They can’t all be great runs

Distance: 14 mi.

Time: 2:25

There is no other sport, in my opinion, that can humble you as suddenly or violently as running. Mainly because there are very few other sports… golf, bicycling, triathlon, rock climbing, etc., come to mind… that are so totally up to the individual. You have no teammates, no direct opponents, just you. Oh sure, you can perceive the elements to be an opponent or to provide a ready excuse for lack of performance, but in the end it all boils down to you. No sport is so personal as an individual sport.

Today was supposed to be 18 miles. In the excuse category (which I do not accept) it was warmer and more humid than usual. I ran a two lap course, as usual. I ran a 10 minute pace, as usual. I prepped my half way food and drink re-supply, as usual. I even got to the trailhead a half hour earlier than usual (but still later than my Tuesday/Thursday runs, so not unusual) to beat the heat. My first lap was about 10 seconds per mile faster than usual. My second lap? I bonked at mile 11 and had to walk back to the truck. My legs (and ONLY my legs, everything else was fine) were done. They ached, felt weak and seemed to be on the verge of cramping. I could no longer take a normal running stride and the cramping started to creep into my abs. I was done. No amount of walking, sitting, trotting or begging could get me past it.

So what happened?

I dunno.

Here are the things that were different with this run:

I ran with a partner. She didn’t push the pace but I did chat a lot as we ran.

I volunteered for a track and field competition last night which ran late and I didn’t get home in time to get a full night’s rest. I only slept for about 5 1/2 hours.

I ran the entire first lap. I did not take walk breaks at my “aid stations”.

I may not have (I’m still thinking about this one) eaten enough or enough of the right things leading up to the run.

In any case, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t get it done. But did I learn anything?


Training for a marathon is not like training for most other sports. You must set up a routine and STICK WITH IT. No changes allowed (unless it is obviously not working… which mine is). It has to be SO personal and SO meticulous and SO “routine” that it may mean that you do most of your runs (at least your long ones) alone. And your last two months, especially, have to be very methodical, planned and non-varying. If you don’t have a training plan or routine down by now? Yer hosed…

But see… here is the humbling part. There is no one to blame here but me. It’s not the weather’s fault. It’s not my partner’s fault I blabbed too much during the first lap. It’s not the track meet’s fault there was a rain delay. And it’s certainly nobody’s fault but my own that I didn’t eat EXACTLY the same as I did on my very successful 16 mile run and that I didn’t get enough sleep.

Lessons learned?

Yup. I have 4 long runs left. They are 20, 22, 24 and 26 miles. I will run them alone. I will sleep at least 8 hours the night before, get up early and eat a good amount of the right things. I will take my walk breaks as I drink. I will not add anything (non work related… of course) to my schedule for the next 2 and a half months. It’s time to make the big push which means I need to put just about everything else on hold.

Do I have to do this?

Stupid question… It’s too late now and I am too far into this to back out.

I doubted myself again today. For the first time in a while I found myself thinking about quitting. Doing a shorter race. Getting my mountain bike back out again… Canceling my hotel reservation.



3 Responses to They can’t all be great runs

  1. Don’t overthink it. You’ve convinced yourself that you have this magic formula for running: Sleep X number of hours, run X pace, walk X number of times, eat X food at Y time, drink X amount of liquid, etc., etc., etc.

    It’s OK to have a routine, but don’t let the routine control you. Your ability to have a successful, enjoyable run is not dependent on any of the routines you’ve set up — unless you believe it is, in which case you are, as you say, hosed if you break one.

    Distance running is not a matter of diet, rest, training mileage, pace, hydration, or anything else. It is simply a demonstration of how well you understand this simple concept:

    You can run exactly as far as you think you can.

    I will prove this to you before the weekend is out.

  2. dabigleap says:

    I know… I know… I’m getting a little obsessive about the whole thing. You are right. I guess I just walk a ragged edge when it comes to believing I can actually do this. Any setback or bad run unsettles me. Honestly though, in the end, I just enjoy running and may sound more worried about bad runs than I actually am.

    I do think a routine is important, though. I just think you have to train more seriously for a marathon than other events, simply because it is the most physical stress most of us are likely to endure in our lifetimes. I’m not afraid of failure in “this race”. I am afraid of doing something stupid that keeps me from running again or puts me in the hospital. It’s just hard to push your limits AND be careful at the same time.

  3. Meh. Stupid was running the OKC Memorial Marathon on two training runs, which I did in 2006. (I got through it unscathed, but that doesn’t mean it was a brilliant thing to do.)

    Running an extra mile between carb gels or staying up an hour or two later than you planned the night before a run isn’t stupid, nor is it going to cause irreparable harm.

    I promised you proof of my earlier assertion. Here it is. Enjoy! 🙂


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