If you’re a regular reader of The RunDown, you’ve learned a lot about our fantastic 2011 KeyBank Vermont City Marathon pace team already, thanks to the introductory post each pacer submitted. Now we’re excited to bring you more detailed posts from each leader.
We have a great team of leaders; we hope you enjoy getting to know them. In May we will post detailed information about where and when to meet your pace leader on Race Day (as well as an opportunity to run with them on Saturday, May 28.)
Whenever I give out my contact information before pacing a marathon, I LOVE hearing from runners and answering their questions. It’s so great to get to know all of you before even getting to town for the race! However, some of the most common questions I get are also the ones for which I don’t really have answers: “what do you think of my training plan?”
I have never been one to make complicated training plans, in part because my work schedule has always been too hectic to be sure I’ll stick to them! When I did the KBVCM in 2008 as my first marathon, I trained pretty much just by making sure I did a long run every weekend that was longer than the last long run I had done, until I got to 23 miles. (I also ran and did cardio during the week, but that was much more unpredictable due to long working hours). I don’t tell you this to tell you to take it easy, because training is VERY important to running your best race. But I tell you this so that if there are things coming up that are interfering with your meticulously planned schedule of 6.43 miles at race pace on Tuesday on a flat course and then 4.18 miles at race pace + 30 seconds on Thursday on a hilly course… you don’t need to stress out.
When I meet people and they learn about my 50 state marathon record, they want to know how I got through all those races. They think I’m going to tell them about crazy feats of athleticism, but instead of talking about the basic training that gets me ready for a race, I tell them about the mental things that actually get me through a marathon. In my first marathon, I tell them how my mom and one of my best friends came and held up signs that said “Run to the ice cream” (and how that made me run a little faster). I tell them how I sent an email out to all my friends who couldn’t be there, asking for songs to add to my iPod playlist… and how my other best friend’s pick, “If You’re Going Through Hell (Keep On Going)” came on at mile 21, giving me the motivation to keep running.
When people ask about my personal best time, they’re often surprised when I tell them it wasn’t on the easiest course, or the race for which I was the most well-rested or the best-prepared. My current PR of 3:49 was at the Kentucky Derby Marathon, a race I did just 5 days after finishing Boston in 3:54, and 8 days after finishing the Charlottesville Marathon in 4:08. All three of those are pretty hilly courses, which meant my legs were pretty wiped out, and I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before Kentucky either. To make things worse, it ended up being a much hotter day than anticipated… but I still pulled out a personal best time, simply because I wanted to make it happen so badly. When I got tired, instead of giving up and slowing my pace, I reminded myself how awesome it would feel to run a personal best time, and how much more amazing it would feel to know that I did it against all odds. While you of course need to be adequately trained, so much of what happens on race day is mental. How far are you prepared to push yourself, and to what lengths are you willing to go to reach your goals?
In preparation for this year’s KBVCM, I’d encourage you to think not only about how many miles you’re going to run in training and at what pace, but also about what you’re going to do to get through the mental difficulty of running a marathon. If you’re going to listen to music on the course (make sure you have headphones like AirDrives that let you hear what’s around you!), consider creating a special playlist of “power songs” that you can switch to in order to pep you up when you’re getting tired. If you’re going to have friends and family on the course, figure out at what point in the race you think you’ll most need their support, and make sure they’re waiting with some inspiration and love for you. Consider spending the night before the race reading some of your favorite running books (check out Kathrine Switzer‘s “Marathon Woman”), or watching one of your favorite inspirational movies (like “Spirit of the Marathon” or “Rudy“). Or maybe just find simple mantras you can repeat to yourself in the race when things get tough – I like “pain is temporary, pride is forever.”
I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time, by Walt Disney: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Remember what you’re training for and why you’re doing it, and keep that in mind on those tough early mornings when you don’t want to get out of bed and go for a run. Not everyone has the physical and mental strength to take on the challenge of a marathon, but YOU are doing it.
See you on race day!
Knowing when to pull out…
I was wondering what I would write about. Should it be about: success, determination, nutrition, tapering, all good things for sure, but those are all predecessors to getting to the start line. What about if you should even be there, or if you did get there, when and if you should throw in the towel and call it a day. Not exactly an encouraging subject, because it has an air of negativity built into it. But, it is just as important of an aspect of being in a marathon, or any other race for that fact, as it is preparing for the race itself.
One should never go into a race with the thought of pulling out. Sure, lots of us have entered an event, not in our best of shape, with the thought of running as far as you could and then just walking off the course if needed, or toughing it out and getting through. After all, you did pay for it, and you ARE going to get your money’s worth! And that medal, you need that bling for bragging rights…
Pulling out of an event is never an easy decision, but it should be the only decision if you are putting personal accomplishment over injury. You should question your ability to make sound judgment, if your willing to sideline yourself for weeks or know your going to need PT if you continue.
It is not disgraceful to pull out of an event, it is honorable to put all ego aside and let yourself know, that at this point in time, it is not worth it. On that day, you gave it your all. Listen to yourself, ignore the crowd (they will always convince you, you are almost there, or your looking good…if they only knew…) Finish the event your way, on top, whether that means finishing, or pulling out, because its the smart thing to do. Be a winner in your own mind, and be happy with it.
Personal Experience: KBVCM 2008
This was my year, I was in the best shape of my life and I was going after that elusive 4 hr mark. I felt I had the cramping under control, nutrition was on mark, and I was READY! What I did not expect was coming down with a flu virus the week before. In bed for 3 days. I questioned whether I could do it, but 2 days before, I started to feel great, by the time the day rolled around, I felt like I was back. I was there at the start line. My mind was ready, but as I would later find out my body was compromised by the prior weeks sickness. I finished that event, because I didn’t listen to myself. But I paid the price. Coming over the finish line, my arm draped over someone shoulder to support me and looking like a rag doll. Off to the med tent I went. Yes, I finished, medal in hand, I completed what I set out for…but I should have pulled out, I should have listened to that inner self, that call of the body pulling back. Six weeks later I was still not running. I had every injury known to a runner. My body had been compromised by the sickness and I was paying for my success (did I say succes?). It was a full 3 months before I was back in the game. Listen to your body.
Success is measured in many forms and it is not always by crossing the finish line. Be a winner by knowing when to pull out if need be.