The week before a half marathon (or marathon)

I am three days away from my third half marathon. The first one, I trained diligently. The second, I barely trained and essentially ignored nutritional training, with the excuse of being too stressed. I was disappointed in my results, and have set forth to smash both race times. This year, I have trained, making my runs a priority (and even lightening my leg strength days a tad). My nutrition and hydration have been adapted to the change in demands I have been placing on my body.

I do not feel ready.

I will be running 13.1 miles on Sunday and I am freaking out. The good news? This is perfectly normal.

The taper

For those who do not know about training for an endurance run, any solid training plan will require reduced mileage in the weeks prior to a race. After spending 8-20 weeks of progressively increasing mileage, you begin to cut miles. This allows your body to recover and recoup for the big race.

It does not do a whole lot of favors for the mind.

I have not been running far enough.

The weather

Many of my friends (aka Fit Chix with Quick Stix) are running the full marathon this weekend. In our conversations, it is obvious that many of us are experiencing weakened confidence. We are all unsure. The weather has changed drastically in the last few weeks here in the Midwest – from snow less than two weeks ago to 80 degrees and sunny today. Most of our training was completed in 0-60 degree weather. Feeling the exhaustion of the HOTTER – but much shorter – runs, has left many of us insecure and pessimistic. I am sitting here, bloated from my attempt to hydrate, and I am worried.

What if I overheat?

I am praying for 60 degrees and rain on race day. I do not like heat. I would prefer to use water stations to hydrate, rather than to use them to pour over my head and cool off. Sure, I could stop at each station and do both – but that would slow me down and I am on a time crunch.

Mind over matter

Endurance events require a great deal of mental strength. The physical training is easy – in comparison. The hard part of training? The days and hours leading up to a long run, “Ok, I am going to go out and run 10 miles….” Anticipatory thoughts do not necessarily require us to believe that we can do it – they require us to want to.

You have to WANT to.

Many individuals joke that all marathoners are crazy. Crazy is a word many individuals use to describe determined, dedicated, motivated, and ambitious individuals. Do marathoners maintain or obtain a unique mental state and mind set? Yes, marathoners are mental athletes (by the way, ALL true athletes are mental athletes). You find a way to clear your mind of everything else and you simply run.

Vicarious experience

At this stage, my confidence must be drawn from vicarious experience. I have successfully completely two half marathons. I am in better physical condition and am running faster than I have for either of them – I KNOW I can do this. Several weeks ago I ran a strong 11 miles and had energy to spare – I KNOW I can do this.

I know, therefore I can.

The hardest part for me, along with the taper, is the overall resting. I am done lifting until after the race. I am determined to meet my challenging goal and I need to ensure I am rested. Just as my Sunday long run took a toll on my April 1 assessment workout, I do not want my workouts to impact my long run. THE long run.

The bottomline

The final week(s) prior to any endurance race is difficult. It can be a challenge to keep your head in the game, not allowing your confidence to waiver.

Mentally – I KNOW I can. Physically – I KNOW I can. Therefore, I CAN.

Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. ~Hebrews 12:1

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Training for sport: Running

Running is a sport. What many individuals fail to realize is that you need to train to run – you do not just go out and do it. Similar to other sports, in order to become proficient and remain injury free, you need to train for competition. This training is not exclusive to sport-specific training – for example, running if you want to run – but incorporates a full spectrum of cross training.

I meet more and more individuals who only run – and others who throw in a few crunches here and there. I also know many individuals who believe that running is the only way to lose weight or stay in shape. Please know, you do not need to run to be thin. Running is hard on the body. The human body is no longer regularly conditioned for this level of impact – as we have become an incredibly sedentary society. This is not to say that the human body is not capable of sustaining the wear and tear of running – it is – but we need to train for it.

runnerWalking & jogging

If you are not running now but want to start to run – you must first walk. Unless you spend many hours a day on your feet walking around as it is, I caution against the popular “Couch to 5K” programs before appropriately conditioning your body and feet to walking. Many of these programs have you running/jogging on Day 1 – allowing for generous walking breaks. While you might think, I walk every day, how much do you walk? And do you walk with intent and speed? Walking in preparation for a jog or run has a different impact on the body than walking into the supermarket.

Something running misses

Let’s say that you are beginning to run and you decide – I will train for a 5K. Awesome! I love these goals. So, you begin a running program, and by race day your lungs are ready and you feel like your legs are too! Later that day your knees hurt. Why? You train running in a relatively straight line. Race day, you are dodging manhole covers, puddles, and other runners. The lateral movements take their toll and later manifest as pain. This can be avoided with cross training – in include strength training and movement specific functional training. For example, adding speed or power skaters to a strength circuit.

Repetitive motion injuries

Common running injuries? Blisters, lost toenails, plantar fasciitis, shin splits, knee and hip pain, and iliotibial band syndrome – just to name a few. Blisters (and calluses) are out body’s way of protecting itself. This could be the result to ill fitting shoes, improper socks, or simply doing too much too soon and the body not being accustomed to being on its feet.

Many running injuries are the result of repetitive motion. We can categorize “runner’s knee” – or chondromalacia patella – as a repetitive motion injury and liken it to carpal tunnel or trigger finger – injuries most often sustain on the job. How do we reduce the likelihood of these injuries and/or lessen the effects of them? We cross train and we train to run.

My testimony

I started running longer distances to prove to myself and my doctors that I could. I have been very inconsistent about it over the years. In Spring 2010, while training for a half marathon, I sustained what I now know what a stress fracture in my foot. I did not run for a month – weeks 7-10 of my 12-week training plan. This is a large portion of the training and I missed 4 significant long runs. BUT, I did not miss my training. I converted my training program to the rower (Concept 2) and I trained for those 4 weeks with rowing and my usual strength training. I allowed my foot to heal and I was able to ease right back into my run training. I finished that half marathon – doing a third or more of my training on a rower and running 3 or fewer days a week for the other two thirds of the training.

So let me ask, is running the only method for training to run?

And is it the best method?

I am training for another half marathon next month. I run 3 days a week in preparation. It will be two years since my last half marathon – and I have run very little in those two years. However, I have cut more than a minute off of my per mile time. Again, with little to no running until about 8 weeks ago.

How often do you run?

The bottomline

This is all meant to be food for thought. It is often said that running is the easiest and most inexpensive physical activity you can partake in. Do you also know is has one of the highest risks of potential injury – often ranking with sports like skiing and soccer? (While walking and swimming have MUCH lower risks). Finally, I am not discouraging running – I am discouraging ONLY running. Train smart and your body will thank you for it.

Do you run and only run?

Are you feeling aches and pains?

Are you getting results?