I’ve been thinking about this training plan and marathon business a lot lately, and it’s brought up some interesting thoughts and questions.
I’ve been a runner since my junior year of high school (1997) – twenty two years. I’ve run at different capacities during my life:
High school cross-country team where I was flying by the seat of my pants and just doing what my coach told me to do. I don’t remember running much outside of practice and meets, so I was just doing it to be on the team. I did really enjoy it and got a taste of competing, but didn’t know what it really meant to be a runner.
I graduated in 1999, started going to community college, and became an occasional runner. I’d run around while playing volleyball and softball, and run a couple miles here and there around campus.
I joined the Army in 2001 and got out in 2009. This is when I really learned what running was about. Started running faster and longer – loving competing in races.
When I became a competitive runner, I did start looking at training plans with the hopes of following one and that it would make me a better/faster runner. It would typically turn into something like a compass – I would refer to it in terms of where I should be, but it wasn’t something that stressed me out. Why does it stress me out so much now and why do I feel the need to follow it 100%? I think there’s at least a few reasons…
Moving to Colorado took away my speed and started a downward spiral of getting out of shape. I tried so many things and I just couldn’t get back to where I wanted to be. I thought that by following a training plan it would bring me back. Nope.
SO many of you have so much success following training plans and having coaches – some of which also make it look VERY easy to stick to. That would work for me too, right? Nope.
I always want to challenge and push myself which I can do now by either trying to get faster or running longer distances. In my mind, to do those things you need to following a relatively strict training plan. Could I do it that way? Nope.
If I love running SO much, why can’t I do this? Hang on…
Who says a runner has to follow a plan to improve? This is what is always in the forefront of my mind these days. I’ve had so much success in the past just using plans as a compass. By looking back, I can see that success now. Sure they work wonderfully for some people – it’s a proven fact that they can help you improve. They don’t work for everyone and I can attest to that. All it does is add worry and stress and makes me feel like I’m not good enough when I miss a day or two. I now feel that I can still improve if I can just add more consistency and refer to a plan when I need to know around where I should be, mileage wise.
Also, why am I feeling the need to still run marathons and beyond? If it’s so hard for me to train for, then why am I doing it? I don’t have anything to prove to anyone, not even myself. I need to cut myself some damn slack and stop trying to up the bar after everything I accomplish. I don’t know when I reached the point of feeling like everything I do (athletically) has to be something amazing or better than the last thing I did. Maybe it’s getting older and closer to 40. Maybe it’s because I spent so long in the Army doing great things and I miss it. Maybe it’s because I took on the ultimate challenge of climbing Denali and it didn’t happen. I’m sure it’s a lot of things.
I have to realize that things do change as you get older, and there will come a point when I won’t be hitting PRs anymore (pfffff, haha!), or I might not be able to run longer distances without getting injured along the way. I’m not going to accept any of that right now, but I am going to start cutting myself some damn slack. I am 37, healthy and active, and am so lucky to be able to do the things that I do. I live in a beautiful place with many beautiful things to see and do. I’m going to soak up all of that while I still can and I’m going to enjoy it without stressing about whether I am doing the best I can or not.
Being a runner is a big part of me and I need to be whatever kind of runner I want to be. I need to make it my own and not try to follow what others are doing all of the time. For me, running is a hobby and not a job that I’ll ever get paid to do. It’s OK to compete with myself and others, but it needs to be done in a healthier, more realistic way. It’s also OK to try things that others have success with. If it doesn’t work for me, move on. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Relentless Forward Progress.
Lastly, the days of week-to-week training recaps are over – probably to the relief of many (which is also why not many people will be reading this – thank you to those who have stuck with me). Why write weekly recaps when I have a training log AND Strava that basically do that for me? Moving forward, I hope to write more about thoughts and memorable experiences. And race reports, of course!
For now, and hopefully forever, I’m going to stick to the advice of some of you and Just Fucking Run – JFR.