Well, it’s no secret that training for this marathon has been off to a rocky start. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs that I hadn’t planned for. As I mentioned last week, I’ve battled with a good deal of anxiety and frustration about how life has been getting in the way of training and preventing me from building up as much as I wanted to. My performance at the Cudahy Classic this weekend has me doubting my fitness level and abilities. Not having a big goal to get excited about, which I thought would be a relief and allow me to enjoy training more, actually has me feeling empty and lost and struggling to find the motivation to take my training seriously.
And as these frustrations and insecurities mount, sadly it has become all too common for me to fall into the comparison trap. I guess the tables have really turned on me: this Spring I’m sure I drove everyone crazy with my training logs as I doggedly pursued my goal; now, I’m the one feeling inadequate as I watch everyone else beast-mode their training and continue to improve while I still have yet to hit a 40 mile week this cycle.
With all this swirling through my head, I took to the hills last night for 7.5 miles of tough work. A good hard workout is kind of like a rude belch for your soul: it’s stinky, it’s unpleasant, you feel crappy in the moments leading up to it but once it’s out of your system you just feel so much lighter and more cleansed.
And it really helped me sort through a lot of this crap. The workout can’t take all the credit, but it sure did push me in the right direction. I decided I need to cut out the wallowing and start renegotiating the terms of this training. It’s time to get back on track – and I don’t just mean getting my mileage back up.
Here’s what I came up with:
1. It’s time to get back to work
No more making excuses. I am in week 4 of training already and I really need to buckle down and start putting in the work if I want to be in shape to run a good marathon in 13 weeks. After I get back from vacation I only have 9 weeks of build up left (10 if I decide to only taper for 2 weeks), so I can’t afford to slack anymore because every day is going to count.
2. It’s time to reign in my paces and start training at my fitness level
At the beginning of every training cycle I fall into this same trap: buoyed by excessive energy from low mileage and the excitement of gearing up for another big goal, I throw my pace guidelines to the wind and blast through every workout. But the time has come to dial it down and start training at the paces I need to be training at: easy runs need to be at a truly easy effort and tempo runs need to be a little bit more controlled. Training at a level I’m not at yet isn’t going to enhance my fitness at all, it’s just going to push me backward. I will get the best results of I start where I’m at and let progression happen naturally.
3. It’s time for a perspective check
It might be helpful to pull out the life-changing goals notecard I made in April, so I can remind myself of the big picture and center myself around what really matters. No more worrying about whether other runners are logging more miles than me or working harder or progressing faster. I have a journey that I’m on and a goal I’m working toward, and what other people accomplish doesn’t make my journey any more or less meaningful. It’s time for me to remember the wisdom I gained when I made that card: keep your eyes on the prize, and focus on doing YOUR best. Results will follow.
4. It’s time to re-evaulate my fall marathon goals
Before I dismiss all of these negative feelings as just stress or anxiety or a phase, I decided maybe I should actually listen to them first. If I’ve been feeling this way for so many weeks now, maybe it is worth seeing if I should change something in my training and goals to make myself happier.
Now, I said I wasn’t going to train for a huge time goal and put all my eggs in that basket this time, and I do intend to honor that. But I think there is room for compromise here. I am a “go big or go home” runner when it comes to racing. Even if I can’t get a huge PR in every race, I am motivated by working toward goals and seeing improvement and progress. So I decided that maybe having some sort of goal for this marathon will help me feel motivated to keep working hard in my training.
As I was thinking about all of this I happened to stumble upon this great article from Competitor Running about setting realistic running goals. I’ll let you read the article on your own if you want, but I was really inspired by the philosophy of focusing on the process instead of the result – meaning, basically, focus on training at your current fitness level and letting improvements happen organically instead of trying to train at a level you’re not at yet, which is counterproductive to your training and risky for your health and will probably result in not achieving the goal anyway.
I’m not sure how this translates to a specific goal for this marathon, but it has inspired me to keep working hard and given me encouragement that even if it’s not the right time for a huge PR, it’s not unreasonable for me to to hope that I improve my fitness this cycle and keep running at a similar level, or maybe even achieve a modest PR. More importantly, it was a good reminder that this race is only a stepping stone to bigger and brighter things. All marathons are a big deal, but some are bigger deals than others. I would like to improve as much as I can during this training cycle and maybe, if I’m having a stellar day, even nab that sub-3:45. But ultimately however I finish in this race isn’t nearly as important as setting myself up to keep improving and progressing steadily toward my ultimate goal.
Finally, after some thought, I’ve decided I’m no longer going to pursue my big goal of breaking 1:45 in the half marathon this fall. I just don’t think I am there yet, and I really don’t want to fall into the trap of pushing myself to achieve a goal that I’m not ready for. Even if I had more time to train I can tell that a sub-8:00 paced half marathon is just too hard for me this year. And that’s okay. I’m realizing that this goal wasn’t that important to me to begin with. It would have been cool to brag about, but ultimately has little real value to me. I feel comfortable giving it up because it’s actually way ahead of the fitness level I need to be at right now if I want to be on track for my long term goals.
Prediction calculators and my own hunches estimate that I should be able to run the half marathon somewhere between 1:45 and my current PR of 1:48. I think this is a much more realistic goal and one that I would be happy with, not to mention it is right in line with where I need to be right now for my long term goal plan, so I have decided that my new goal for fall is to PR in the half marathon and get my time as close to 1:45 as I can. The sub-1:45 will happen when it’s ready.
At the end of the day, I need to be patient with all the negativity I’ve been feeling toward training lately. What should I do? The only thing I really can do: keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep trying my best, keep showing up – mentally and physically – to each of my workouts. Staying strong through a hard workout today also reminded me of how important it is, especially during this cycle, to run the mile I’m in and just focus every day on having a good workout and having a solid week. If I just keep going, I’m confident the anxiety will work itself out.
As usual, thanks for listening, everyone.