The Training and Making of a Marathoner

by Karl Gruber
“I love running because it gives me a sense of freedom. That feeling of freedom ranks high on my list of priorities in life. It means that all I need is a good pair of shoes and I can run wherever I want and when I want. There are no limits.” – World indoor 800m champion Adam Kszczot talking about his love for running

If you have just registered for your first full or half marathon, then get ready for a new, active, healthy and calorie-burning lifestyle! Let’s review what you have to look forward to in the coming weeks as you MOVE toward race day. 

You finally took the big step and signed up for the marathon you wanted to run for so long, and today is day one of your 16-week training season. It’s 6:00 a.m. You’ve already had some coffee to wake you up, filled your hydration bottle with a sports drink, and now it’s time to stretch. Your training schedule calls for an easy four-mile run, so you’re feeling good and ready to head out the door. The morning sun is shining its brilliant rays at the end of their 93 million mile journey while you run lightly down the street. All is well as you’ve taken those first steps on your 16 week journey that eventually ends at the finish line of a 26.2 mile race four months from today.

It’s the third week of your marathon training, and as you lace up your running shoes to prepare for another early morning training run, you think back to those days before you were a runner. In those days, you might brush the cobwebs from your eyes and struggle to crawl out of bed. Now, you are eagerly heading out the door for a mid-week six-mile run, feeling good about yourself and envisioning yourself crossing the finish line of your marathon with a big smile on your face.

You thought you were going to sleep in on weekends, huh? Now you understand why so many runners have dark circles of sleep deprivation around their eyes. That’s when you remember a quote you once heard from a running icon — “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” — and you pour yourself a cup of coffee. It’s time for your Sunday long run, and now that you’ve joined up with a local running group, you’re in a hurry to meet them at the local park for a 7:00 a.m. start. 

As you drive to the park to meet the group, you realize how you’ve improved as a runner, both fitness and pace-wise, since you started running with a training group. Something about running with others just seems to pump you up and inspire you to take your running to the next level. 

Now that you have been steadily increasing your weekly mileage, as well as the intensity of your workouts, your body is starting to feel the effects of it all. Much of the time you feel stiff and sore, and that’s when you look lovingly toward your foam roller to help you work out those kinks. By now, you’ve also probably become familiar with anti-chafing balms after dealing with blisters and maybe even a black toenail or two. 

So you finally decide to take a day off from your training to allow your body to recuperate. Heck, your running group’s coach even mentioned that you should listen to your body and allow it some rest when it needs it. The next day, however, you’re feeling good once again and off you go on an eight-mile training run. Your marathon training is progressing nicely!

It’s week number 12, and your running fitness is starting to peak. You now officially feel like a long distance runner, and know you are getting closer to the finish line of your marathon. Today is your first ever 18-mile run, which is just another stepping stone to your last and longest run of 20 miles next weekend. 
You remember when you used to worry about eating too much prior to training, but now you worry about whether or not you consumed enough calories to sustain your energy through today’s long run. You realize, “Wow, I didn’t know that I could eat that much pasta!” 

You’ve reached the day of your 20 mile training run, and you’re looking forward to tackling the distance with your new running buddies from your training group. You remember a time when you weren’t a runner, when someone told you they ran 20 miles and you responded with “All at once? Why that’s crazy!” Now here you are, about to accomplish it yourself. And it’s still just a dress rehearsal for your 26.2 mile race in three short weeks. 

A few hours later — still sweaty, tired and maybe a bit sore — you did it. You successfully ran 20 miles non-stop, and as you gingerly walk back to your car dreaming of a shower, you try to imagine what it is going to be like to run a full 26.2 miles. That’s when you hear yourself say, “I can do this!”

Finally! Here you are, anxiously toeing the starting line with thousands of other runners on marathon day. This is it — the day you trained so hard for over the last four months. 

Nervously, you run through the checklist in your mind — GPS on the wrist, anti-chafing balm in all the right places, shoes that don’t have too many miles on them. You also think about whether you are well-fueled and hydrated, under or over-dressed, well-rested, and have secured your bib number to the front of your shirt. Once everything is checked off, you think “Ok, marathon, bring it on! I’m ready!”

Once you got past mile 20 of the race, things started to get tough. You realize this is the first time your body has ever ventured this far, but suddenly you realize that there was no way you are going to quit now. “Damn it, I trained for this!” 

And in the blink of an eye, there you are coming across the finish line of your marathon. You hear the race announcer calling out your name, and saying, “Congratulations!” Yes, you did it, you really did it! You really are a marathoner! 

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