Woah, I’m Halfway There: Marathon Training by a Non-Runner

‘Living on a Prayer’ seemed like the most fitting song to sample for a post about running an obscene number of miles, let’s be honest. And I call myself a non-runner, because I suck at it, but I do it. I can put one foot in front of the other, and that can be enough.

It’s a Saturday evening and I’m happy to say that I know longer have that weekend buddy, the Long Run, hanging over my head! Due to some obsessive forecast-checking, I thought it’d be raining tomorrow and this afternoon so I wanted to get out for seventeen big ones in the sun. And it’s over.

You might remember my post about my straight-from-the-depths-of-hell 15-miler last weekend, which basically made me want to gouge my eyeballs out with a fork rather than EVER lace up my running shoes again. I dissected some of the reasons for that, including lack of sleep, poor nutrition, stress, etc etc. But sometime you just have CRAPPY runs, you feel me?

This week, I DID make an effort to get a little more sleep, and to eat a whole lot healthier (“second dinner” of endless bowls of honey bunches of oats nonwithstanding…) but I can’t really credit that for doing better today.

Example: yesterday, I skipped dinner, went out, drank a few beers, was hungover before I even got home due to my body’s now-horrendous tolerance level for alcohol, chowed down on some microwavable pasta dinner after midnight, went to bed at 1:30AM, slept fitfully on the couch, and then woke up six hours to pound out seventeen miles like it was nothing.

Sometimes life is just like that, right?

Regardless, knowing that this would be my last long run in Berkeley made me want to take advantage of the Bay Trail that runs along the (you guessed it) bay for miles and miles. And it’s all flat (about that resolution for more hills…) and on the water and pretty and no stupid traffic lights and on the weekends there are a ton of other people out so it feels really safe. My run was pretty great; I didn’t start cursing myself for undertaking this stupid marathon thing until mile 15, which was about… 15 miles later than I did last week. I’ve also discovered that a face-sized bottle of fruit punch Gatorade at mile 13 or 14 is killer. I don’t care how much sugar is in it, just hook me up to an IV while you’re at it!

Perhaps what got me through the run without any real problems was my chipper mood, or my new songs on the iPizzle (can I get an “amen” for the Glee soundtracks…), or more likely, I had motivation for what I was going to do after.

I needed to get through the run so that my sister and I could go to Cinnaholic, which is a vegan punkish cinnamon roll place in Berkley that I’ve been dying to go to for two months and it just hasn’t worked out. Check the menu on the website and drool, please.

My PB/banana/maple frosting roll was kind of epic. Scratch that. Seriously epic. I can’t believe they are vegan. From someone whose idea of heaven is a place where cinnabons have no calories, I can honestly say that these are perfect. Run, don’t walk.

Today’s run was more special for me though because it was doubly significant: One, I passed the 200-mile mark since I started training (averaging about 25 miles a week, which is really nothing especially when you consider the long runs, but it’s been fine for me because I want to be careful with my finicky knees and increase the mileage in the next weeks) and I’m now halfway done! Knowing that my first half of training took me from my first long run (7 miles) to my eighth (17 miles) gives me hope that I will get through those 18, 20, 22 mile runs. (26.2 is something else entirely and I don’t really want to think about it.)

I wanted to take a minute and preserve some of my current thoughts about being halfway done on the blog. These eight weeks have been pretty awesome and have made me realize a lot of different things.

Training is the demanding husband you don’t remember marrying. No matter what, it’s there, nagging you, even when you want to do other things, be free to make your own choices, you can’t. When you are training, it’s always in your mind, telling you that you need to work harder, stop partying, get rest, train more intensely, stretch, ice, go buy GU, map out runs, check weather, plan your weekend social plans around running, etc. It is a lot more consuming mentally than I ever realized, even if it’s not necessarily that much time in the week compared to other activities that fill up the hours.

Training has made me more aware of my body. I take care of myself more. I don’t do activities that I think might negatively impact my ability to run. Sometimes this is bad (aka, not going to the snow this year when I’ve been looking forward to it for the last few years, because I was afraid I’d get hurt—which often happens—and not be able to run; OR, never taking classes at the gym that I am scared will make my legs sore, like Spin, because God forbid I am sore for running!) But other times it is good, with being aware of stretching, of paying attention to different aches and pains and recognizing which ones might be dangerous or significant.

