The Art of Marathon Training

Beep Beep Beep!  Beep Beep Beep!  It’s 6:00 am on a Sunday morning, and the alarm is ringing.  I think to myself – why on Earth did I set this alarm, it’s Sunday, right? – and then I quickly remember that it’s time to get up and go for a distance run.  Oh, the joys of marathon training!

Once I am up, I’m out the door within 20 minutes, after tending to our lovable dog, and ready to take on the next physical challenge.  At the start of the run, all I can think about is how cold it is and what I’ll eat when I get done! I fantasize about french toast and eggs and a delicious warm coffee as my face is freezing off while running in the winter.  Or maybe I’ll go with an omelette, or a breakfast scrambler.  My thoughts waver back and forth until I have finally settled on the french toast and eggs and coffee, and now I can continue on my run, since I’m only a mile into a double-digit mile run.

Well, now what?  I’ve already decided what I am going to eat for breakfast, which is the most important decision for that day, so how can I occupy this headspace?  Work!  That’s the answer!  What can I do after breakfast?  I should probably change those lights on the front of the house, and figure out that motion light out back that stopped working.  Oh yes, I can also take the dog for a walk!  Ok, perfect, now I have a plan for after I finish running and breakfast.  Genius! At this point, after being a few miles in, I’ve decided my breakfast and morning plans, and am feeling good about my approach for the day.

Now, my brain starts to wander between future vacation plans, the relationships I have in my life, all of the different roles I play, and my responsibilities.  It pings from the best neighborhood to stay while out in New York City to where my wife and I should go on our next date to the next time I will see my nieces and nephews.  This sort of “brain powered pin ball game” continues until my legs start to get tired and my brain starts to tell me to stop.  And this, my friends, is where the art of marathon training comes in.

You see, I have completed 4 marathons in less than 10 years.  I’ve done the Chicago Marathon consecutively for three years, and am planning to run 2 in 2017.  I KNOW that I can complete 26.2 miles.  It’s no longer about that.  And yet, each long training run, my brain starts to try and trick me.  It tells me that I should stop and walk a bit, or grab some water and relax, because it doesn’t really matter.  You’re not going to win the race, so why does it matter?  This tricky brain activity almost convinces me that it is a good idea to stop and that it won’t matter since I indeed will not be winning the marathon.  But then I remember – it’s not about how I compare to others’ time, it is how I compare to me.  I want to run better and do better for myself.  I’m not competing in marathons to make anyone else happy or fulfill anyone else’s dreams – this is something I am working on for myself.

And that’s when I have that lightbulb moment – this is something you are doing for YOU!  It is the one thing you are in full control of, and have to rely completely on yourself to succeed. This is your own personal test!  And then it all clicks.  I keep running. I push through that tired wall, and I keep running.  I turn up my volume a little louder on my music, I skip forward to more uptempo songs, and I just keep running.  I drown out those thoughts of self-doubt and turn up my thoughts of self-worth.  My thoughts become reaffirming and empowering, my mind becomes clear with my goals, and I just keep going.  I fuel myself to the finish line.

I finish my long run, I celebrate my achievement, and then I move on.  I get that french toast, eggs, and coffee, I walk the dog, and I carry on with my day.  I am proud of my achievement, and continue on my marathon training journey.

Now, this may seem like a jump, but you’ve stuck with me this far, so just stay the course.  So what does this all mean?  Why should you care?  Here’s the thing: the journey of life is much like each and every long run for marathon training.  At first, we focus on the little, frivolous things that don’t really matter.  We worry about what outfit we will wear or who we will sit by at the lunch table or meeting, and overthink the simplest of things.

Once we have tired of worrying of these things, we move on to more important things in life.  We age, and realize that our family members are aging, too.  Now real fears exist around health and longevity and quality of life.  We see family members pass away, and we see new life coming into our families.  All of these changes occur, and are things in which we generally do not control.  Life continues to happen, and so we choose to continue to participate in it.

We reach points in our lives where we have people who disagree with us, or tell us that we can’t – whether it be reach that goal, make that team, or find that perfect job or significant other.  There are always people questioning or doubting our moves, which can cause us to do the same.  Am I smart enough?  Can I do that?  Will I fail?  These questions are not uncommon.  But if we give in to these fears, to these doubts created by others or ourselves, what will we accomplish?  If we always give in to the what if’s and don’t ever see our hopes and dreams to fruition, then what?  We never see our full potential.  We never get to achieve those goals or dreams, because we limit ourselves.  We don’t see what we are capable of doing.

And here we are, back to that lightbulb moment in the run.  We can do it.  We can achieve greatness.  We can keep pushing forward.  Because we can do anything we put our minds to.  With hard work and dedication, we can achieve that life, that job, that relationship we have always dreamed of.  You see, there are always going to be people that say no or do not support you.  But, if you can block that noise out and know that ultimately, it’s up to you and no one else, and that YOU are in full control of your own future and happiness, then nothing else matters.  Let people tell you no.  Let people doubt you.  And use that as fuel to just keep going.  Just keep pushing.  And you will find that you can do anything that you put your mind to.

Each long run, I could choose to stop.  I could choose to take a cab home.  And I would still be able to get that breakfast at the end (and a lot sooner, too!).  But what would that show? What would I prove to myself?  I would build credibility behind that self-doubt.  My brain would say, See!  I told you that you couldn’t do it.  And that would follow me, each and every run.

But instead, I choose to keep running.  To keep moving forward, and not give those doubts any power behind them.  They are just doubts.  They are not facts.  Friends, don’t give in to those voices telling you no.  Believe in yourself and your inner strength, and keep fighting for what you want.  Know that you can, believe that you can, and you will!

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