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?