26 Things I Learned From Marathon Training

As you all probably know, I ran the Donna Breast Cancer Marathon last month as my very first marathon. It was a huge milestone in my life and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world. I’m already trying to find the next marathon to run because it was just so darn fun and challenging. The process of training for a marathon made me learn so much about myself and about life, which leads me to this blog post, 26 things I learned from training for a marathon.

  1. Social life dwindles once you start training.
    I found myself having to cancel more and more wine nights with my friends because I had to get up early the next morning to run or cross train.
  2. Poop talk becomes totally normal.
    For some reason, talking about poop becomes more and more normal when training for a marathon. I know exactly how my bowel movements react to different foods and how long to wait after a meal to go for my run. Sorry if this is gross or offensive to, like, most of the population.
  3. The reactions you get when you tell people you’re training for a marathon are fun.
    Usually I got something along the lines of, “You’re crazy! I couldn’t even run a mile!” and the facial expressions are some of the best. People think that you’re doing the craziest thing that a human could possibly do, and it’s hilarious.
  4. You’re. Always. Hungry.
    I have to plan every meal of the day so that I’m not just constantly eating all day. That amount of exercise caused my metabolism to skyrocket, so I found myself needing to supplement with the right amount of foods and a large amount of carbohydrates.
  5. The right shoes are so essential.
    I was spending a significant amount of time on my feet, so they were getting quite a beating. Around the end of my training plan, I was logging about 30-35 miles a week, so having a great pair of running shoes was extremely important. I went to my local 1st Place Sports store and got fitted for some beautiful Brooks running shoes. They’re a little on the expensive side (mine usually cost around $130) but it’s worth the price if it means being injury-free. It’s also recommended that you replace your running shoes every 300-400 miles.
  6. The right gear is also essential.
    Compression gear helps regulate blood flow. Hydration belts are like fun little fanny packs made to hold water and running fuel. Hats are essential for sunny summer runs. GPS running watches are like running apps that don’t take up any phone battery, and mine has a nifty little heart rate monitor (Garmin Forerunner 235).2016-03-07_0001pinthis
  7. You’ll stop caring about having pretty feet or toenails.
    I’ve heard horror stories of people losing toenails while training for long runs like marathons or ultra marathons, so I constantly keep my toenails cut short. I also never see the point in putting polish on my toenails because they’re always covered with running shoes. However, never underestimate the power of a good foot rub.
  8. Workout clothes > regular clothes
    I mean… I don’t feel like I need to add much more to this. They’re stretchy, comfortable, and adorable. They’re the best, end of story.
  9. You’ll have memorized routes for any mileage around your house…
    A skill that I didn’t even think of until I acquired it.
  10. ..And restrooms along those routes.
    An extremely valuable skill. Refer to #2.
  11. Pain vs. Discomfort
    Over the course of the 4 months of marathon training, I’ve learned the difference between pain and discomfort, and whether its smart to push through the pain or not.
  12. Listen to your body.
    Kind of related to #11, I’ve learned to listen to my body more. I’ve also learned to determine whether it’s the sound of my body telling me it’s in pain or my brain telling me it’s trying to be lazy.
  13. The importance of strength training and cross training
    Strength training and cross training stimulate the muscles in ways different than running, and they increase endurance while running. My cross training of choice is indoor cycling.2016-03-07_0002pinthis
  14. Marathon training doesn’t always mean dropping pounds.
    People usually think that when they train for a marathon, the pounds will instantly start to fall off. When you become that active, you start eating more food, and sometimes people feel like just because they’re training for a marathon, they can eat whatever they want. Often this causes people to gain weight during marathon training. It’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle while marathon training to ensure getting the most out of your training.
  15. I’ve become a better driver.
    I know this is out of left field, but hear me out. I do a lot of road running instead of trail running, so I have to be conscious of traffic. My favorite thing is when a driver stops their car at a stop sign but not behind the line like they’re supposed to, but instead in the middle of the crosswalk! They’re just the best.
    Therefore, I am a better driver and have become more aware of pedestrians and runners.
  16. Finding the right fuel is all about trial and error.
    There are several types of running fuel, and some of them aren’t going to agree with your digestion. It’s best to try out as many of them as possible during training to see which one is best for your body and energy levels. I started with GU, and found that it didn’t sit well with my stomach, so I switched to Clif Shot Bloks and Gatorade.2016-03-07_0003pinthis
  17. Cheesy sayings become long run mantras
    “You’ve got this,” “I think I can,” “Just keep running,” are some really cheesy inspirational sayings, but on mile 18 of a tough 20-miler, its the best running mantra ever, and it’s the only thing that gets you to the end of the run.
  18. Podcasts are awesome!
    After a while, I grew tired of listening to the same music three times a week, and trying to make my playlists last as long as my runs. Around this time, I found a few podcasts and grew to love listening to them during runs more than music.
  19. Heating pads and foam rollers are the perfect duo for recovery
    I learned this early on in my training, and it has been a total godsend. This also goes back to #11, because the general rule of thumb is heat sore muscles and ice the parts that are in pain. The foam roller is the most magic tool for loosening up tight muscles.
  20. Go with the flow
    Sometimes runs don’t work out how you intended them to, and you have to come to terms with that. During hurricane season, I had many a long run that was basically through the pouring rain the whole time, and I just had to go with it and keep running through it. Not every run is the perfect run, and sometimes the worst runs are the most helpful to your mental health. So just go with the flow, in training and in life.
  21. Stop comparing yourself to others
    In general. Just stop it. Its not good for your psyche. I also have to remind myself of this every other day. There are photos of women with washboard abs and 1% body fat everywhere, and its hard not to compare yourself to them and wonder what you’re doing wrong. That’s the wrong way of thinking about it. You could be on chapter 1 of your fitness journey, and the person in that photo is probably on their chapter 20, so it’s extremely unrealistic and unhealthy to compare the two. Just focus on your journey and the progress you’ve made.
  22. Race day adrenaline is a thing
    Seriously, adrenaline probably carried me through the first 7 miles of the marathon, which was a huge help by mile 19, when I desperately needed the energy I had stored up. Hold on to that heart-pounding starting line feeling for as long as possible, it’s so helpful in the long run (pun intended).
  23. Spectators on race day are the best
    I always love reading the signs that the spectators worked so hard to make for us runners. They have no idea how much it means that someone is out there on the route, cheering me on. I usually judge a race by how many spectators there are along the way.
  24. Its just as much mental as it is physical
    Yes, your muscles and joints will get extremely fatigued along the race, but your brain will try to tell you that you can’t (and shouldn’t) finish the race, that it’s not worth it, that you should just sit down and have a beer instead. Your brain will turn on you, and it’s a mental game to keep yourself in the right head space during the race (and even your long runs). Just keep repeating those cheesy sayings running mantras to yourself until you start to believe them.
  25. That last mile is always the most emotional
    I’m so glad that photographers weren’t set up along mile 26 because that was a tearful mile for me. All of the emotions concerning training for such a difficult task rushed to the forefront of my mind, and I was overcome with literally all the feels. I had pushed my body to do something that most people will never even think of doing and I had accomplished a large milestone in my life, and it was extremely rewarding to run that last mile as hard as I possibly could (which, at that time, wasn’t very fast).
  26. You can absolutely do it
    If you’re thinking about training for a marathon and are worried that you won’t be able to do it, I’d like to tell you that you absolutely can. I want to quote Trevor from a podcast I discovered, Marathon Training Academy, and say, “You have what it takes to run a marathon and change your life.”