Nine weeks down, seven to go.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Training for a marathon is like riding a roller coaster. After the high of scoring a personal record at the OASIS Montreal Half-Marathon, I was due for a little deflation. You can’t sit on top of the roller coaster forever. At some point, it’s going to roll down.
And roll down it did. The last two weeks of training for the ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 7 have been full of shenanigans that forced many a change of plans. In the process, I learned the power of saying yes and no.
Toward the end of Week 8, I got a little stomach bug that turned what should have been an easy 12-miler into a cramp fest that left me scrambling for a bathroom. And of course, it waited until I was three miles into the run to hit. 12-miler? No, change of plans!
I had to cut the run short and unstrap my usually cozy hydration belt to gain any semblance of comfort—and I’ll leave it at that. The bug lingered for a few days leaving me voraciously hungry and sick to my stomach at the same time.
But that’s not all. Someone in a high-heeled shoe accidently stepped, full force, on my right foot. It left a gash and a bruise that covered almost half the top of my foot. Wearing shoes was far too painful. Last run of Week 8? No, change of plans!
It wasn’t the end of the world—just the end of my week.
I let the run pass, figuring I’d catch the next one, but I missed my first Week 9 run too. Between my foot and my stomach, I was out of commission for five days. At least the two coincided—two birds, one stone, I’ll take it. And thanks to the fact that I run just three days a week on my FIRST training program, I only missed two runs.
So what did I do during those five days? I plodded around in the most minimalist sandals I own while eating cottage cheese and toast. And scene. Cross training? No. Yoga? No. Loafing? Yes.
By the time I ventured out for my first post-shenanigan run, I felt like someone had let me out of a cage. I wanted to run and run and run! Seven miles never felt so good. Yes, yes, yes!
Next, I tackled my scheduled 16-mile long run. The first seven miles were on target. But a mile later I was having a mental crisis. My legs felt fine, my lungs were breathing steadily, but my mind started hitting a wall.
Suddenly and incomprehensibly I thought, “I can’t do this. No, no, no.”
It was inexplicable. I slowed to a walk and pulled myself together. This was a ‘No’ I didn’t want to say ‘Yes’ to. I had been doing 2.5-mile loops on a dirt path in Central Park, and I think it made me loopy. Keep running the shady, soft dirt loop? No, change of plans!
I needed a change of scenery—and a bigger loop. So around mile nine, I switched to the main park road, which is six miles around. Sure, it’s sunnier, hillier and paved—all the reasons I didn’t run it in the first place—but I wasn’t going to give in to the ‘No’ this time. I slowed down about 30 seconds per mile and found my groove. Thankfully, the last few miles were easier than the first. Yes! Mental crisis averted. Thank you change of plans.
With seven weeks of training left, I’m back on schedule. But I’m sure another change of plans is lurking somewhere down the road. And that’s fine with me. If training and running and racing and living and breathing were predictable, they wouldn’t be nearly as challenging. And isn’t that one of the reasons we love to run? Because we love a good challenge? Isn’t that what a marathon is?
Yes, yes and yes.
And don’t we ride roller coasters because they’re fun? Because we like that sinking feeling in our stomachs? That feeling of uncertainty? The mixture of fear and euphoria that creeps in when the coaster car starts clanking up the first hill?
Yes, yes, yes and yes.
It’s the same feeling when we toe the line at a race—that gulp that says at one and the same time, “Can I do this?” and “I’m going to do this!”
Yes, I can and yes, I will.
Karla Bruning is an award-winning journalist and running nerd. She has completed three marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning. To listen to an interview with Karla, check out The Marathon Show, available for streaming or download on BlogTalkRadio and iTunes.