Race weekends, what is not to love about them? The Shamrock marathon weekend, being mid-March every year, seems to fall right in line with the first great week of spring weather. This week has been amazing, and the past two days has been in the low to mid 80’s. Everywhere you look, there are people running, biking or just out strolling along. The week leading up to our big races are so great! Everyone is in amazing spirits, happy, giddy and just so excited for the journey they are about to embark on.
During these weeks, we go out, do our training runs and just chill for the first time in months. No pressure about distance, pace, or anything….just go and run a few miles easy with your running friends..What could be more enjoyable than that for a runner?
The race weekend is filled with so much excitement and sensory overload. It usually seems to start in full force about 3 days or so before the race itself. There is the expo, which is always great! You get to see an entire convention center dedicated to all things running and you feel like a kid in a candy store. Then, there is the packet pick-up (conformation of what you got yourself into). Next up, there is the pre-race dinner. This is where runners make an excuse to pig out and “carb load” on tons of bread, pasta and the like. The pre-race dinner is where we discuss strategy, pacing, fueling and everything else applicable to running a distance race. Then comes race morning!! We wake up (or if you are like me, never really sleep) at the “ass crack” of dawn and stalk around the house going over every possible scenario. We go over our checklist 15 million times to ensure we have everything we need. Garmin? check! Shoes? check!, Gels? check! and on and on and on!! Last year, I forgot my bib and had to send Crystle on a mad rush back to the house to retrieve it (she made it literally about 2 minutes before the gun went off). Then, we get to the starting line (hopefully with everything we will need). Here is where we stand with thousands of other runners, elbow to elbow, pacing around like a kid doing the “potty dance”. This is where we question our months of training! Did I do enough tempos? Did I do enough long runs? Did I bring enough gels? If there is a question out there about running, rest assured that you will ask yourself that question come race morning. Then, FINALLY, it is time to race! After a few introductions, a speech or two and the National Anthem, the gun fires and the race is underway. The first mile goes by in a blur and is ran solely on adrenaline. After that first mile, you generally settle into the pace and just ride out the storm.
For me, this will by my 5th official marathon. Though I can probably offer some advice or a bit of insight on “how to” and on “how to not” do things…In the end, every runner has to run the race for themselves. For you see, there is no easy way to complete a marathon. The 2:03 marathoner is hurting equally as much as the 6:03 marathoner. The marathon is just about the perfect distance for a real good “gut check” on not only your running ability and training, but also your drive, your pain tolerance and your will. Emil Zatopek said it best by saying ” If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon. Nothing could be more true!
There is something intriguing about the marathon. Unlike the shorter distances, its not a race you can prepare for by going out and “half assing” the training. You have to put in the time and the effort. Then, aside from the amount of training you put forth, there is the whole battle with proper fueling and nutrition. For the shorter races, the body can maintain and get through without any additional fueling…to run the marathon on that principle is damn near suicidal!!! Nearly anyone who has ran a marathon can tell you, that no matter how well trained you are, somewhere between mile 18-26.2, it seems that monkey is always ready to jump on your back.
In short, the marathon is a race that is not suited for everyone. But, if you want to challenge yourself, if you want to test your will and discover a part of you that you never thought existed, then the marathon is a great distance to train for. With the right mind, the right understanding and the right training, anyone can complete the distance. Do you have the desire? Do you have the determination? What’s stopping you?
Set the goal, prepare, overcome!