Running a marathon is an amazing experience. It is a journey that begins at the onset of training, rather than at the starting line. The actual marathon is the finish. It is the proving ground of your training. In the span of the marathon, you will put into practice everything you have experienced during the course of your training. It is much like learning all of the music notes, composing a song in bits and pieces and then putting it all together, creating a masterpiece. There are high notes, low notes and many in between notes. There are difficult, complicated parts and easy, melodic spots. It all makes sense when you reach the end and then, you are never the same.
A few days ago, I finished my 7th marathon and I finished it with my daughter. That was definitely the BEST part. We've been training together for a few months, to run the Zydeco Marathon in Lafayette, Louisiana. This past Sunday was the day it would all come together and we would finish our journey.
As are all marathons, it was a character building experience and I wanted to share my thoughts about it. Overall, it was a good race, but not without its challenges. Running a marathon is much like life - you know there will be challenges, you just don't know which ones will come your way and which ones you'll be able to dodge. Overcoming challenges gives you strength, character and confidence. The overcoming makes you better, but it doesn't feel pleasant when you're in the middle of it.
Each race holds unique challenges - hills, heat, fast course, slow course, small crowd, large crowd, etc. At this race, we encountered a few challenges that are fairly typical. Listing them in no particular order, will give you an idea of what our overall experience was.
Challenge #1 - the weather. When you run a marathon in the south, during any season but summer, the weather is a toss up. When you run in the Summer, you KNOW it's going to be hot. But when you run in the Fall, Winter or Spring, it could be hot and humid, cold and humid, cold and dry, cold and wet, or a mixture of all possible weather condtions at various times during the race. You just never know. I'm happy to say that yesterday, we did not have to contend with any heat or humidity, so that was nice.
That being said, the weather did present a challenge. That challenge was the wind. At one point, we had been running against the wind for quite a while. I was ready for some relief. Up ahead, I saw that we'd be turning a corner shortly. I thought we would get some relief, but no. The wind was stronger! How could this be? I don't know, but it was. It was tough. I am grateful, though, because I would rather fight the wind and the cool air, than heat and humidity!
Challenge #2 - most of the runners were doing the 1/2 marathon. While I think it's a great thing for so many to be out there doing 1/2 marathons, it can definitely do a number on your mentally, when you are one of a small portion doing the full. While runners begin to celebrate that they are almost finished at miles 10 - 12, those doing the full are not half way finished and the mood is far different. For this race, my most challenging moments, mentally, came between 9 and 12 miles. Once the 1/2ers peeled off to finish, I was able to relax a bit and carry on.
However, this also presented the second part of the challenge when most participants are doing the 1/2. When they peel off, the crowd becomes much smaller. If you are doing the race by yourself, you are alone. That can be taxing. For this race, I had my daughter with me. When I was struggling, she pulled me through and when she began to struggle, I was there to push her to the finish.
Challenge #3 - Much of the race course was concrete. Concrete is hard, so it beats you up over the course of a race. All pavement is not created equal. Asphalt has some give, whereas concrete does not, so it is your body that absorbs all of the pounding. That makes for a bit more soreness, pain and weariness.
These are a few of the reasons why we train and we train well! Being prepared for all of these challenges in advance, makes all of the difference. It's the difference between finishing and not finishing. It's the difference between snapping on your blinders and forging ahead and giving in to the tough circumstances and calling a ride.
Putting in the tough hours and miles pays off on race day! When you show up for those training runs, rain or shine, hot or cold, tired or ready to go, you will be ready on race day. The challenges will be there, but you will be ready!
If you are training, or want to train, and you need some instruction, encouragement and/or community, join us! Let us help you succeed in your training and make it to your starting line ready to run your race and cross your finish!
Robin Simpson, Co-Director of Marathon Makeover
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