On a similar note, training has changed my relationship with food. In my life, I’ve often been an overeater and sometimes an undereater (usually the former; this girl loves to eat). But with training, it really forces me to think of food as fuel and recognizing JUST how much what you put into your mouth affects your body. In the past, I might have never thought of fueling a run, with fear of cancelling out the exercise of the run. Marathon me recognizes that as bullcrap. I have realized how much better I run when I eat a LOT on run days—of good, fueling, WHOLE foods—with appropriate hydration (and digestion time!). It’s been cool to recognize more intimately the value of good nutrition (and I’ve never been more convinced about scary some processed foods are. Hence not touching an artificial sweetner since before I started training. Never. Again. Maybe…)

Training is motivating because you are working for something bigger. I think that’s why so many people train for marathons. It seems ridiculous and impossible when it’s something unfamiliar. It’s like climbing Everest “because it’s there”… the marathon is there, so we try it. It’s motivating to think about how things I am doing NOW are going to affect my ability to run a race eight weeks from now!

Marathon training in “the real world” is hard. The last two weeks, instead of running 18-20 miles during the week, I ran only twice each week, not counting the long run, never for more than six. I prioritized sleep during these days, getting used to a new schedule. I had one marathon-guilt-induced breakdown, but then I got over that real fast and recognized that missing a few runs in a 16-week training plan is NOT going to ruin anything and to get over it and do the best I can, when I can.

(Moving to a place in the city next weekend where I can easily run in a park before work instead of on a dreadmill will help a lot with this.)

Marathon training often makes me less fun. Sometimes I want to make plans but no, I need to get up to go running. Some Saturday nights I’m out but no, I can’t drink, I’m running tomorrow. Oh and while we’re on the topic, I need to leave to go home to go to bed now. Uncool. I’m sorry, but sometimes training, just like trying to be healthy, is lame. But I’m okay with that.

Training alone is dumb and should not be attempted. I’m self-conscious about my “slow prods” but I’m also running alone for 3+ hours with only my mind for company, and I can say that THAT is certainly not the best running partner.

So I’m halfway there. What’s on tap for the next eight weeks?

A half-marathon next weekend, which will be a nice taste of the race environment. I am still planning on plodding through it like a slowpoke (just hope to finish in 2:15 or so) but that’s fine. I’ve never been a speed racer. My goal with running is simply to survive.

Then The Big Ones come in succession. 18, 20, 22 (18 and 20 seem pretty possible after today. 22? Pass.)

I want to up my mileage during the weeks. I want to make sure I am running at least three times during the week  M-F (which I always was doing until the last two weeks) and maybe even four times, even just adding in a quick three-miler, just to pound the pavement a little more and boost that mileage.

I MUST RUN HILLS AND INTERVALS. These are key. I did a few hill runs the first half. Not a lot. And Big Sur will kick me down and finish me at mile 11 if I don’t get those long runs on some hills. San Francisco to my rescue.

I need to improve my mental game. It sucks. And that really IS the key to running. Seeing as I teared up the first time that I watched the Big Sur course video, my brain is going to be more important than my legs on this one! (Oh and scratch the “first time.” More like the ONLY TIME. I was too scared to touch it after that…)

I need to stretch more. I was doing yoga at least a few times a week the first six weeks of training; the last two weeks, not at all. Thank goodness for my awesome foam roller. This week, I will stretch at home when I can. Next week when I have my own place it will be easier, too.

I need to nurse my knees and my ITBands like a baby. They are starting to give my trouble by mile 14 or 15. THAT is SOOOOO not going to work. Foam roller, I am yours.


Now that I’ve written a whole post rambling about running, I’m going to wrap this up. But I guess I can say this: training is addictive. I’m already sad for when it’s over, even though I’ll be glad to half the 26.2 behind me.

I’m going to sign up for the San Francisco half on July 31st. Then I won’t quit running after this training, which I can see myself being tempted to. Anyone want to run it with me?? I’m going to do the first one that goes over the Golden Gate and then ends pretty close to my house. Con-ven-i-ent.



PS Since I keep blogging about running (like everyone else and their mother, I know. I’m sorry) I made a 26.2 tab on P&P. Check it out to see my rough training schedule and links to all of my super-duper awesome marathon-related posts. Don’t expect any good tips from actual real runners, expect rants and tongue-in-cheek vignettes about my love/hate relationship with this crazy thing.


  • Comments

    1. You are so a runner! That’s awesome that you went to Cinnaholic (yum!) AND you ran the Bay Trail, which is where I do all my long runs since I live near there, by the beach! Great job on your run!

    2. You are too a runner, silly girl!!! And I can totally relate to marathon training making you less fun. I felt that way last year at this time! But it will all be worth it when you cross that finish line – it’s like nothing else. :)

    3. I’ve found that sometimes there is no rhyme or reason for a good or bad run. They just happen. And like you, I also manage to get hungover before I even stop drinking.

