[Follow—and cheer for—Pam, a #motherrunner of two in Decatur, Georgia, as she trains for her first marathon. Check out previous entries.]
Over the past month, I’ve whined about how boring long runs can be, and I’ve told you all about my head-on collision with imposter syndrome. It is an inescapable truth that marathon training presents regular physical and mental challenges; however, I’ve also found unexpected nuggets of joy—that little something extra–throughout the process.
LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA #1: RUNNING THE DAY AFTER A LONG RUN
Throughout the entirety of my structured running career, beginning with Hal Higdon’s novice half marathon plan in 2015, I’ve rested the day after my long run. I take my rest days seriously, friends: there’s a reason R-E-S-T and R-E-A-R are nearly identical (even the S and A are neighbors on the keyboard, as are T and R—coincidence? I think not). Not so on Coach Amanda’s Go the Distance plan!
Some weeks the day after a long run is a “fun workout”: Usually that means a short trainer ride for me, made fun by listening to Wooden Overcoats, a phenomenal British radio-serial-style podcast recommended by Adrienne Martini. Other weeks, it’s an easy 3-mile recovery run. I keep it nice and slow, usually somewhere in the 12:30-13:30 pace range. An easy workout the day after a long run has a way of working out the kinks and leeching out the remaining bits of lactic acid.
But the best part? By the time I wake up the next morning, my body is fully primed for an entire day of sitting on my rear. Nothing hurts! I don’t feel remotely like I’ve covered a total of 21 miles over the past two days. Whatever sorcery—and something extra—this may be, I’ll take it!
LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA #2: THE CIRCUIT RUN
Another happy extra surprise gift of marathon training with Coach Amanda is the circuit run. This appears periodically, sometimes the day after a long run, sometimes the day before, and it is a seriously fun workout on a number of levels.
What is a circuit run, you may ask? If you’ve ever visited a playground or park that has been around for a few decades, you may have noticed stations set at regular intervals designed for specific exercises: monkey bars, pull-up bar, resistance machines. The idea is that you run, then stop and do an exercise, then run, then exercise, rinse and repeat.
These circuit runs don’t require any special equipment; instead, you warm up with a 5-10 minute run, then drop for a minute of push-up, run for a minute, then do squats for a minute, and so forth. I love that the circuit run mixes strength work organically into a run. I love how in tune I am with a particular set of muscles for the run after each exercise. For example, doing push-ups mid-run helps me focus on using my transversus abdominis in conjunction with my other core muscles. Squats help me get those glutes firing.
Also, dropping for a minute’s worth of push-ups in the middle of the sidewalk, then getting back up to run, makes me feel like a total badass.
LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA #4: ESPRESSO LOVE
Prior to my first 18-miler, I finally acknowledged it was time to jump onto the fueling bandwagon in a big way. Apart from the occasional nibble of a Picky Bar, I’ve entirely avoided mid-run fuel. I never felt any need to fuel training for or racing a half marathon. But it occurred to me that perhaps part of the reason I was dragging the previous week was that maybe my body was crying out for some sustenance.
Despite their popularity, energy gels, cubes, jelly beans, and running gum (anyone else worried about the latter being a choking hazard, or is it just me?) have always freaked me out on a visceral level. While I recognize intellectually their form allows the body to absorb necessary nutrients and electrolytes and whatever else without expending significant energy to do so, I think some part of me assumed they would affect me like the entire pan of red Jell-O my 10-year-old self consumed one fateful night. (Any guesses what kind of bowl I spent the remainder of the night hanging my head over?)
In the end, the fear of hitting the nutritional wall overruled my objections, and I decided to take my friend Jane’s advice and down a GU every five miles. When my Garmin beeped at the end of the first interval, I took a deep breath, tore into an Espresso Love packet of GU—and OMG why did nobody tell me it tastes like raw brownie batter and chocolate icing had a baby?! The GU tasted amazing, felt pretty good going down, and put an extra pep in my step. I was pretty excited when my trusty Garmin indicated it was time for another GU (Vanilla Bean—not as yummy, but certainly edible), and then another (Chocolate Outrage—a true sibling to Espresso Love in every way that counts).
I knew marathon training would be difficult and therefore rewarding. I expected to be giddy, if exhausted. But discovering new sources of joy in the form of cobweb-clearing runs, circuit training, and brownie batter love child fuel? Loving that little extra—or, for those of you in the Cajun know, lagniappe!