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So I'm about 9 weeks away from my first marathon. My main training issue these days isn't the physical, but the psychological. I'm following a beginner's training plan and am now in that daunting stretch- the distances are beyond the 13.1 I've grown to love, and the series of long runs that lie ahead seem so intimidating.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had this little "what was I thinking/I don't know if I'm ready for this" breakdown. Any advice or inspiration that helped you get past it?
Sure... this all seemed like a good idea when you signed up. Unfortunately, I do not recall the same feeleings when I ran my first marathon in 1984. I was only determined to please my dying father. But I do remember this -> I hit the wall HARD at 20 miles. It took an hour and 20 minutes to do the last 10K. As the sag-wagon came by and asked if I needed a ride it dawned on me - I worked too hard to get this far and I wasn't going to quit.
And neither will you.
When I qualified for Boston in 1988, I had all the confidence in the world - despite being dead and in graduate school. But after a 20 year hiatus from running, it was tough to get back. I think one day I pulled a Gump. I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road and when I got there I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there...I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. Except I'm in Maryland.
I love and hate these long training runs but I try to break them up or do something fun. Whether it be a nice dinner later or simply a full change of pace, I'll break up some of the monotany. And each of these 'LSDs' are just the natural progression to the goal. Hell, a few weeks back a friend and I ran 12 miles (which I did at a pace faster than my last 10 miler!), jumped in the Gunpowder River, dried off, changed in our respective vehicles... and.... and... went to Hooters for wings and crab legs.
When you are beat and you know you have 3 miles to go, convince yourself you have four miles left. Somehow that helps me.
Beyond the 1/2 marathon distance, consider the ice baths. Really. Fill your bathtub with cold water. Change your shirt + put on a sweatshirt or fleece - plus a ski hat. Slowly lower yourself into the water but just enough to cover your legs. It helps to repeat ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay as your butt taps the water yet before full submersion. Next, add 12-16 pounds of ice. Scream. Stay in the tub until the ice melts. This will speed up your recovery and also knock some sense into you. Another thing to consider is to have OJ before and after such LSDs especially in the summer. You'll need the carbs and electrolytes. Gatorade just won't cut it.
Do or do not; there is no try.
It takes a certain amount of craziness to even get started, too keep going until the end of it is probably creeping to runaway insanity. I have ran in exactly one marathon. I know where your coming from. I'd like to say it gets easier, but it never did for me. After the first few months the momentum fades. You get into the actual grind of piling on the miles. Know that you made it this far, and trust me, the reward for finishing is worth it. Even though I didn't do nearly as well as I would of liked starting out, its still worth it. What worked best for me in the later parts of training and during the actual marathon is a certain level of self hate. Its hard to admit weakness, but you can use it to drive you. Hate it every time you get the urge to give up, think about how you would feel admitting to everyone you had to quit. You made it this far, you can go the rest of the way. When it really gets tough and really hurts, smile because thats really how you know your doing it right.
The physical will actually help you prepare mentally for the marathon. What I mean is that, as you get in better shape, those long runs won't seem so daunting. Your body will be very capable of handling a 15+ mile run.
Aside from that, I've always found a few things to help "get me in the mood" before a long run: coffee! (it helps you physically and mentally), and watching/reading something about running. I like to watch elite races because they're fast as hell and it gets me jacked up to train hard and race fast. YouTube has a ton of races, but if you don't know what to look for, check out this compilation I made: Running Motivation.
Just know that your long runs are the most important workouts you do to prepare for a marathon. They teach your body how to utilize fuel and run more efficiently, and help your mind prepare for a long period of running. Keep your head up!
My thinking is that you are looking to far ahead in your training program and psyching yourself out of doing it.
My first marathon coach had good advice- don't look any farther ahead in your plan other than the week at hand, and if you need to focus on your next run only. That way the distance doesn't seem so darn overwhelming.
I've you've already gone beyond 13.1 and love it you can definitely do more. 9 weeks to go means that you are heading toward your peak. The end is in sight. You are going to achieve your goal. Focus on how you're going to feel when you finish... By the time the nine weeks is over, you'll be very ready, I'm very sure of that. It's exciting to show up at the start and even better when you cross that finish. It is an awesome feeling!!
Yes, you will do it, and you will succeed.You may even find yourself a bit amazed to see your body adapting over the last weeks to doing the longest distances.
I'd raced a lot of shorter distances, mostly 5K/10K, including two half marathons, before I finally stepped up and did my first marathon last year. When the marathon training distances grew to the 13 mi range, I did start wondering if I would really be able to keep pace with the training, since I was so highly calibrated to doing shorter distances. Well, I followed through the training plan and it really did work. I found the long runs less difficult when I learned to not do them at the faster paces to which I was accustomed!
I agree that doing the longer distances in training will very much build your confidence for race day. After I did the last two training runs (20 mi and 21.8 mi) I knew I was going to be ready for the marathon. After crossing the finish line, I was pleasantly shocked as it struck me - that I'd successfully run fout consecutive 10K's.
"...I've learned that you shouldn't compare yourself to the best others can do, but to the best you can do....I've learned that you can keep going long after you think you can't..." --- author unknown
@ 5K: Ontario Mills 5K, Ontario, CA, 24:42
Heart of the City Run, Los Angeles, CA, 24:13
Bruin 5K Run at UCLA, Westwood, CA, 24:54
@ 10K: LA Chinatown Firecracker 10K, Los Angeles, CA, 51:42
The Great Race - Old Agoura 10K, Agoura Hills, CA, 51:12