One year ago yesterday, I ran my first marathon. I loved the training and, while the race didn’t go as I’d planned, loved the experience. I couldn’t wait to take another shot at it. And yet, a week ago I decided to quit training and not run a second marathon this fall.
That I feel so much happier now confirms I made the right decision. The difference between how I feel now and how I felt while training is like night and day.
While I’m sure fatigue plays a role in all marathon training plans and methods, the Hansons’ method is unique in that fatigue isn’t a byproduct of training but the goal. The method builds you to extreme levels of fatigue over the weeks and months of training so that you’re always running on tired legs. Completing hard workouts and long runs on tired legs gives you the physical and mental practice to handle what will come on race day. I achieved my half marathon PR after using this method and can confirm it works. But the biggest reason I’ve liked the Hansons’ method is the big confidence builder that just getting through training brings.
But it takes its toll. During both marathon training cycles, even while I felt stronger than ever before and my confidence grew, I felt like a part of myself was shrinking inside. Without the energy that makes me who I am, I felt like a shell of my real self. I felt depressed. Last year, my coach and my goal of completing my first marathon got me through training. This year, a race that I didn’t really want to run without any sort of big goal just wasn’t enough for me to keep fighting.
I worried that I’d regret my decision. But it’s just the opposite–I couldn’t be happier. So I can’t help but wonder if the training really did make me depressed. Did the training stress zap whatever energy makes me happy? I looked back through my training recaps to see if I could pinpoint exactly what happened. Here’s what I found:
- Before training, I felt very happy doing 80/20 running and was a bit uneasy about marathon training because I was afraid of turning my happy running life upset down.
- I applied the 80/20 method to the first part of training and seemed to handle it very well. I was still really happy and enjoying training.
- I stopped the 80/20 method as I started the marathon-specific part of Hansons’ in week 11, where there are more miles at or slightly faster than marathon pace, and the overall mileage increases. The next week I ran 50 miles for the week. And the week after that was my undoing, where I fell apart.
So either stopping the 80/20 method and doing the straight Hansons’ plan or putting in more than 11 hours of running in a week or a combination of both did not work for me. This is a good lesson learned for me!
To counter the talk about depression, I wanted to share a funny story. Courtney gave me the great suggestion to spectate a race to get some race motivation back. Yesterday, I spectated Pittsburgh’s EQT 10-Miler, where I’d see a lot of familiar faces racing. The course comes very close to my house, so I walked Django over just in time to see the leaders come through. Well, I must have gotten something on my contacts when I put them in, because my vision was really blurry, and I had trouble seeing. I was standing in a spot where it was pretty much complete silence with no one else cheering but me. I always cheer loudly when the first women come through. So when I spotted the first two women, I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Woo! First women! Looking good, ladies!” And as they got closer to me, I realized that they were a man with long hair and a short man. The one even looked behind him to see who I was cheering for. I was so embarrassed, not only that I called the men women but that everyone around me heard me calling them women. If there’s any chance that these men or friends of them are reading this, I apologize! I couldn’t see! I was only able to see Steff because of her bright socks and Sara and her husband because they were carrying pacer signs. It was so bad that I ended up leaving before the end of the race so I could go home and take out my contacts. I felt really bad because I always like cheering for the back of the pack.
Unfortunately, this race didn’t motivate me at all or make me want to run a race. It looked like a death march, with most of the runners grim-faced and sullen–from what I could see, at least. And this was at mile 6–it wasn’t like mile 25 of a marathon! I should also note that I had the same experience as I did volunteering at the Pittsburgh Marathon, where the fastest runners did not even acknowledge me. As the mid-packers came through, more started smiling at me, laughing at my sign, saying hi to Django, or even saying thanks. I swear that as the paces slowed, the runners got friendlier! I don’t think it’s a case of the faster runners just being determined and on a mission, because all runners (who aren’t running it for fun that is) are trying their best, right?
As for the week in workouts, I’ve been taking it easy and running when I want, which, this past week, was when it wasn’t raining. It’s been raining a ton! I also got in two strength training sessions, which is more than I’ve done in a while.
Week at a Glance
- Training mode: Running for fun after ditching my fall marathon plans
- Days running: 3
- Miles this week: 15.5
- Miles this month: 11
- Miles this year: 971.19
- Strength training: 2 sessions
Easy run: 4.5 miles — just 37 degrees!
25 minutes full-body strength training
Easy run: 3 miles — back to mid-50s!
Long run: 8 miles
I headed to the Buffalo Freeport Trail, the course for the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon. It was cool and sunny, and I was excited to run. I planned to do 8 miles but loved that I didn’t have to if I got out there and wasn’t feeling it. The fall leaves were in full bloom, and the trail was gorgeous. I didn’t look at my pace the whole time, so when I was done I was surprised to find that this run was faster than any non-workout run I did all through training! But the important thing was that I enjoyed every minute of it.
We took a long walk in the afternoon. It was sunny and beautiful.
33 minutes full-body strength training
We spent the afternoon again outside on a long walk. It got up to 70! I wonder if this will the last nice weekend of the year?