The Eugene Marathon 2013 wasn’t my first time in track town. I went last year…twice actually. Once for the whole Eugene Marathon weekend (I ran the 5K) and then for #totallytrials with Oiselle. I distinctly remember watching SarahOUAL, Sweaty Emily, Faster Bunny, Skinny Runner and company all tear it up in Eugene, yet all I was thinking was “thank God that isn’t me.” I swore of marathons and found a new friend in 5Ks and 10Ks.
Now, a year later, I’m all “the marathon is magical and you’ll find unicorns on the course and forest fairies and it will be amazing so just keep running forever and ever and ever.” In fact, if running and I were in a relationship, we’d be on our honeymoon in Fiji, where it’s beautiful even when its monsooning.
What changed? Probably just finding running friends who helped me like running for intrinsic reasons versus extrinsic gain. But, I’ve been thinking about a list of “game changers” in the past year that helped me go from marathon hater to BQ’er.
CAVEAT: I’m not going to impart any words of wisdom that aren’t already out there in the universe. I’m not going to tell you any brand new information. These are just the few things that worked for me and, hopefully, can help you, too.
1. LEARNING TO TEMPO
Tempos aren’t might strong suit. Or, at least, in the past they weren’t. I used to freak out over hitting paces EXACTLY (I’m very literal and specific with most things) and a deviation in a few seconds would derail me (it sounds silly now). I used to stop very frequently during tempos, which I’m fairly sure is against the whole point of the run. Taking breaks during a harder effort isn’t exactly confidence boosting for a race either. There are time outs in a race.
I used to think that each workout need to be great – spectacular even – to produce a good result in a race. About a year ago I changed my whole attitude. I told myself that I didn’t need to be great, I just needed to be consistently good. And a lot of good workouts would lead to a great race.
So, before tempos, I’d tell myself to “just be good” and to “not stop.” A good many were slower than I would’ve liked, but I didn’t stop. And then not stopping became routine, rather than the reverse, and I found myself running a 6.5 mile tempo nonstop by September.
The whole “learning to tempo” bit not only helped improved the physical systems that it works (I don’t know what these are, this is why I have the RC), but it also helped my mental focus. Focus upped my marathon game for sure.
2. LEARNING TO USE THE GARMIN AS A TOOL AND NOT A SLAVEDRIVER
When I first got a Garmin, I’d try to run to make the Garmin say something. For instance, I’d want to make it say 8:10/mile during a tempo. If it was too slow, I’d try to make it say 8:10/mile even if that meant stopping because it was too hard for me at the time.
I’m not sure which the mental switch occurred, but sometime last fall or this spring I got good at using the Garmin as a tool. I’d run the pace at which the effort felt appropriate for the what the workout called for. And the Garmin would tell me what that was. It’s a really subtle difference that is somewhat hard to articulate, but, basically I dictated a run, not a Garmin.
I’ll even wear a Garmin in a race now as I know I won’t have any mental breakdowns over it. I can see a pace during a race, but won’t mount an emotional response to it until after.
I’m not even sure if the above makes sense. Just go with it.
I drank a lot of nuun before and after both long runs and the marathon itself. The discovery of banana nuun while in Eugene was clutch. Although I’m drinking more banana nuun now than I care to admit.
I don’t drink nuun while I run mostly because I don’t carry my own water (in case you were wondering).
Read this study on how under-hydrating affects your run the next day.
4. INTRINSIC MOTIVATION
I started running in 2009 and started taking the “getting faster” thing more seriously in 2010. I have no idea why, but for a long time I felt like I need to prove myself as a “good” runner, mostly to myself. I think I doubted my abilities for a long time and wanted race times to show me that I was a runner (vs runner-poser?) and, maybe, an “average” or “above average” one at that. [What the definition of “average” and “above average” runner is, surely, subjective.]
For a while, I think I wanted a BQ to prove something to myself, to show myself that I was “good” or “above average.” Sometime this spring, my attitude changed. I wanted a BQ because I knew I was those things – “good” (to me) and “above average” (again, to me). I started thing about myself differently as a runner, as someone who was capable and strong. This sounds terribly conceited, but, in other words, I wanted a BQ because I knew I could do it not because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.
[If that makes any sense whatsoever.]
5. JOY AND FRIENDSHIP
I wouldn’t have even signed up for two marathons in the past year if it weren’t for Gia and Jocelyn. Both run marathons because they love to run and it brings them a lot of happiness. And they showed me that I could learn to love the distance and have more fun than I could have imagined training for it.
Now, let’s get real. The stars aligned for me in Eugene and, of course, it’s very easy to say “of course I could do it” after the fact. I was definitely a tiny bit doubtful leading up to the race. It’s a marathon after all. It’s a long time to run. A lot can happen in 3 hours (I mean, in Titanic, Rose and Jack fall in love and Jack dies all in that span of time). Could I have run 3:38 or 3:45 that day? Absolutely. But, I knew deep down before this race that I was trained to run 3:33-3:34 because of the above mentioned aspects IF everything went right on the day. I’m lucky it did.
TELL ME: GAME CHANGERS FOR YOU AND YOUR RUNNING?
Until next time…