April is here and that means we’re into the heart of the marathon training program. This is the part of the training where the real work happens and where your commitment is tested week after week.
If you can get through the next five weeks, the last few weeks of training in May will feel like a victory lap heading into the Race Weekend in Ottawa.
29km+ runs are tough
Last week you ran at least 29km (or maybe even 30km at the Around the Bay Road Race in Hamilton). Maybe running that distance for the first time left you feeling discouraged about the marathon coming up in just eight weeks and your training progress so far.
If that’s the case, I can tell you that you are not alone. On my run on Sunday, as I made the turn onto Plains Road in Burlington to tackle the last 5km of the Around the Bay course, I seriously debated stepping back to the half marathon in Ottawa. It was mentally tough and I was nearly defeated.
After the race, I took some time to look at my run and think about my performance. After I did that, I realized that the reason it seemed hard was that I ran it hard. Really hard. It was literally the fastest I’ve ever run 30km. No wonder I was tired.
But they get easier
For some of you, the 29km run last Sunday was the longest you’ve ever run. It was probably really hard and by the last few kilometres you were questioning why you ever signed up to run 42.2km. Think about it. That was the longest you’ve ever run. No wonder you were tired.
Next Sunday you’ll run 29km again and it’ll be easier than last week. By the end of April, 32km runs will be less daunting and the idea of running another 10km on top of that will start to seem possible.
It’s mental, this marathon thing
Marathoning is mostly a mental game. The training and the race itself mirror each other. Just as the race is split up into segments, so is the training.
The first 21km of a marathon is pretty great. You’re feeling good, the run is going well. The first 9 weeks of the training is the same. Long runs aren’t that long, and it’s exciting to climb that ladder beyond 23km.
In the race it starts getting tough around 28km and you start to realize that the it’s not going to be easy all the way through to the end. In fact, it’s going to be really tough. It’s at this point that you’ll start to do way too much thinking.
Did I go out too fast or not fast enough? Have I been taking gels and drinking enough? Why does my calf keep twitching like that and will that little twinge in my left knee get worse, because if it does then what am I going to do? I wonder if I can call a cab to get me back to the hotel after the race. Does that kid over there have french fries? I could really go for some french fries right now…
That’s where we’re getting to in the training program right now. The doubts are setting in and the questioning is starting.
Can I run 29km or more four times in the next five weeks? Why do my feet hurt? Should I go see the physiotherapist about this shin thing or give it another week? Why am I so tired and hungry all the time? Why don’t we have any french fries in the house?
The advice for April is this: Keep running, and stop over-thinking it. Enjoy the runs. You put in the time and effort building the foundation and now it’s time to prove that you can do this. And you can.
It’s also time to lock in your long-run routine and start planning for race day.
Settle on a gel and energy drink that works for you and figure out what to wear to avoid any chafing or other issues. Get your race shoes figured out. That might mean getting a new pair of shoes worked in now depending on how many miles you’ve run on your current pair.
Seven weeks? Eeeep!
Ottawa Race Weekend will be here sooner than you think. There are just seven long runs left before race day. That’s seven weeks to continue to build your physical and mental strength so that come May 24 at 7:00 A.M. you be standing in the start corral listening to the gun sound, knowing that you’ll be wearing a finisher’s medal later that day.
Good luck with your training!