Marathon Training is Hard

I recognize that the headline to this story should be ridiculously obvious. If marathon training was easy, everyone would run a marathon. Instead, one Runners World estimate had one half of one percent of the population running a marathon. It’s not supposed to be easy.

My running partners and I follow a training plan one person compiled based on Hal Higdon’s plans, with a four-day-a-week running schedule over 16 weeks (building into a 50k four weeks later). Last week was a 35-mile week (although I actually did a few more than set out by the plan). And it’s still going up.

About this time last year, I realized how hard marathon training is and began to comment about it. I was always tired and always hurting. One or two rest days are not enough to recover from an 18- to 20-mile run on Saturday morning. Granted, I was dealing with a calf strain injury last year that was impacting my runs at this point and making them even more difficult.

This year, the runs are faster. We’re in better shape. But that doesn’t make the experience any easier. It was new and exciting last year, building to a bucket list experience. This year, I’ve been there and done that, so it’s less exciting. And though the snow and ice haven’t been bad this year, virtually every longer run day has been raining and cold, with temperatures barely above freezing.

I’m tired of having soaking wet and freezing feet for every run. I’m tired of wearing multiple layers of clothes that get even heavier when they’re bogged down with rain and mud. I’m tired of shivering when I stop running and not being warm until I’m home in the hot shower.

My mental game doesn’t seem to be as strong as last year, even if my physical game may be stronger. It just feels harder this year. This week, an 18-mile scheduled run turned into a 20-mile slog through mud and water, with the last five on an unending path back to the car and shivering badly all the way home. I’m tired mentally as well as physically.

My legs hurt. They’re supposed to at this point, I know. They’re tired, and I’m straining them with more miles each week to help build those muscles and get used to pushing past the comfort zone. But it’s hard to remember an easy mid-week run in which I didn’t hurt for at least the first few miles.

The goal of marathon training is to build your strength and endurance – mentally and physically – for the big race. The marathon itself is hard, but it shouldn’t be much harder than the training. Generally, I think the training – especially due to the weather and conditions we have in this part of the world – is harder than the final event. After all, if you can’t endure the long runs, you won’t be able to push through the main event.

It’s supposed to be hard. I have to suck it up and build that strength – again, both mental and physical strength. But that doesn’t mean I can’t complain a little on a Monday morning. The forecast for this Saturday is again cold and rainy. Sigh.

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