What training for a marathon is like is gross, painful, exhausting, and demanding but I have never felt more empowered in my life.
Before this year I never exactly considered myself a “runner.” In high school I had done a couple of half marathons to kick myself back into shape after the winter, but when looking at the kids who did track and cross country, I wasn’t even comparably as intense about running as they were. Then, after my first year of college and after focusing on everything in my life besides myself for months, I felt like I had lost the part of me that was always fiercely independent and unapologetically myself. So what did I do? In the middle of August I decided to sign up for the New Jersey Marathon on April 30th, 2017.
This was something that I did 100% for myself, to make myself proud, and to remind myself of how powerful and driven I am when I put my mind to something. And it is this reason that I think I have been so successful in training for this marathon so far. Every distance goal that I reach, I become more proud of myself and no matter how many times I reach a goal I always surprise myself with what I am capable of. Training for a marathon requires a lot of planning, of making sure that each week you’re running the right distances, under the right conditions, with the right frequencies, all while making sure you’re putting yourself in the best position not to get injured. I started training for the marathon roughly 24 weeks before race day, which I know is pretty far in advance but given the occasional lazy week and the annual spring flu, this turned out to be the perfect amount of time to work my way up to my final 20 mile training run. While overall this experience has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, it is definitely not all sunshine and rainbows.
Training for a marathon is exhausting. And I mean a debilitating consuming type of exhaustion that makes walking to, let alone staying awake through hours of class a challenge. When I started training last semester I was a new member of Strong Women Strong Girls (SWSG), a mentoring organization on my campus; a new member of Sigma Kappa Sorority; and taking 18 credits. For some inexplicable reason, I decided to take 19 credits this semester while staying involved in both organizations and reaching my higher training distances. What I wasn’t prepared for at the start of this semester was how much of a struggle it would actually be to pay attention in all of my classes when all I wanted to do was sleep and eat. Going to meetings after classes became a chore instead of fun, and I realized quickly that there would be no way for me to give 100% to all of the things I had going on in my life.
With this, I have had to make sacrifices. Many times I have had to put resting above going out on the weekends. If I do go out, forget about heels or any type of remotely nice footwear because I have pretty much had to live in sneakers for the past few months to avoid blisters or injuries. Training for a marathon means waking up ridiculously early, eating stale bagels and peanut butter in my dorm bed quietly while my roommate sleeps, and giving up entire mornings multiple times a week just to run. It means constantly generating piles upon piles of sweaty laundry and understanding that spending time on makeup and looking nice for class is probably a lost cause until after the marathon is over. I have had to give up a lot of my social life, because for me that was the easiest and probably only realistic thing to let go of. But by doing this, I have also become so much happier with just being on my own. I know that for the time being I am working hard and accomplishing something incredible. Letting go of a lot of the peripheral things in my life has honestly been liberating. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait until the marathon has passed and I can go back to being an energetically available human being, but learning to put myself first has without a doubt been the best part about this semester. Running gives me time to think, reflect, imagine, or to simply just clear my mind and not hold on to a single thought for hours. When I am running I am completely alone with nothing to do but go wherever my mind wants to go (while continuing to move my legs of course), and even when I am in searing pain and can barely make it the last few miles, I am able to control my thoughts, manage my pain, and push through.
While I run, I constantly draw inspiration from all of the amazing people I surround myself with. My family and friends; sorority sisters (especially my Wonder Woman of a big, Stacey); my SWSG co-mentors; the amazing young girls I am lucky enough to work with each week; and most importantly, my mom motivate me to keep going and accomplish everything I know I am capable of. What training for a marathon is like is gross, painful, exhausting, and demanding but I have never felt more empowered in my life.