    4. Awesome job on the seventeen miles! Though, I think it’s time to stop referring to yourself as a non-runner ;) Isn’t it great how training for a distance race really makes you in tune with your body?

    5. you’re a runner!! i mean, anyone who just ran 17 miles is totally a runner!! great job :)

    6. Yayyyyyyyyyy! Congrats on the run! YES- sometimes runs are just crappy. BUT, when you hit an awesome run, it feels oh so good. Those cinnamon buns look ridiculous good. What a cool spot

    7. you are so inspiring! and that cinnamon roll looks like the most amazing thing ever. maybe you can try to develop a recipe for it? (and share, of course!)

      • Once in awhile I see my Grandpa while I’m in bweteen being awake and sleeping. It’s been since the fourth grade since he’s been gone. He was my best friend and taught me things faster then anyone else could. His math skills were impeccable and his wit just as smooth. His impact on my life was so huge in the little time I knew him. I miss the stories and the crossword puzzles he did in ink. And the constant talking about Notre Dame Football. I think the man did everything. Canned fruit/veggies,made homemade peanut butter,cooked everything,fought in the pacific, worked in a steel mill, worked in a warehouse, told jokes and helped me learn. So he’s here. He’s here somewhere.

    8. Congrats on a great run! It’s so phenomenal – you ran 17 miles. Seventeen! Incredible :) Hooray! And yes, gatorade is a _necessity_ while running. In fact, you should be drinking gatorade throughout your entire long run. And you should be having fuel (gu, clif shot, etc) every hour. Since you’re halfway to your marathon, now is the time to start training your GI system to take fuel during a run. (Í’m a Sports Dietitian, so I”m not just throwing this out there… it’s what I would tell any athlete!).

      Good luck!

      • You are awesome! You have a nautral talent for running. I never could have ran like you did without training. Good work!!! Thanks for motivating me to get started in the first place.

    9. Your training is so inspirational. Everyone starts somewhere!

    10. Congrats on the long run! I am impressed :) By the way, I loooove Berkeley…I have only been there a few times though and have never heard of Cinnaholic. You have convinced me to go next time im there!

    11. Nice work on the run lady!! I am also a “non-runner”. I did a half but a full is a brave move and you’re doing awesome!!

      I NEED that cinnamon roll for breakfast – can you send me one?? :)

    12. CHECK YOU OUT!!!! That’s so awesome :) You totally are a runner btw. Oh yeah, when I go home in April I HAVE to go to that cinnamon bakery place. I’m totally drooling thinking about it already…..!!!!!!

    13. You TOTALLY beasted those 17 miles! You should be so proud of yourself, Courtney! Good for you :)

    14. Awesome job on the runs, and I totally love reading your running vignettes – they’re hilarious! I’d love to come to CA and run a race sometime, but unfortunately, this year I have to save my 10 whole vacation days for my honeymoon. But Big Sur is on my list of marathons to run, if I make it past no. 3.

      Oh and be super careful with your IT band issues. I had this a few years back and it incapacitated me for 2.5 months. Of course I made the mistake of continually running through the pain, but I’d totally hate to see you get injured before such an awesome race! :)

      You’ll never be able to stop running once you cross the finish line of Big Sur! It’s too amazing!

    15. First of all, major props to you for having no dinner, a night out, and a slight hangover and still be able to pound out major miles like that!! I find it’s hard to go out if not feeling at my absolute prime. :P But I gotta say I agree with the whole “cinammon roll motivation”…that’s good enough reason to make it through any run!

    16. Training is totallllly addictive I agree with that statement! I love working out more than I ever did all because I am working toward soemthing. I also look at food as fuel not food anymore LOL. good luck on the runs! :)

    17. That cinnamon bun made my mouth water! Looks amazing. Seeing your pictures from the Bay Trail make me so sad I never got into running while I lived up north! Gorgeous, and congrats on being half way there!!

    18. Congratulations on your great 17 miles!! Running is crazy – sometimes there’s just no rhyme or reason to it. Somedays when I feel like I’m going to have a crappy run because I’m exhausted, I go out there and have the best run of my week! And other days, it’s the opposite. Craziness.

      And I love everything you said about training. It’s all so true. But despite all the craziness it puts us through, we stick with it because like you said – it’s addicting!! Congrats on making it halfway through your training and good luck at the half marathon next weekend!

    19. I think I’d definitely consider you a runner, my friend : )
      Listening to you talk about how training is more mentally/time consuming than you expected and hard in the working world is scaring me for this summer when I start training for Chicago : /

      Congrats on 17 miles!

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