Someone asked me the other day..."How do you train for a Marathon?". There are two ways to answer...the short and the long. The short usually starts with a smart-ass answer like "very slowly" or "by putting one foot in front of the other". The long answer would create a short book that would rival the Harry Potter series, and I find that a non-runner quickly get's bored with a marathon runners detailed answer to the question (at least with my detailed answer).
But in truth, there is nothing short about running (or training for) a marathon. There is no shortcut to the training, you either put in the miles and do your best to prepare for the race, or you don't and you pay the price on the day of the marathon. Pay me now or Pay me later.
A few facts (at least they are my interpretation of the facts based on prior marathons) that might help to put this in perspective:
- When you reach the 18 mile mark you are about half way in the race. Yupp...I know the math doesn't work out but believe me the last 8 miles can be far tougher than the first 18.
- Somewhere between 16 and 19 miles your body runs out of fuel. You have burned all the carbs that your body has stored and now you are running on pure willpower. In runners terminology this is called "hitting the wall". It can feel more like the Great Wall of China has fallen on you. Training long distances teaches your body to deal with it (mentally and physically).
- By 20 miles your shoes are having their own personal crisis. Having supported your pounding body weight for the last 2 - 3 hours the cushioning in your shoes have given up the ghost. It's a little know fact that the cushioning in running shoes compress during a run and then expand again between runs. Even the best shoes will be toast by this point.
- There is an art to drinking during the race. You can drink too much, drink too little, or drink the wrong stuff. Runners have died from the first two and have collapsed from the third. I was running a marathon with a friend who had been drinking only water during the race and around 19 miles began to weave a bit. We knew there was trouble when she mistook a band playing on the side of the road as a water stop. It took a half hour in an aid station dumping salt in her mouth to get her electrolytes back to normal.
Training is all about acclimating your body to the physical and mental challenges of the race. Pay me now or pay me later.
Which leads to the discussion of Credit Cards. I heard a statistic the other day that if someone has $5000 on their credit card and makes the minimum payment each month it will take 12 years to pay off the $5k plus interest. And that is assuming they don't charge anything else. Between interest and late fees the numbers can become overwhelming. Delaying payments or paying the minimum just digs the hole deeper.
Marathon training is all about getting in your miles. Missing your mileage goals is like missing your credit cards payments. If you get behind in your miles (payments), you have to run more (pay more) to catch up. The more you run to catch up the more likely that you will get injured. If you get injured you have to take time off and in turn that puts you further behind in your miles. It's the reason so many people who plan to run a marathon never make it to the starting line.
So how are we doing? Heather is doing well having run another 18 miler last weekend. Dad is struggling with injuries and still has not gotten beyond 11 miles. It could be age or it could be that I got behind with a week of Bronchitis and then got injured pushing to catch up. But regardless, it will be a challenge to get the necessary miles in before race day.
But I have lots of inspiration to keep me going and I intend to be at the starting line with Heather regardless of training (I won't comment on where I'll be when she finishes). I was helping out at Lazarus House last week and I was so impressed by the difference they are making in people's lives. I also have been incredibly impressed by the support of family and friends, both with donations and messages. Bless you all for the support...it really helps...especially on cold mornings these days when I need to get outside to run.
For those of you that still wish to contribute you can do it online at Lazarus House http://www.lazarushouse.org/BostonMarathon/default.asp or if you are more comfortable sending a check drop me and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will let you know where to mail it.
BTW...if you are interested in a great book about the Boston Marathon check out 26 miles to Boston by Michael Connelly.