As the beginning of marathon training approaches, I’ve been uneasy. I struggled to understand why and asked myself all the questions again.
Do I want to train for a marathon this year? Yes. After a half-year of light or no real training, I’m ready for more rigor and challenge. I’m ready for more miles and long runs. I have a plan and approach that I think will work for me, and I’m excited to try it.
Do I want to run a marathon this year? Yes. I said in my mid-year goal check-in that races just aren’t important to me. I’d rather just run for the love of running than stress myself because of the myriad ways that a race makes me anxious. I don’t need a race on the calendar to motivate me to run. I run mainly to be outside and experience all of nature’s seasons, and secondly to calm my mind and energize my body for the day ahead. Another, but not as important, reason I run is for the challenge of it, but I can challenge myself with a hard training plan or different distances, not just with chasing PRs. Given that, do I still want to do a race? Maybe I could just do a marathon-distance long run on my own or as part of a group run? I could, but I think the marathon is the one distance that makes most sense to do as a race because of all the support in terms of aid and fueling you need that would be, logistically wise, tough to do. Plus, it would be too easy to quit or not give it my best shot on a long run.
Do I want to run a road marathon this year? Aha. Here it is—the cause of my unease. As my love for trail running really blossomed this year, my desire to run road races withered. Whenever I think about the day of the Philadelphia Marathon, I get anxious. When I don’t want to run a race before I even start training, it’s probably not a good idea to run it. It’s not Philly in particular. It’s everything that comes with big road races—the crowds on the course, the crowds of spectators, the crowds all during the weekend at restaurants and other spots, the fanfare, the hoopla. That’s not me. I’d much rather be on the trails, by myself, enjoying beautiful woodsy scenery, talking to deer that stop and watch me run by, and feeling the soft dirt under my feet. I understand the benefits of a city race and think it would be an easier race at least from the mental aspect because of all the distractions and the opportunity to run with a bunch of other people. I definitely perform better in a crowd than by myself. But this year’s journey isn’t just about performing better. It’s about enjoying the whole journey, including the race, on my own terms. I did look at technical trail races for the fall. Besides there not being any really close to Pittsburgh, I know that fall brings the difficulty of leaves on the trail that obscure rocks and roots, making it easier to trip and fall. With being new to trail running and having only done one 10K trail race, I’m not ready for a long distance on a technical trail just yet.
This led me to the decision I made this past week: I’m not running Philly. Instead, I’m planning to run the NCR Trail Marathon near Baltimore, a race I learned about when Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC ran it, and who later encouraged me to run it. The course is similar to the marathon I ran last year—an out-and-back on a rails-to-trail. And because it’s held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I’ll have a good chance for cooler weather.
Déjà vu! After I thought through all this, I realized that this same thinking led me to the trail marathon I did for my first marathon last year. While the race didn’t turn out as I hoped, I loved the overall experience of a small trail race with easy logistics and a low-key vibe. I’d briefly considered doing the same race this year, but that early-November race has a greater chance of having the same weather issues I dealt with (unseasonably warm and brightly sunny) than a late-November race. With this decision made, I’m pretty excited!
So now I’ll have two more weeks before training starts. Here’s how last week’s base building shook out.
Week at a Glance
- Training mode: Keeping my fitness up prior to marathon training that starts July 24
- Days running: 4
- Miles this week: 14.8
- Miles this month: 16.66
- Miles this year: 482.74
- Strength training: 35 minutes
WV running with Django: 3 miles
I was still in my 200-acre, secluded West Virginia oasis at the beginning of the week. I started the morning running on my own on some of the trails, where I got good practice running up and down very steep sections. Then I took Django on an unleashed run around the property then leashed him up and took him on more trails. I think I’ll look back at this time running with Django as one of my favorite experiences with him. I loved when he would be off-leash but would choose to run side by side with me, both of just enjoying running together, my heart just about bursting with love for him. He’s such a good dog!!!
Later, Dave and I went on a hike with Django on other trails. We hiked to an abandoned house in the woods, which was fun and a little scary. It was cooler where we were staying because we were in the “mountains” (in quotes because clearly not like mountains out west) and felt great. But it had gotten warmer in the afternoon for our hike, so I decided to just hike in a sports bra and shorts. This was a very bad idea. Even though I sprayed on bug repellent, I guess I didn’t do a good job because I got eaten up! I have tons of bug bites on my back. Lesson learned!
Our last day in West Virginia was cool and a little rainy. After the rain finished and I packed everything up, I took Django on one last hike on the trails. I loved this place so much and hated to leave. We’ll be back!
I did 35 minutes of strength training.
Easy run: 4 miles
We left the nice, cool weather behind in WV and came back to crazy humidity. Oof.
Run commute: 2.5 miles
For the first time in a long time, I had a very restless night, with only about 5 hours of sleep. Of course I fell asleep only shortly before my alarm went off, so slept in instead of going running. Having missed my morning run, I decided to do a run commute, which I plan to do in marathon training to make up some miles. I’ve run home from work after walking in, but this was the first time I planned to run to and from. My office is about 1.5 miles from my house, so I ran 1.25 miles and walked some before and after to warm up and cool down. It didn’t feel that humid out and wasn’t too warm, so I didn’t expect to get really sweaty in just 1 mile of running. Ugh—I was a super sweaty mess. I was sweating so much that I couldn’t even change into my work clothes when I got in and instead had to sit at my desk to cool down for a few minutes. Nor did I even think to bring wipes! We have an open work environment, so sitting at my desk in sweaty running clothes is not really appropriate, but few people are in the office on Fridays, so it was fine. I don’t have a place to hang my clothes to dry at work, and they never dried while sitting in my locker during the day. So I had to put on my wet clothes to run home–gross. Given all this, I will definitely not be able to run into work on any day except Friday and will stick to running home instead. And if I do run into work, I know now to bring wipes and a change of clothes for the run home.
I took the day off because we spent the day at my mom’s house for a big family party.
Trail run: 5 miles
I met Jamie at North Park for a trail run. We about died when we saw each other–we were dressed exactly the same, from our white headbands down to the color and even brand of shoes!
Jamie doesn’t usually run on trails, but I told her how wonderful it is to run in the shade, so she wanted to try it. She loved it! She told me that trails were the best-kept secret and that I shouldn’t tell anyone else about them, ha ha. We would see all the runners sweating in the bright sun as they ran the main running trail around the lake and were so happy to be in the woods instead. It was a very cool morning at just 60 degrees and was a really fun run. And I’ve successfully converted a running buddy to a trail running buddy!
We’re now going to enjoy this beautiful afternoon with a walk to the park with the dog. Have a great week!