An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

T-Minus 20 days

Last Friday I completed the longest run of my training regimen in preparation for the Boston Marathon, a slow 20-mile slog on a treadmill that left me severely chafed in some pretty interesting areas including parts of my body I didn’t even know I had.

Did I have to break out a mirror and get all Kathy Bates with it? We will not go there.


Seasoned and not-so-seasoned runners will be quick to point out that 20-miles might have been more enjoyable outside with changing landscapes and engaging scenery, but the night before I’d returned from spring break with my kids and did not have time to map out a route or stash water. And y’all, I’m a big baby when it comes to carrying water on runs. Stick a pacifier in my mouth, make sure to burp me after a meal, and exploit me on your mommy blog. A goddamn infant, I am.

I’ve tried the handheld water bottle, I’ve tried the belt you wear around your waist, I’ve tried the backpack stuffed with the huge blue placenta. And all of it puts me off balance and messes with my head so much that instead of meditating or humming along to my playlist, I have a screeching one-note chorus of WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE ALONE on repeat in my head. When I run I want to be nimble and hop over cracks in the road and make idiotic gestures with my hands when certain songs lift my mood, but carrying water makes me feel like an imprisoned camel. One that moos.

When I did my 16-mile run outside a month ago I carried water for portions of it, would hide the bottle behind a bush and do a loop to retrieve it. But I’d failed to map a proper route and forgot that the only way back to my house was straight uphill for four miles. Every part of my body at mile 12 said, “We quit you.” So I just ran in circles around a neighborhood near the 12-mile mark until the mileage ticked over to 16. That was not the only time I had to call someone to come pick me up. That was also not the only time I left a salt-stained outline of my butt and thighs on someone’s passenger seat.

But here’s the thing, I did it. I ran 20 miles. And then Monday morning I ran eight. This kind of training really messes with your brain (or maybe just my brain, something I’ll elaborate much more on in an upcoming episode of my podcast and after the race is over) because suddenly I’m looking at “eight miles” and thinking, “Oh! Only eight!” Yes, with happy, jovial exclamation points. Eight miles was one of the easy runs this week, and it felt easy. Or I guess, easier. WHO SAYS THAT? WHO AM I? PUNCH ME RIGHT IN THE BALLS.

Eight miles seems easy because I’ve dedicated myself to a training regimen like never before. Injuries in the past have always rendered my body incapable of approaching race day with proper mileage in my legs. This time, however, I’ve ramped up slowly, the way one is supposed to work toward longer runs. I mentioned this in the post where I announced that I was running in Boston that having someone else relying on me to make it to the end has changed the entire way I’ve approached this process. It prodded the parent in me, and I am so going to mom my way to that finish line, so help me god.

For anyone who hasn’t ever run a marathon and might be considering the challenge, here are a few tips and essentials that have brought me this far. And this far is a really long way:

Run for a cause
Running for personal improvement or for the joy of it is great, and I’m not discouraging that NANCY. Good for you! But it you’re looking for motivation to get you to 26.2 miles, fundraising for or representing a non-profit is the perfect carrot to dangle. That organization is depending on you. For this race I’m partnering with Team With a Vision and will be running alongside with Simon Wheatcroft (whose journey as an athlete I’m going to share more about next week) and Nicole Perry to bring awareness to this organization. (you can visit Simon’s Crowdrise page here and donate if you’re feeling generous)

Invest in a foam roller
You could fork over a hundred bucks a week for a deep tissue massage, or you could just get yourself one of these and roll out your tight quads when you stagger in after a jaunty 17 miles. My hamstrings are the worst, hard as concrete after long runs, and my foam roller sits inside the door so I can walk in, grab it and fall over.

Find an on-the-go snack you can tolerate
For optimal performance on longer runs you need to refuel your body with glucose every 45 minutes or so IS WHAT THEY TELL ME. I’m not a doctor or a professional athlete, so don’t sue me if I’m wrong, but this is the wisdom going around. There are all sorts of portable snacks made for runners out there, and I have tried a ton of them and puked most of them back up. There are chews and bloks and bars, but have you tried chewing something to the point of being able to get it down your throat when your heart rate is that high? That is a skill I do not possess or care to possess. So I do GUs, this flavor in particular. No chewing involved, and usually I just squeeze the whole thing in my mouth and wash it back with a giant gulp of water. It tastes like chocolate icing. You’re about to tell me it’s not vegan. And I’m about to poke you in the butt.

Run with friends or make a great playlist
My schedule is such that I have no friends, so I have a running playlist that I listen to when I run. I add more songs to it whenever I find a something I know will give me the boost I need. I have to be very careful with certain songs, however, because the boost tricks me into thinking I’m Wonder Woman and that’s when injuries happen. Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” is a perfect example of one of these songs. When I hear those first percussive notes I have to say out loud, even if children are present, “CALM THE FUCK DOWN.”

Don’t do it
I mean, are you clinically insane?

  • Jennifer Cafferty-Davis

    You are brave and I totally respect your commitment to this – can’t wait to read about Boston!

  • Keira

    I only carry water if absolutely have no other choice. On long runs, I’ll leave water bottles on my porch and make sure my house is in my loop.

