As I think back on my year in running, I want to recap not just what I did but also what I learned. First, the stats.
Highest mileage month: September, 182.13 miles
Lowest mileage month: November, 48.86
Total mileage as of 12/27/16: 1,389
Visual view of the year:
February: Spring Thaw 10-Miler
March: Just a Short Run Half Marathon
April: Pirates Home Run 5K
August: Canby Dahlia Half Marathon
September: Montour Trail Half Marathon
October: Buffalo Creek Half Marathon
November: Indiana First Bank Veterans Marathon
I had one major running goal for 2016–run a full marathon. All of my running was focused on that goal, and most of my races were training runs. I had my best training cycle ever while working with a coach and went into the race feeling strong and confident. Race-day conditions of intense sun and a very warm day were not on my side, and I went into the race fighting a bug and being depleted. I started struggling early on and used up all my mental grit just to get to the halfway point. Instead of quitting at the half, I finished it by run-walking. I was proud that I didn’t give up and amazed that my stomach and body had no real issues the whole race (other than overheating) but very disappointed that I didn’t have the race I knew I could have run.
I was very sad for a while, but unlike my first disappointing performance in the half marathon distance, I didn’t bawl like a big baby and let the negativity overpower the positives. I took the good from the race and used my disappointment to fuel the fire I now have to conquer the marathon distance.
What I Learned
My body likes more mileage.
I feel and look my best when I’m following a training plan that starts around 30 mpw and caps at about 50. And my mind loves the de-stressing routine of near-daily runs. I wouldn’t enjoy running less than five days a week; I’d be sad and go crazy simultaneously.
I can handle more with each training segment.
My peak weeks have been tough for me each training segment, but each segment I’ve been able to handle more mileage and harder workouts. I like to see this very measurable improvement. And I like to continue to challenge myself.
Every body is different.
If I listened to all those who said running is bad for your joints and knees (it’s not) and that running high mileage is especially bad for you (it too is not), I’d never know how much I love running and experience how important it is to my life. That said, everyone has her own threshold for how much mileage she can handle, and different types of training work for different people. That’s why I love hearing about everyone’s training, even if I know it wouldn’t work for me. I think this holds true for most of us in this online running community. I like posting about my training as both a journal to myself that I can refer back to and to share with others one way of training, but I will never say it’s for everyone. I will only say that it works for me.
I train better in summer than in winter.
As a cold-weather-running lover, this was a hard pill for me to swallow. But as I look back at winter compared to summer training, the facts tell the true story. I’ve had to alter winter training many times when snow, ice, or frigid temps prevented me from doing speedwork or being outside for more than an hour. I may have to run a slower pace due to extreme heat or humidity in summer, but I’ve never had to change a speed day to an easy day and can follow my training pretty much to the letter. Running in the heat sucks, but I’ve found ways to deal with it that make it bearable. This is partly why…
My goal races will always be in fall.
I’ll train better for fall races. I’ll train in worse summer weather than fall race day conditions (ideally…see the next point). Racing in warm spring weather after training in frigid winter weather has never gone well for me. So I think my spring races will be geared towards building the fitness I need to be ready for a fall goal race.
I cannot plan for a perfect weather race day.
Sure, I could luck out and get perfect weather. It hasn’t happened yet, though. I can research all the possible races in all the different climates and learn what race-day weather was like for the past five years, but none of that will guarantee how it will be on race day. Instead of hoping for perfect conditions, I need to instead train in all conditions to best prepare myself and learn to better adjust my pace and expectations to fit race-day conditions. I think if I’d have done this for my marathon I wouldn’t have been as disappointed.
I should race more races.
I’m hesitant to run a race I haven’t specifically trained for unless I’m using it as a training run. The one 5K race I ran with no training and without it being a training run went surprisingly well, and I ran close to my 5K PR. I think I’ve been losing out on more positive experiences like that one because of the fear of not doing well. In 2017 I want to get out of my comfort zone and race more.
I have my own strengths as a runner.
In the past I’ve been frustrated when I train well but race poorly and have thought I just suck at running and should give it up. This year the pattern of training well but racing poorly repeated itself, but my thinking changed. Marathon training with a coach was my turning point. My confidence grew to such levels that it changed me. I believed in my training and capabilities like I never had before, and I continue to believe that I can conquer hard challenges and big goals. I may not be a fast runner, I may not love races and do a ton of them, and I may not regularly get surprise PRs without training or trying. But I have my own strengths. I’m very dedicated. I love challenging myself with a hard training plan. I’m patient and willing to put in the hard work now in hopes it will pay off years down the road. I love running frequently with more mileage than typical plans, and I have the lifestyle (no kids, flexible work environment, miles of running trails minutes from my front door) to support that. And this year, perhaps most important, I have the confidence in myself to dream big and believe I can achieve my scary goals.
My running journey is about so much more than achieving goals, though. It’s about improving, learning, and growing. By that measure, 2016 has been an awesome year!