When I started running about three years ago, I really thought it was as simple as lacing up a pair of shoes on my feet and heading out the door. Now, countless half marathons, and 10 marathons later, I have come up with a list of 5 running realities that I learned through the process. In no particular order….
#1. Not every run will be great. I experienced this again this past weekend. Not the first time and certainly won’t be the last time I am reminded of this. I set out for my long training run of 18 miles. The weather was looking promising; the sun was peeking out and the temps were in the mid 20’s. Definitely an improvement from the single digits we had previously been dealt. Unfortunately, my body had other plans. My legs were like lead, I was tired, and my mind just wasn’t into it. I found myself dragging through the final miles. One thing I’ve learned training for my previous marathons, is when to listen to my body. I called it good at 15 miles and headed home. The next day, I set out to run a 7 mile pace run, nervous I would encounter the same emotions as the day before. I was pretty happy when I settled into my race pace early on and kept at it with considerable ease. I ended the run with some suicide runs on the high school football field and then bleacher runs. I had made the right decision the day before.
#2. Race day is a day to celebrate. We spend weeks training for the big day. The day we get to lace up our shoes and go for that glory run. The day we hope all of our hard work will pay off. The reality is that the fun begins when you step into the race corral. At this point we are done training, the hard work is over. This is the day to celebrate. Take time to enjoy the activities and happenings of the event. And no matter the outcome of the race, celebrate your accomplishment. The accomplishment isn’t the race itself, it’s the hard work and commitment you put in training for it.
#3. Running appetite will far exceed the calories burned running. When I originally started running, I thought it would be an “easy” way to shake off those last few pounds that I just couldn’t seem to lose. Little did I know I would be unleashing the hungry beast inside me! Running appetite and calories burned are not the same. I couldn’t believe how hungry I was after running, especially as my miles really started to increase. This is when I realized how important it is to feed my body with foods that are going to best fuel it for the long hard training runs. I’ve learned ways to monitor my intake against what I am burning during my runs and workouts.
#4. Learn to run solo. I think running groups and friends are great! They can provide experience, advice, company, and might even share their water with you on a hot day. I have learned so much from my running community. Without their support, I would not be the runner I am today. We commit to meet each other for early morning runs, we meet in the snow, rain, and cold to push each other along. But, sometimes the best laid plans just don’t work out. Our friends get injured or sick, their children are sick, they have a bad run, things, life… happens. When I get to race day, I don’t want this to be the first time I try running alone. If I am standing in the corral alone, or I end up running alone, I want to have the confidence that I can finish this by myself. I try to run a few training runs each week on my own. Doing this builds my confidence that I can push myself through a hard pace run, or up that last hill repeat. We learn to be our own cheerleader. The reality is that there will come a time I am out on the course by myself. And when this time comes, I will push through it knowing I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.
#5. Runners get injured. Many runners neglect to include strength training and stretching in their routine. Let’s face it; it’s practically a full time job to train for a marathon. Who has time for strength training? And stretching, it’s just plain boring and it hurts. I get it. I’ve been there. Then I got injured. Nothing major, but it was the wake-up call that I needed. It was that swift kick in the butt reminding me! Add in 2-3 days a week of a full body compound workout that includes things like squats, deadlifts, pushups, and you’ve got a great start to keeping those muscles strong to continue running the miles and carry you over that finish line. Foam rolling after a run or workout is a great stretching technique. Foam rolling offers countless benefits: correction of muscle imbalance, muscle relaxation, improved joint range of motion, reduced soreness and improved recovery. They look like a round piece of Styrofoam and almost anyone can effectively use one. Here’s a great article from the NASM blog for more information and some examples of how to use one.
What realities have you learned as you have logged the miles?