Running marathons has become my "thing" over the past few years, thanks to my fabulous and fun running group, and the never-to-be-underestimated power of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I truly enjoy training for and running marathons, and knew from my first finish that I was hooked. Now, I've completed four full marathons and one ultra marathon! And, while each training and racing experience has it's own uniqueness, there are definitely some predictable stages that we all go through, whether it is your first or your 51st.
So....you think you want to run a marathon? Here are the 12 stages of training for one.
Curiosity – First, you wonder how crazy of an idea it is. “Can I really run a marathon? I think I could. I mean, those other people did. If they can do it, surely I can do it! Okay, let’s do it!”
Elitism – In this stage, you begin to feel somewhat superior to others. You’ve registered for the race, downloaded your training plan, bought new shoes and gear, and begun finding ways to work the fact that you’re training for a marathon into every conversation.
Confidence – The first couple weeks of a marathon training plan is relatively easy, so a sense of confidence further enables your superiority. “Shoot, this is easy! I should have signed up for two!”
Overwhelm – After talking with other runners about your training plan, you hear dozens of different pieces of advice about pacing, speed work, what to eat before/during/after a run, what time of day to run, how to deal with plantar fasciitis…and as the longer runs kick in you wonder, “why am I so tired? Why am I so hungry? Why do I have to run again when I just got done running?” It’s just kind of taking over your life now.
Pride – But you get over that. You achieve some new distances. You’ve been humbled, and you’ve been built back up. You’re in some new territory, and it feels pretty badass. “I am actually getting better at this! I think I can do this! I think I might even wear tight shorts!”
Surliness – Then you get tired. You get tired of running, tired of talking about running, tired of doing the math to figure out what time you have to get up to run, tired of looking at your splits, tired of eating (yes! even tired of EATING!), tired of wondering if you are doing it “right.” You’re. Just. Tired. And you kind of want to just get the whole stupid thing over with so you can go back to things that incorporate more pillows and resting on them.
Elation – But you persevere. And near the climax of your training, the runner’s high has kicked in. You’ve just run 20 miles with your best friends and you love everyone! You love the trees! You love the sun! You love that lady at the gas station who let you drink out of the faucet! This is awesome and we are going to be the best marathon runners ever!
Paranoia – After that last long run, the taper has begun, and to the newbie this feels like glorious rest because you can run less. “Wait, run less? Are you sure this is okay? This feels weird, I know my plan says I should do 6 but I think I’m going to do 9. I mean, I don’t want to lose my edge. Or my “edge.” Whichever I have, I don’t want to lose it now.”
Taper Tantrum – Veteran runners know this is also a time for everyone in your life to relocate to another house because not running makes you super super super grumpy.
Doubt – As race day approaches, self-doubt begins to set in. You suddenly realize that you have no idea how running works, or how the human body works, or how clothes work, or anything. You question what time to wake up, what to eat before the race, what to wear during the race, what to eat after the race, whether or not you are even registered for the race, and who on earth let you believe that you could run a marathon in the first place.
Resigned to Your Fate – It’s race day! You wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and drive to the race start as if you do this every day of your life. You’ve made this bed and you might as well lie in it. Or run through it. It is what it is. You just want to finish. You try to remember if you ever publicly told anyone your goal time or that you were even doing this in the first place. Either way, you’re here so you might as well get on with it. You stand nervously with the other crazies, you sing the National Anthem, check to make sure your watch is on (it’s not), and BOOM! Go!
Disbelief – OMG you’re doing it! You’re running the marathon! All of that training and now it’s here and it’s just running! It’s challenging, and difficult, and there are times when you think you can’t and then you remember you can, and you see the miles go by, and you get to the double digits, and you fight your way past 17, 18, 19, and make it to the 20s. Then the crowd picks up again, and the cheering pulls you along, and you think maybe this is really going to happen, and OMG I am running a freaking marathon, and those people over there are NOT running a marathon, but I AM, and look those people already have their medals on so I must be close to the end, and OMG everything hurts so bad and I just want to lie down in a bed of bagels but look! 25! I can hear the finish line announcer! Okay, suck in, look strong, smile, eyes on the prize, and make it look easy. Here comes the mat. Last step. Medal on. Water bottle put into hand. Tears well. *splat*
Euphoria – (about 20 minutes later) This is when you feel like you are on top of the world. And, you might be, depending on the location of your race. You get food, water, a soft spot to sit down and look in disbelief at your medal. And then someone asks, “so….you want to do the ultra with us?”