happened at the Y on Friday when I just had to accept that I needed to stop at 6.7 and missing 0.3 miles was not the end of the world.  I ran a 2:53.

III: Don't try to do it alone.  We need to work with others.  It is very hard to prepare for a marathon alone.  We need people to run with.  (Thursday's run was an excellent outing with a person who has taught me a lot about running, who has become a dear friend, and who was my last MPH advisee--great way to have a meeting.)  We need people who understand what it is like to have a big goal.  We need people to encourage us along the way in a whole variety of ways.  I ran a 3:00.

IV: Cooperate with others.  There are a number of ways that I think about this one.  I think about it in terms of making sure that my spouse at least tolerates what I do.  It would be better if my spouse truly supported what I do?  Does my spouse have to love running?  No. But understanding having a big goal.  Understanding early to bed and early to rise.  Understanding the level of commitment.  And understanding the feeling of accomplishment would be great.  It also means when on workouts cooperating with others.  Over the years, I have seen runners not be cooperative on the trail.  And last Wednesday when there was a large group on the track at the time I did my workout, they were very conscientious of every time I ran past.  Ones who were looking warned those who weren't with the usual "TRACK!" or "Lane one!"  There are so many ways that cooperation is important.  I ran a 2:59.

V: Go big or go home.  Running a marathon is a big deal.  Whether it is a first or a sixth (my next one if I run another), it is always a BIG deal.  So, it is important to realize that this is something that you have to be "all in" for.  If a person training for a marathon is not "all in," the risk of injury or having a marathon day that ends with DNF (did not finish) goes up.  I recall when I first came on the job that I have now held for a little over a year and shared my tattoo with my direct reports.  Their reaction was that it showed my personality that they had already picked up quite well.  The fact that my first was an elaborate tattoo on the outside of my entire right calf suggested to my colleagues that I was a "go big or go home" type.  I ran a 2:58.

VI: Be optimistic.   I don't think I have ever met a pessimistic marathon runner.  I'm not sure I've ever met a pessimistic runner in general.  Running is someting that is always about moving forward.  Moving ahead.  Taking the next step.  Never taking steps backward. Coaches tell runners again and again not to look back.  Perhaps those who come to running are optimistic.  Perhaps those who stay in running become optimistic. But in my circle of running friends, I would have to say that just about everyone is optimistic.  I ran a 2:59.

VII: Make it a part of something bigger.  Running is important.  But I already mentioned earlier that neither I nor any of my friends are professional runners.  But I and many of my friends take our running very seriously.  (Some would say too seroiusly.)  But still, I put my running in a larger context.  I run because it is part of searching for meaning.  I run because it has helped me find friends.  I run because it has become a social act.  I run because it helps me achieve something right away each time I run, and I love the feeling of accomplishment.  And yet, I have the opportunity to see things in a long-term context.  I ran a 3:00

VIII: We become what we decide.  This is not the exact quote that was shared with the eight grade group at the Waldorf School of Baltimore from which my second son will graduate in a few weeks.  But the quote is close.  And it got me thinking.  We make decisiosn all the time.  Each decision shapes me.  Each decision shapes my future.  Yes, there are things that I canot control and that will happen regardless of the decisions that I make.  But ultimately, I am pretty much responsible for what I do with the situation.  And marathon running is about making a decision to stick with it despite the ups and downs that are inevitable.  Despite the mental toughness that is required.  Despite the hurt that is inevitable somewhere along the way in the 22.s miles.  I ran a 3:00.

So, there is my philosophy of how to train for a marathon.  Not a bad philosophy of life in general.


  1. thanks kevin! finally printing and reading ur great tips as I prep!

  2. this speaks directly to me in so man ways! thank u!

  3. I am so happy that it was meaningful to you.