I absolutely love March. Beyond lions and lambs and Music In Our Schools Month, March means the return of spring, the return of daylight, the return of my fleeting interest in college basketball, and the return of that urge to organize my entire life. In a recent bout of spring cleaning, I came across my very first marathon training plan. Every day for five months was planned out, including rest time, speed work, hill training, and the entire experience was tied up with a graph for good measure. A marathon is not to be taken lightly, and I approached it with a nearly robotic methodology. Beep boop.
I set a goal, and by gum I was going to do it! This piece of paper was posted was on my refrigerator, serving as a daily itinerary. And when all was said and done, it worked. I (mostly) stuck to my plan, and I completed the Twin Cities Marathon in 2011. I’m extremely proud of that race and proud of the work that went into it, but my training style has evolved (or perhaps devolved) since then.
As I gear up for Chicago in October, my new training plan has replaced a daily agenda with more broad strokes. There is no paper. There is no graph. I have mileage goals for long runs jotted down on the calendar on my phone, and the distances generally trend upward. Beyond that, there are a few weekly classes I like to attend for cross-training, and the rest of the week I just to what I can. Last Saturday, I had originally planned on running 6 miles. When I remembered it was St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be fun to add a mile and run a lucky 7, but a few miles in, my legs weren’t feeling it, so I held back and stuck to the original 6. When I’m not trying to reach a set number in my mind, I’m much more able to listen to my body and run with my heart instead of my head.
I’ve been running long enough now to trust myself — by my sixth go at 26.2, I know I’m capable of getting myself both to the start line and across the finish. I can handle the grind and the pain and the early mornings. I’m positive that I’ve got this.
But more important than trust is humility. I’ve learned the hard way time after time that I can neither predict nor control every element of my life. Believe me, I’ve tried. As much comfort as having a strict training plan can give me up front, inevitably it always results with me falling behind due to sickness or generic life-getting-in-the-way-ness, and then I often end up injuring myself trying to make up for lost time. It’s not healthy. It’s not fun. It’s not how I want this race to go.
Cramming for a marathon simply isn’t possible, so I’m taking it slowly and giving myself as much time as needed. My long runs for the last month or so have been 5-6 miles, and as this distance gets stronger, I’ll build from here. Eventually I’ll feel comfortable with 10, and then 12, and then 15 (and after that, I can’t even pretend that any bit of it will feel comfortable, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there).
I appreciate my past self for wanting it so badly. 2011 Kate knew that it was important, and it wasn’t going to happen on its own. She knew that every day was going to require a recommitment to the process. She knew that she was venturing into an entirely new part of herself, and without a plan she might get scared and quit.
She was right.
But 2018 Kate knows that every step of this is doable, and that every day requires a whole lot more than just a commitment to running. This time around, I’m looking at the big picture and hoping to build a strong and healthy foundation — and that means making time for friends and family in addition to making time for running. I’m listening to my body, I’m taking my time, and I’m approaching this entire experience as a complicated human and not a machine.