Back in the Game

After riding the marathon roller coaster and throwing myself a pity party, I'm read to snap out of it and get back in the game. I don't know what was up this week, but I think, more than anything, I let myself get overwhelmed by the big 26.2. Somewhere along the way I got lost in the training runs, hitting the mileage, getting all the workouts in, and lost sight of why I want to do this in the first place, or why I even run in the first place. Honestly, I'm not breaking any world records here, so if I'm not having fun, what's the point?!

But, I'm done feeling sorry for myself. In 6 weeks, I WILL be a marathoner!

One thing that is helping me get over this hump is the Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer. I have only read the sample so far on my Kindle (I'm cheap, don't judge me), but already it is helping me feel inspired again! It was written by two professors from the University of Northern Iowa who taught a "marathon class" in the 80's and 90's. The class was made up of students with no real running background or experience and, together, they followed the same 16-week training plan outlined in the book and finished a full marathon. Nearly 200 total students took the class over the years it was offered, and all (but one) of them finished. I'm less interested in the training plan the book offers, since I am pretty content with mine, but more interested in the mental and psychological tips (one of the authors of the book is a doctor of psychology). There is also commentary from students who took the class, where they share their experiences. Since I am training for this marathon alone, I am always open to getting perspective from experienced marathoners to fellow novices alike!

I knew this book was for me when, within the first few pages, the topic of having a goal for the marathon came up. More specifically, it was quickly addressed that the ONLY goal for a first-timer should be to finish. This is not news to me; in fact, I have heard it from literally every person who has ever run a marathon, but it's something I haven't come to accept yet (for one, I HAVE to finish in 6.5 hours, as that is the time limit for the course). I was actually more open to the idea of not having a time goal when I first started training than I am now. Back then, my only goal WAS to finish, because I had never run past 13.1 miles and I figured being able to run double that, in any amount of time, was going to take a damn miracle. Then I started training and found out that my pace didn't drop nearly as much as I thought it would as the miles increased. Now, I know that once I get past 20 it will probably be a whole different ballgame. I know that. In my head, I know that. I just haven't yet been able to convince the part of my brain that's always saying, "Faster! Faster!"

I may finally be starting to get it, though. I was so consumed with the thought of finishing within a certain time frame, because I was so afraid of being disappointed and possibly feeling like I hadn't pushed enough. Luckily, the book addressed this logical fallacy right away, and it really hit home. A quote from the book says:

You have the opportunity in...completing this marathon to have a tremendously satisfying and motivating experience. But that will only occur if, after it is over, you feel that you have succeeded...If you set a target time and then miss it, even by a few minutes, you will have converted what could have been one of the greatest success experiences of your life into a failure! Please don't do that to yourself.

I don't know why it took reading that to make the light bulb go off, but it really did. I spent so much time thinking that, now that my training runs have gone well, I will be doing myself a disservice if I can't keep that up on race day. That it will all be for nothing. I had never even thought about the fact that the real disservice I'd be doing to myself is letting myself think that way! I have let a missed time goal ruin a race experience for me in the past, and I owe it to myself to do everything possible to make this a truly enjoyable experience.

This week I really want to focus on taking a step back, slowing down, and just enjoying the run for what it is! I have a big week coming up (hello, first 20-miler!) and really need to keep things in perspective.

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