Last week marked the start of my 2016 marathon training plan.
Just like last year, I am relying on a Hal Higdon schedule to get me through, and, just like last year, I’m totally terrified that I won’t be able to go the distance.
You would think that having run the HH training plan previously and having successfully completed a marathon I’d be less nervous now than I had been this time last year, but the success of Paris has added a new pressure: now it’s not just about proving to myself that I can run 26 miles, it’s about proving that I can do it faster than I’ve done it before.
Moreover, with the exception of one or two wet and windy longs runs, I really enjoyed my training plan for Paris and I’m nervous that this time around I’ll find it more difficult to motivate myself without the novelty of the ‘first-time marathoner’ to fall back on. I’m afraid that I’ll discover that training for a marathon is, well, just less fun. On top of this I don’t have my trusty training partners, the Twins in Trainers, to help spur me on this year as they are in marathon retirement, having got a good few marathons under each of their belts. There will be no gossipy chats on long runs, or the sharing of stories of various running-related ailments and injuries, no team to scoff bagels doused in peanut butter with, or to keep me calm on race day.
It was while mulling this over, that I started perusing the pages of ‘Runner’s World’ this weekend.
Reading running books and magazines always gives me a boost when I’m lacking in motivation or feeling that drag of self-doubt holding me back. I love to hear people waxing lyrical about running – talking about their best races, triumphs over adversity, or incredible running feats (or running feet! – sorry I couldn’t resist). Reading these stories just makes me want to put on my trainers and hit the road immediately! It also helps to hear that even the best runners have weaker moments too; knowing that others also have bad runs, or those days that they just don’t feel up to, it allows me to forgive myself and not just throw in the towel as soon as I feel sub-par.
In the December issue, an article by Sam Murphy about the value of ‘play’ as part of your training regime and the importance of enjoying your runs and of having fun while you train, really helped to motivate me in my training. This article was exactly what I needed to give me a boost as I recalled the fatigue brought on by 5 runs a week.
In the article, Murphy cited Chris McDougall and his book ‘Born to Run’. McDougall is keen to emphasise that growing as a runner isn’t just about hitting particular time targets or pushing to run longer distances; instead, he writes:
‘We need to figure out what we really mean when we talk about getting ‘better’ at running. Is the goal to get faster at the risk of burning out or getting injured? Or is it the ability to exercise every day for years on end and enjoy it so much that you can’t wait for the next run?’
I’m sure you’ll agree that the latter is infinitely preferable. By enjoying every run put ourselves in a better position to improve our technique and endurance, not only because we are likely to become more inclined to lace-up and get out, but also because we are more likely to listen to our bodies and to respond more mindfully to various niggles.
It was with this at the forefront of my mind that I eased into my first long run of this marathon season on Sunday. I took it steadily, enjoyed the scenery, my music and the newest episode of ‘Serial’ and by the end I had remembered why it was that I loved last year’s training so much.
It’s still early days but fingers crossed this continues.