Advice from a marathon rookie

The starting line at last year's Country Music Marathon.

I run because the endorphins balance my mind and the time outside soothes my spirit. When I haven’t run in a while, I am more easily frustrated and restless. I don’t sleep as well at night, nor do I focus as easily during the day.

It’s ironic, then, that the week before my first big race, I’m not running much at all. I need sleep before a half marathon, right? I need focus. I don’t need crabbiness and frustration, nor do my friends and family!

But people with more race experience assure me it’s not only okay to cut back on running before a big event, it’s wise. Tapering restores your body after training and allows you the proper rest before heading into a big race.

My last long run was nine very hilly miles in south Alabama two Saturdays ago. More by necessity than know-how, I’ve been limited to short, 3-5 mile runs in the days since. That makes me very nervous about Saturday, when I’ll be one of 30,000 people hoofing it from Centennial Park to LP Field.

I’m worried I will have forgotten how to do this.

What if I screw up the pacing? What if I’m so mortified and/or pumped up by the people passing me that I speed up, then run out of steam, and am thereby forced to eventually walk?

What if I don’t stop for water because I convince myself it’s sissy to stop, even though I’ve learned from experience that I’ll finish the whole thing much more quickly if I pause half a minute to hydrate?

What if I don’t finish it in the time I said I would finish it? What if I’m at the bottom half of my age group? What if I’m the slowest of all the people I know? Can I call the guy at the paper who is putting the race results online and make sure he takes my name out of the list?

All these are mental hurdles. I know I am physically prepared to run the half marathon. I’ve been training since fall, and I’ve already handled more distance than the race I’m running Saturday. I know the only thing in my way is my head, which is kind of a mess right now because I haven’t been running as much, because I’m doing what the real runners say is best.

More irony.

Maybe I should do what my friend Jackie says and just “run my race”. That means understanding why I run in the first place: I don’t do it because I’m particularly good at it. I do it because I enjoy it. So, who cares if I fall apart physically, right? Because I know I’ll finish. I know I’ll have fun. And when it’s over, I’ll be back to running like no one’s watching.

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5 thoughts on “Advice from a marathon rookie

  1. I ran a tiny bit this morning just to clear my mind (and also because I woke up crazy early) and here’s what happened: I spent the first mile freaking out because all I thought about was running. I spent the second mile relaxed because I made a conscious decision to NOT think about running. Guess which mile I loved.

    Thanks, everyone, for the advice!

  2. You are going to do great! As I was reading this I was saying, “ME TOO” in my head. You sound like me the first time I did CMM. I’ll tell you what I told my training partner last night and myself at every start line: Breathe. You can do this. START SLOW. haha. I never start slow and then I end up wondering why I feel so tired at mile 6. haha. You’re going to do great! And about being last, first of all, you won’t be, haha, and second, at least if all else fails, you’ll cross the line before the hula hoopers. Honestly, why would someone ever want to hula hoop the 1/2 :) Relax. Good luck!!!

  3. Everyone else — other runners, timers, friends, loved ones, people looking up results — are simply a framework within which you perform up to your own standards. Hopefully. In the end, it is your race and you are your only competition.

  4. And even more people who aren’t running at all and marvel at those of you who are – I think it’s impressive to just run at all and to finish in any amount of time. All three of you – have fun!

  5. I like that…. run like no one’s watching. I’ve felt the pressure to have a “good time” because I think others will care what my finish time in. When in reality most loved ones think I’m hard core to just be able to finish and when all is said and done, I’m running for me! (By the way, I wasn’t nervous until I saw your blog picture – so many people!!!)

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