How to Run a Marathon Instead of Letting it Run You

Recently, I was cleaning out some of my cabinets and I found a journal I kept while I was training for my first marathon. It was nice to take a trip down memory lane and remember the beauty of the first marathon and how it feels to have NO IDEA what's in store for you.

Now that I'm training for triathlons, I realize the lessons I learned from marathon training that date all the way back to my first one...Twin Cities Marathon, 1999.

I was so consumed with my training, so focused on making sure I didn't miss a training run or workout that I didn't make time for anyone or anything else.

I recall my 'non-runner' or rather my 'non-marathoner' friends being frustrated because they hadn't seen me for weeks. In my journal I wrote, "Don't they get it? I'm training to run 26.2 miles...this is a dream I've had since I was a child watching my dad run marathons. Now, I'm doing it and at this point in time it is my top priority so everyone is just going to have to wait until I've crossed that finish line and my life can get back to normal. I can't help it if they don't understand."

Looking back and reading that now, I see how that was maybe just a touch on the selfish side.

Here's what I've learned that I can pass on to you, the first time marathoner, the first time triathlete or the athlete who can't seem to fit much else in besides your workouts.

While it is important to get your workout in, it's also important to:

Find and follow a training plan that prescribes higher intensity and lower volume and also advocates additional hours per week to 'have a life.' While you're getting in some intense training, you're also getting prepared for an your event with a peak training load that makes every hour as productive as possible.

Make sure to communicate your plan with the people whom with you spend the most of your time. If you communicate your schedule to those you love, the less frustrated they'll be when they ask you do something and you remind them you have a training workout scheduled.

Train when most people are sleeping or winding down for the night. If you have a family (or even if you don't but you want to have a social life in the evening), get your workout in before everyone wakes up in the morning. Then, ride your trainer in the garage at night after the kids are in bed and force yourself to get out there. Have a TV in front of you, great music or a book to ease your boredom. It's hard to get started, but you'll get used to it and feel a sense of accomplishment when you're done. Just try to be done within 2 hours of bedtime so you can sleep easily. You can get an intense hour session in on the trainer that is just as efficient as a hard ride outdoors. On your longer weekend training sessions, get up early and get going. A 5 hour ride or 3 hour ride followed by a 50 minute run that gets you home before noon on a Saturday still leaves a lot of the day and weekend for other activities.

Schedule a "ride or run to the event" workout into your weekend training program. If the whole family is packing up and heading to the beach or a barbecue, run or ride there while they drive. It seems less disruptive to the rest of the family if you help load up the car and then hit the road 30 minutes before they leave and arrive 30 minutes after them.

Train on your way to work or on your lunch break. Commuting can be a great way to add miles to your routine. Ride your bike to and from work when possible. If you work from home, hop on your bike to run an errand instead of getting in the car. Go for a run or hit the gym for a swim or Yoga class during your lunch break. Pick a day that you can leave work early and run home.

Include friends in your workouts. Go for a run or a bike ride with friends who enjoy running or riding. Meet a friend at the gym to weight train together. Run or ride to/from a friend's house for a visit instead of driving.

Maximize the rest of your time more wisely. You'll probably find this comes a bit more naturally as your training progresses. I know for me when I'm training for an event, I manage my time more efficiently simply because I don't have the luxury to procrastinate or be unproductive. Dedicate the limited free time you have to spending it with family and friends.

Most importantly, know that you're human and not perfect. Try to set realistic goals and be flexible with your program. Most of us aren't going to win the race or even finish on the podium, that is if we'd like to maintain any sense of balance in our lives. Be OK with skipping a session because your body needs a rest, you have another commitment that takes precedence over your workout for that day or you just simply need to spend some quality time with someone in your life.

Always remember, if you follow most of the prescribed training you'll be good to go by race day. Keep it all in perspective and you'll finish the race strong. Don't forget to enjoy the process and feel good about your accomplishment!

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Reader Comments (4)

I think the lessons you learnt can be applied to far more than just running and training marathons. It's like that with everything. Running a business, preparing for a big event... all require you to not forget that you also have a life and people in it that need your attention.

Great post.

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMel

Excellent and very creative advice Kim! I haven't run other than in the gym in a couple of years but the whole idea of leaving first and arriving last to a family event (aside from arriving sweaty) sounds great!

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Ribeiro

I applaud you for your dedication and fortitude. Love the idea about getting your family and friends involved to work out with you. Best of luck on your next run!

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Geigle

I've always admired people who run marathons. Your advice can be applied at any situation that requires dedication.
Especially I liked "...Most importantly, know that you're human and not perfect..." I have to remind this constantly for myself.

June 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterInga Deksne

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