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20 Lessons From 20 Miles

Women's Running Web Editor, Kara Deschenes, shares 20 lessons she learned while training for the Boston Marathon!

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In my quest to cross the Boston Marathon finish line in a couple of weeks, I’ve spent a great amount of time on my feet completing training runs. And like some country songs proclaim, I learned the road can be a lonely place. But it doesn’t have to be. Determined to soak in the experience in its entirety, I found lessons revealed through each bend in the road. Having just completed my final long training run, I complied this list of 20 lessons from 20 miles:

1. Believe in yourself. This lesson deserves the #1 spot on this list because it is paramount to your success. Have confidence in yourself and believe you can accomplish your goals.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others. Lesson #1 and #2 go hand-in-hand. The fastest way to sabotage your efforts is to constantly worry about someone else’s journey to the finish line. Concentrate on your path and your progress.

3. Be a planner. Preparing for a race requires careful thought to ensure your body and mind are ready for the challenge. Follow a training plan to run with purpose.

4. Share your journey. Don’t be afraid to let your friends and family in on your plans – you might need their support to accomplish your goal.

5. Know your stomach. Running can bring out the sensitive side of your tummy. Though you might have to experiment with eating before and after you run, it’s important that you find the winning fuel combination to make sure your gut is race-ready!

6. Bring toilet paper on your long training runs. See #5. Let’s just say that I had to do a lot of experimenting, and even then my stomach didn’t always play fair. Enough said.

7. Hydrate right. I’m a self-proclaimed diet soda addict (and yes, I do know all of the negative things that come with this bad habit – but I’m being honest here). Whatever your vice, whether soda or alcohol, training for a marathon requires a commitment to lots of water and electrolyte drinks. It’s especially important to hydrate well the day before a long run, as well as during and immediately following.

8. Track your progress. Whether you use a fancy online system or a trusty paper calendar, recording your mileage and pace will help you realize the improvements you make. Seeing progress supports #1- believing in yourself.

9. Double knot your shoe laces. Nothing is more annoying than falling into a nice run rhythm and then having to stop to re-tie your shoes. Double knots keep laces locked in place.

10. Mix it up. If you’re like me, you like routine and find comfort in running the same route each time so that you always know exactly where you are and how far you are away from home. This training season I went against my intuition and decided to mix up my plans. Breaking out of the mold allowed me to explore new places and helped me stay engaged during those long, grueling runs.

11. Body glide is golden. Living in Florida means there can be humidity present on any given day. Humdity = sweat. Sweaty sports bras = chaffing, angry skin. Use Body Glide to lubricate hot spots and run with no worry!

12. Don’t be a procrastinator. Putting off a run until tomorrow that you could do today can lead to a viscous cycle of avoidance. Remember, nothing worth having is easy and earning that race bling to hang on your neck at the finish requires dedication.

13. Shave your legs often (followed by luxurious lotion). OK – this one might be a little odd, but I found shaving my legs often during my training helped make me aware of just how strong my gams were becoming. Pampering them felt really, really good.

14. Dress accordingly. Did I mention I’m from Florida? This means 70 degrees feels chilly to me (until mile 2, where I realize that long sleeve shirt wasn’t the best idea). It’s best to start off your run a little cold as you quickly warm up once the blood starts flowing. I found layers that I could peel off and wrap around my waist were key to staying comfortable.

15. Let someone know where and when you’re doing a long run. If you run alone, it is imperative that you tell a friend or family member the details of your long run. It is better to be safe than sorry, and if you don’t return in the expected time – a loved one will want to know where to find you.

16. Protect your eyes. I always encourage wearing glasses – and not only for the sun blocking capability. Running in windy conditions can wreak havoc on your eyes. Glasses not only protect you from the sun’s harmful rays, but also keep dust, dirt and particles from flying in your eyes.

17. Escape from the real world. For me, running is a time where I solve problems, think creatively and even compose responses to difficult situations. Though I love thinking during a run, I found that escaping my thoughts made running even better. Compiling a new playlist, or listening to an audiobook (highly recommended!) helped me power through many of my longs runs this season.

18. Simulate race conditions. The Boston Marathon is run right in the middle of my regular lunch time. Though I will be fueling during the race, I won’t be eating my normal lunch food. I purposefully planned several long runs during the same time the race will take place so that I could experience the conditions. Experience = better planning.

19. Become best friends with your foam roller. Rolling out your legs after a grueling run might be initially uncomfortable, but your muscles will thank you afterwards. Increasing the blood flow and distributing stagnant lactic acid will make for happier stems.

20. When all else fails, smile. IRONMAN World Champion Chrissie Wellington is known for her constant, infectious smile. Wellington told us that the simple act of smiling goes a long way in changing her attitude during a tough point of a race. Try it. I dare you not to feel a little better once you show those pearly whites!

These are just some of the things I learned during my training for Boston, but I want to know – what did I leave off the list? What lessons can you add to the running has taught you? Let me know here, or tweet me @KaraDeschenes! I’ll retweet my favs!