Friday, June 19, 2009

What I learned From the Marathon

Well, my first marathon is over. I finished it. I didn't accomplish the time I wanted, but I completed the race. My goal was 4 hours. I finished in 4:36:15. Not bad, disappointing however at first.
What did I do wrong? I was charged up at the starting line. I've never seen so many people at the start of a race before. I was in corral six and there must have been 20+ corrals. I felt great and out ran the 4 hour pace group and paid for it by mile 14. I recovered some at mile 17 and died a few miles later and struggled through calf cramps, thirst, and old fashioned tiredness. By the time I faked strength crossing the finish line, I was in the medical tent being treated for cramps, dizziness, and de-hydration. What a mess.
What did I learn about running a marathon? First, its not a race. I am not winning any awards so why should I kill myself trying to beat others or set a PR time? Its about finishing. Its about finishing and feeling good. Its about finishing, feeling good, and running without injury. I definitely injured myself during the marathon. By running too quick, I ended up straining my hip-flexor muscle and exacerbating a hernia which required no treatment before I ran and now does. Just great!
Second, don't over train. I ran 20 miles two times and increased my avg. mileage over 50 miles/week. Too much. By the last 2 weeks, I was shot. I struggled with fatigue and leg muscle soreness, not to mention the nagging knee pain above the kneecap. I needed to get an emergency massage to work the knots out of my left leg. If only I would have listened to those who ran before me, and the physician who warned me of possible pitfalls. Follow the training schedule from your coach or the training schedule from Runner's World. I printed both of them out, from my coach and Runner's World, but I didn't really "look" at them. I followed the concept of "run how you feel". That idea may work when running short, but for training for longer distances it may cause you damage when you feel good early. Go slow, its not a race. The best advice I received was from the TNT Binghamton Coach who said, "If you feel comfortable running a marathon then slow down more." That is good advice to follow; run "uncomfortably" slow for the first 10 miles or so and pick up the pace gradually over the next three and lock in for the last half to post a good time or to feel good by the end. When running a marathon, I realize now, the last half is when it really begins.
Third, Do not race. This point cannot be repeated enough. Avoid calling any run "a race." If you're anything like me, there is no way you can ever win a race, not to mention a long race such as a marathon. Leave the winning to those who actually train to win. Draw pearls from them when they talk about running, but don't try to be them. Be yourself. Have fun.
I read in the recent issue of Runner's World that runners ought to run a 5K every week while running only one of them for a fast time each month. My thought would be to run whatever short distance (10 miles or less) you want each weekend and once a month run a 5K for a PR. The 5K is short and fun. It shouldn't kill any of us, who run regularly, to run a 5K fast as a "personal challenge" not a competition against the pack.
Fourth, rest a few weeks after a marathon; its ok. I ran a few days later. It wasn't a good idea. Since San Diego, I have ran about 9miles/week for the last several weeks, but with pain. There are a few schools of thought on resting after a marathon: one says to take a day off from running for every mile ran; a more generous approach is to NOT RUN AT ALL for at least 2 weeks; and the other, and most liberal, is to "return to running short distance if you are comfortable." Which one do you think I followed. The former. I have not healed fully, yet this morning a felt pretty good. I did take 4 ibuprofen before though.
The only time I didn't feel pain is when I loaded up on the ibuprofen, which, according to a the "Rock 'N' Roll Marathon" magazine, "Do not take non-steroidal anti-inflamatories the day before and the day of the race. These otc meds have been shown to be a risk factor for hypoatremia, a serious medical condition that results when there is an abnormally low concentration of sodium in the blood." Great, I was so scared after reading this that I took Tylenol instead on race day. Believe me, Tylenol isn't as good, to me anyway, as ibuprofen for muscle aches that you want to ignore when running. Next time I will risk the "hypoatremia".
I'll bottom line this now. I learned to listen to the advice of those who have run before me. Follow the most draconian advice regarding rest, max 30 days for a marathon. You can survive for a month without running. If you start binge eating from boredom, pay a friend to slap the fork from your hand, lock the fridge, and remove the microwave. In my case, ask your local grocery store to remove peanut M&M's from the shelves. Run don't race. If you're anything like me, "you ain't winning anyway." Just have fun. My biggest thanks is for my friend who helped me discover this most important fact while we ran Paige's Butterfly Run a couple of weeks ago.
See you on the road.
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