[Follow—and cheer for—Pam, a #motherrunner of two in Decatur, Georgia, as she trains for her first marathon. Check out previous entries.]
On Thursday of last week, my alarm went off at 4:15. I climbed out of my cozy bed and wandered into the bathroom, where I had laid out my clothes, shoes, and gear the night before. I pulled on a sports bra, a lightweight sweatshirt, fleece-lined running tights, and the world’s most comfortable and versatile running vest, followed by socks, shoes, and heart-rate monitor chest strap. I added an ear-warming headband and gloves for added, plus a NoxGear Tracer 360 and Knuckle Lights for visibility—make fun all you want, northerners (I’m looking at you, SBS!), but 25* is COLD here in the south—then headed out the door for an easy 6 miles.
I don’t have much to say about those 6 easy miles, other than that I kept them easy (average pace 11:16, HR 140), and they were chilly and dark: just another midweek, bread-and-butter marathon-training run. I came home to a pile of suitcases by the door and two little girls, 2 and 4, bouncing off every available surface, including one another, in their excitement to visit Nana and Pop-Pop in North Carolina.
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to foresee that I was unlikely to have the energy for a run after eight or nine hours of handing out snacks, switching back and forth between Peppa Pig and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the Kindles, and ignoring intermittent screaming about who was touching whom. So getting the run in beforehand was vital.
The day after driving to North Carolina, my husband Erik and I said goodbye to the girls and the grandparents, and set off toward Bethesda, MD, to meet my cousin’s new baby (6 weeks old, sweet and snuggly, did nothing whatsoever to my own ovaries, thank you very much). The next morning I took advantage of their proximity to the Capital Crescent Trail to encompass the Mall and a number of monuments in my 17-mile run.
Echoing the general tone of my recent training, there were big chunks of that long run when I was simply not feeling it. I enjoyed the first mile or so of running through the woods before boredom struck, leaving me as sullen as a teenager forced to spend Friday night watching a black and white film with my parents when I wanted to be out partying with my friends. But the plan said 17 miles, dammit, and the city was only a few miles away, so I pressed play on my Trekz Air headphones and listened to Sarah and Tish interview some BAMRs who crushed it in the Twin Cities.
The podcast kept me going until the Potomac suddenly appeared in front of me, the National Monument beckoning me from a distance. I paused the podcast and continued my run with renewed energy and motivation. I ran along the river past the Georgetown boathouse, skirting a labyrinth and some fountains, crossed a busy intersection, and approached the Lincoln Memorial.
The miles along the reflecting pool, around the World War II memorial, and the National Monument ticked by without much notice from me, as I spent all my attention on the beauty surrounding me. I availed myself of President Lincoln’s (heated!) hospitality—thank you, National Park Service—made a quick detour across the street to visit Albert Einstein, and then headed back toward the river to find my way back home.
The second the Mall was behind me, the ennui hit once again. I turned the podcast back on and realized this was a perfect mental training opportunity. I’ve never run a marathon before, but I’m pretty sure there are going to be minutes or maybe even hours where the race is the last place I feel like being—and here I was, midway through a run I didn’t feel like finishing. How lucky was that? I mean, what are the odds? (Okay, fine, they’re probably in the triple digits.)
That’s the thing about marathon training: it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon!
The training itself is a (syllogistic) metaphor for the race, as are many of the individual runs. There are moments, hours, days, weeks, in which the desire to finish is buried so deeply that is impossible to locate. In those times during training, I rely on the mental discipline and muscle memory I’ve stockpiled I set my alarm. I lay my clothes out the night before. I make a running date with a friend. I save up my favorite podcasts only to be accessed in case of emergency I remind myself that if I fail to practice something in training, I’m not magically going to be able to make it happen in a race.
The AMR podcast carried me through two or three miles until I met up with my husband, who had come to join me for the final stretch. I told him about the monuments I saw and how I had just discovered that boredom can be an excellent training tool. We chatted about our children (wonderful and frustrating), our jobs (status quo), about why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings, until the aqueduct indicating our turnoff appeared.