26.2 Miles

runningI ran a marathon once and hated it. Six years later I ran another one and loved it. Why? Training and experience.

You don’t have to be insane to run 26.2 miles under your own free will. You don’t even have to be a super athlete. What you have to be is committed (to your goal of finishing a marathon, not committed to a mental institution).

If you think you could never run a marathon, I’m here to tell you that you can. The hardest thing about running a marathon is training for a marathon.

Find a Training Buddy
I have run with the same group of women for over 15 years. My main training partner had probably run 8 marathons before I ran my first. If anyone could get me through the training she could. When it is 36 degrees outside and raining sideways you are going to want someone who will verbally beat the crap out of you if you don’t show up for a run. There’s guilt in numbers.

There are also a number of professional training organizations like Portland Fit who do group runs for marathon training.

Pick a Good Marathon
One of the reasons I had such a horrible first marathon was because it had the trifecta of bad ingredients for a marathon: a double loop, hot sun, and altitude. My first marathon was Pacific Crest in Sunriver, Oregon. The only thing that would have made it more miserable:  hills.

So when I picked my second marathon I decided to choose based on this list of “features:”

  • Scenery. It had to be a scenic route.
  • Weather. Mild climate. No chance of rain or heatwave.
  • Route. No double loops. No out-and-backs.
  • Location. Somewhere I wouldn’t mind spending a weekend.
  • My second marathon was Carlsbad (Southern California). Nothing like running along the beach in January, wearing nothing but shorts and a short sleeved shirt when it’s pissing down rain and 40 degrees at home in Portland.

    Train Like You Mean It
    This is the hard part. You have to give up half of every weekend from now until the foreseeable future. I run almost every weekend anyway, but I don’t get up at 5:30am and run 20 miles in the rain if I’m not training for a marathon. Just realize that you will not to be able to go away for a weekend during your training unless you can run 20 miles by yourself without the motivation of your training partner. I know I can’t, so I stay in town for the whole training period.

    Fuel the Fire

    There are two things I learned while training for the Carlsbad marathon:

    1. You need to fuel the pilot light as well as the body.
    2. Magnesium is a miracle mineral.

    I crashed during the Pacific Crest marathon because I wasn’t eating enough during the race. My “pilot light” went out somewhere around mile 22 (the proverbial wall). What I learned in training for Carlsbad is that my body needs a lot of fuel to keep that pilot light lit so I have the energy to burn my stored calories. My new rule is that if I am running for more than 60 minutes I will eat during the run. Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it eating. It’s more like drinking slimy goo from a plastic packet. Runners know I’m referring to the Power Bar Gels,  Gu,and various other forms of runner “food.” I estimate that I consumed 15 of those packets during the Carlsbad marathon.

    Any sustained athletic activity will deplete the body of Magnesium. And when you’ve just run 26.2 miles and your legs are screaming you will want a Magnesium capsule at the finish line, even better if there’s a hot guy (or gal) handing it to you with a smile. Your body will naturally replenish the lost Magnesium over a period of 24 hours, but who can stand the painful leg cramps for that long! Not me.

    Why do you do so many long runs?

    I can’t tell you how many people look at me sideways when I tell them I’m running 18 miles on a Saturday and the marathon is still six weeks away. You can’t run one 18-mile run before a marathon and expect your body to be happy about running 26.2 miles. You have to train your body for sustaining itself for long periods of time. So, if you want to run a marathon time of four hours, you’d better do plenty of training runs that last four hours. It gets your body used to the idea of running for that length of time. When I am done with my training I will have run three 18-mile runs and three 20-mile runs, with many other runs sprinkled in between.

    The Last Marathon

    When I finished my first marathon I said I’d never do it again because it was such a horrible experience. When I finished my second marathon I said I’d never do it again because it was such a perfect experience. Then I signed up for my third marathon. WTF? I signed up because:

    1. I needed a reason to get my ass out of bed all winter in this dark, dreary weather we have in Oregon.
    2. I wanted my “marathon body” back.
    3. I got some wild hair about running the Boston Marathon for my 50th birthday and I needed to qualify.

    So, training is almost over and the marathon is just a few short weeks away. The training did get me out of bed every weekend even in the pouring rain. I am fit and living off a runner’s high most days. But now I’m thinking once again that this will be my last marathon. I can hear you all screaming, but what about Boston!? After training all winter for this marathon, giving up every single weekend, and missing most of my son’s basketball games, I don’t think I want to do it again. I’d like to go back to my normal life of running 10-12 miles on a Saturday morning, which I can do before my kids even get out of bed, and I can do anywhere in the world.

    I may still qualify for Boston, but I probably won’t run it. I think I’d rather be in a hot air balloon somewhere over the Napa Valley sipping champagne on my 50th birthday next year. :^)

    Napa Balloon Champagne

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