After tackling a handful of halfs, editor Nicki Miller is discovering the joy of training for her first full marathon.
When I found out I’d be running the Boston Marathon with only six weeks to train, I did a lot of research and soul searching to figure out the best way to train, both physically and mentally. I discovered five main things to remember during this period of shortened training:
1. Listen to your body.
One of the biggest warnings is not to increase your mileage too quickly. But if the goal is to get to 26.2, you might very well find yourself pushing against that standard advice. The key is to pay attention to your body as you determine if you should be running through pain. Last fall, one of my Achilles started bothering me. I’ve tried some different ways to help it heal, but I can still feel it. It was my biggest concern when I started my marathon training, but so far it hasn’t gotten any worse. (Yay!) During one run last week, my calf seized up. I stopped, stretched it and kept running (later I found out that’s a no-no). It actually felt a lot better by the end of the run, but running and stretching didn’t really help it to go away. I gave it an extra day’s rest before my 18-miler and it didn’t bother me at all. (Phew!) I’m definitely feeling the twinges of overuse in different places, so I’m trying to ride that line between recovery and running.
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2. Realize it’s going to hurt.
Whether you’re racing hard or run/walking, your body is going to feel it. I have come to expect discomfort, soreness and pain. It’s not always easy to know what you can keep running through, but that’s where I’m at right now. During the weekend 18-miler, one of knees started hurting. The pain was similar to one I’ve experienced before and I’ve found stretching my knee during the run has helped and I’ve been able to run through it. I found this article after my run and have started working these exercises into my days. My first run after the 18 was not a happy one for my knee, so I’ve stepped up the icing, ibuprofen and exercises. Whether I should run through the pain or give it extra rest is the question now.
3. Practice fueling.
When my husband ran the Marine Corps Marathon, his biggest mistake was not fueling properly. It’s one thing to practice fueling that works. But what if you don’t know what works for your body? Since he didn’t know what was making him sick, he decided to run without eating anything. His 8-minute miles became 11-minute miles by the end of the race. Luckily, my tummy likes Clif Shot Bloks and I can easily carry a couple of sleeves during the race. I don’t often drink Gatorade, but since it will be on the course, I’ve been drinking it on long runs and my stomach has been good. Those of us with longer race times need to be able to fuel throughout the race to keep going.
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4. Be flexible.
With little time for training, it’s tough not to want to run more and more and more. And I’ve definitely found that the more I run, the more I want to run. Even the day after I ran twice to get in 8 miles, I woke up and the first thing my brain wanted to do was run. (Thank you, endorphins!) But to keep all the nagging little things from turning into marathon-stopping big things, I’ve been as committed to recovery as I’ve been to running. I spent a week running a little every day, and then I switched to running longer miles every other day. While I brush my teeth, I do my Achilles exercises and hold a wall squat to help my knee. Date night has turned into hot tub and knee-icing night. Come Hopkinton, I hope these changes will have made me stronger.
5. Run with a smile.
The first time I trained and ran a half marathon, I felt as if that was the perfect distance to feel good while running. It’s as if my body needed to find a groove and the longer mileage helped me get there. I still don’t know how my body will react to 26.2—this may be my only marathon or perhaps it’s just the first. Either way, I want to enjoy it. I’ve run enough races that I haven’t really enjoyed, but I’m running Boston to have fun. During my training, I’ve been hobbled with knee pain and stepped lightly with a cramp in my leg and been plagued by thirst, but the mental game is as important as the physical one. I’ve chosen to do this, I’m calling the shots, I’m going somewhere, so I’m doing it with a smile.