    I don’t leave them inside because then I would go inside. And my brain would scream, “are you insane? Stop running! Drink a beer and eat some nachos” And then I would.

    Anyway, good luck!!! You’ve got this!!

  • americanrecluse

    Are you going to be a guide runner? Is that what it’s called? VERY COOL! Can’t wait to read more about your marathon partner.

  • Heather Armstrong

    Yes, a guide. NO PRESSURE AT ALL. I can’t wait to introduce Simon to everyone.

  • Heather Armstrong

    On my long runs when I’m approaching an intersection with a stoplight, I will jog around like a maniac in the craziest circles because I know, I KNOW, if I stand there until it’s safe to cross the street I’ll think, eh. Feels good to walk. Let’s walk now.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Heather Armstrong

    Oh, thank you. Brave? I don’t know. Delusional, probably!

  • KristenfromMA

    The ads for TV coverage of the race have started, and some of them mention that this year is the 50th anniversary of the first race completed by a woman. Nice year to run Boston.

  • KatieMama

    I totally understand not being able to carry water. I do it, but don’t run as well. I can’t imagine 20 miles on a treadmill. Bravo! It really is amazing what running for a cause does for you and the organization. I lead a non-profit organization’s team (running & cycling) and it is very fulfilling. Looking forward to hearing more about your experience!

  • Karen Bernstein

    Loved training for a marathon. Hated when I got injured at the point where I hit 25 miles/week. I miss those long runs and I miss that long run feeling AND the “OMG only 8 miles today” feeling too. And chafing – surely you know about vaseline? I used to wipe it EVERYWHERE prior to a long run. Yes, even there.

    In my city there are running groups that turned me onto certain routes where there was known water, like a garden hose that was publicly available. And I found a few of my own – through an open mall where I could slip into the backdoor of La Madeleine and get a glass of water, through the park where there were water fountains, etc.

    I’m impressed that you had the mental fortitude to run for 3+ hours on a treadmill. That is some serious perseverance!

  • Tamara Tedd

    I just want to say that if you can run 20mi in about 3 hours you ARE Wonder Woman and you don’t need Miss Bey to sing it out to you- good on you! I can’t wait to hear all about Simon, his journey, and your shared race experience.

  • KathyRo

    So what I’m hearing is… if you run a marathon, you can eat candy.

  • Libby

    I’ve never in my life read someone talk about running for that long without being like “fux this, man” and closing the laptop. And now here I am thinking I can do that!! (Spoiler alert: I can’t, I won’t.)

  • Stools

    The area I usually run in has a few higher traffic streets to cross but as SOON as you press the button to cross the traffic light turns yellow. Sometimes I need that 45 seconds to catch a quick breath but nope – with about 3 seconds the sign turns to “walk” dammit.

  • Stools

    Seriously! My pace is SO SLOW and I find a 10 minute mile pretty freakish 🙂

  • Molly

    Super impressed at your being able to do 20 on one!!! Rock on! My only marathon training injury (a week before my taper) was doing 10 miles on a treadmill when I previously ran outside for anything over 5 – readers, be careful doing a long run on a treadmill if you haven’t trained on one up to that point. You run differently, and the lack of variation means repetitive stress injuries are pretty easy if you don’t have perfect form, which Heather must but I clearly do not.

  • I *love* that your energy source of choice is named “CHOCOLATE OUTRAGE.” For longtime readers who came for the poop stories, stayed for the doggie pictures, and now live for the rants, that is so, so perfect. EMBRACE YOUR CHOCOLATE OUTRAGE, and best of luck here in Boston!

  • Lala

    And make sure that you’re running at a slight incline. A totally flat treadmill = injuries.

  • Sarah C.

    I can’t move properly – kind of like a cat wearing a sweater – whenever I try to run wearing a water bottle belt.

  • Jo D

    I’ve spent the last 5 months not running, because I was saving my knees. I bike to/from work, which is teaching fitness classes or classical jazz dance, and my body already takes a beating. Well, hubby signed us up for a 1/2 marathon this summer, so I have to get back into it. I thought I’d be a little off my game, but since I’ve stayed quite fit it would be relative breeze… yeah no. 6 miles is kicking my butt, and I’m dreaming of the days when that felt like a “quick little run” before work.

    You are inspiring me to keep going! It will get easier for me! I’ll be able to do those long runs again and not feel like I’m dying for the first 5 miles! (Although as soon as school ends, I’m going to be commercial fishing… and boat life doesn’t lend itself too well to running.)

  • I was just about to jump down to the comments before I finished your post and say, “Why the heck would anyone spend THREE hours of their precious lives on a treadmill?” when I read your advice that people should run marathons for a cause.

    That’s exactly right. Good post.

  • AJS

    I would run with you in a heartbeat! If you’re ever in Raleigh let me know 🙂 But I am not running 20mi in three hours. GOOD LORD WOMAN YOU’RE INSANE.

  • Justine

    GU is totally vegan. They stopped using amino acids derived from animals. My running coach was vegan and would sing the praises of GU frequently. Good luck in Boston. I’m ramping up for a 10k next month and hopefully my first half later this year.

  • I do not run super long distances, but I also HATE carrying water. Oddly enough, I carry my phone in my hand the whole time…

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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