The marathon is my favorite distance. You start off feeling good, amazed that you can run so far at the pace you’ve dreamed about. The pain and fatigue set in at some point. You know that going in. And you hope that point is late. But you know it will happen. It’s a metaphor for lots of things in life. You go all in, but you know it might not work, but you still, foolishly, give it your best shot.
The training is a metaphor. You get out what you put in. Or if you put in too much because you love it and you are worried you aren’t doing enough or don’t recover well enough, you get hurt. You learn to deal with the hurt. Dealing with the hurt makes you stronger and smarter. It teaches you to not get hurt that way again.
When I started training to run my first marathon about nine years ago, I didn’t think about any of these things. I thought about running a long way and trying to hold a pace for 26.2 miles. I didn’t know the pain of mile 24 or what hitting the wall feels like. I didn’t stretch or strength train or do speed work. But I had a damn good time running that first marathon. I knew this distance was the one for me. I was sad I couldn’t race it more often.
My 40th marathon was not anything special. It was not in a foreign country or a race I hadn’t run before. It wasn’t particularly fast or memorable. It came as the third marathon in 11 weeks to end a strong fall marathon season. It was damn fun, but it all kind of blurred together.
I had restarted training after Comrades in June unsure if my hip would let me run more than a few miles at a time. With grit and some legitimate cross training and strength work, I’d been able to build up a lot of mileage over the past four months. I set PRs in the five-mile and 10K along the way. The smart runner in me says I need (deserve?) some downtime. If I am ever going to break 3:00, I need to put in a good, long block of training. The stubborn runner says downtime is dumb.
But. I just finished my 40th marathon. I am not dumb, most of the time. I’ve learned that rest and recovery are sometimes more important than the training itself. November is for turkey trotting and a bit of resting. I will run for fun and run for me. I’ll enjoy that I have come so far, relatively unscathed, and I’ll set my sights on 2017.