My Brain on Marathon

These past few days there have been two things going through my head:

Holy shit, I’m running a marathon this weekend.

And

Holy shit, I need to blog about all my feelings.

Okay…there have been 5,000 other thoughts going on as well, but stick with me.

Somehow, I couldn’t seem to get these two very complimentary thoughts to mesh together in beautiful, therapeutic symmetry.

I mean come on—don’t all running bloggers blog 2x per day, every day, during the last two weeks of taper before a marathon?

We have so many nerves, ideas, and circumstances floating through our heads…and all we want to do is talk to other runners about them all.

So why haven’t I been spilling my guts out incessantly and instead just been flitting over the surface in regard to my upcoming 26.2 attempt?

Honestly, I don’t know.

I am thinking about the race nonstop. I already have pre-race butterflies in my stomach. I am in a constant back-and-forth battle between being excited and optimistic and being so nervous I want to hide under my desk.

Essentially, there are so many thoughts going through my little taper-brain that I’ve had a hard time coming up with anything coherent or sensible to write about. I know, I know…a lot of my blog posts are of the word-vomit variety already. However, when it’s been coming time to put my fingers to the keyboard to describe how I’m feeling about this race, my brain spirals into chaos—and I can barely sit still—let alone write a post.

With that said, I’m not here to offer up any constructive or solid “feelings” or “plans” or whatever it is you’re supposed to have the week before a marathon. I am here, however, to attempt to let loose some steam—and to hopefully give a little insight into how you truly never know what to expect in so very much of life.

It’s hard for me to differentiate my nerves between regular, expected pre-marathon jitters, and legitimate concerns about my current condition. Sometimes, I’m imagining it as just any other marathon—other times, I’m thinking of it as a death march on out-of-shape legs and a floppy, swollen ankle. I’m trying to land somewhere in the middle of these two outlooks—balancing the ordinary nervousness with the warranted exceptional circumstance I’ll be running the race in.

Of course, marathon brain is far from balanced and sensible, so despite my best efforts so just chill and play with the cards I’ve been dealt…it’s been a process to actually internalize that mindset.

Recently, it’s been going more like this:

“I’m going to have the best time! I might have some pain later on, but as long as I go easy, soak in the sights, and let the race adrenaline work its magic..I’ll be fine! I love running! I love marathons! This will be great!”

…two minutes later:

“I’m going to die. I’m going to be exhausted after one mile, my legs are going to cramp, and even if I make it pretty far, I’m going to have to bail and get off the course. Then I’m going to cry. Even if I make it, I’m going to be walking, puking, and/or crying until the finish line.”

Once again, I’m trying to rationalize that I’ll probably land somewhere in the middle.

I’m also trying to remind myself about just how mental running is. Because in my opinion, and in the opinions of many, many great runners out there who are far more qualified to make claims than me, running is primarily mental. Certainly, it takes endurance and strength to run a marathon—no doubt about it. But ultimately, the thing that keeps our feet moving and our will to finish alive is our attitude.

Now, I learned back in T-town that I definitely have a good deal of mental strength. This time around, I’m going to try and channel that mental strength into being present in the moment and savouring the fact that I am able to run a marathon. Let me also just clarify that while what happened in Tacoma is high on my fear list, I no longer want to rehash that race—and I now know that there is a difference between pushing it and pushing it too far.

With that said, I will not be trying to BQ, PR, or anything of that sort during this race. While those types of goals are often high on my list and they encourage me to keep moving, they are also the kind of goals that could disable me from finishing. Due to my current circumstance with my ankle and my training glitches, the only goals I have for this race are to a) finish and b) negative split. I don’t want to negative split to ensure a particular time; I just know that I am going to need reserved energy for the second half. My pacing intentions will be solely for the purpose of staying consistent and staying safe.

I am planning to run by feel, which is a good theme for how I’ve handled these past few weeks of “training.” All of my decisions about when to run, when to rest, and if I was going to do the race haven’t been based on a pre-determined schedule, but solely on how I feel. That’s how I’m planning to run this race. I have paces in mind that I know I will be able to hold for a long time, and although they are many, many seconds slower than I originally planned on running this race—they are what will help get me to the finish line.

So for right now, I trying to channel my energy into focusing on a few things.

The first is positive self talk. I am always such a huge proponent of mantras and self confidence when it comes to encouraging other people along, but I’m not so good at practicing what I preach. I do believe that positive thinking and visualization can make a world of difference in performance—and so excuse me while I act super cocky and conceited for the next 72 hours.

The second thing I’m trying to focus on is what my intention was behind doing this race in the first place. When I first registered, I knew I wanted to take this race less seriously than I had for many before. Marathon training had become less fun and too stressful, and this time around I wanted to enjoy the running for what it was instead of focus solely on numbers. Admittedly, I slipped away from this a bit when I started seeing my times get faster, but now that I’m kind of forced to run the race easier than planned—my original intention has come back into focus.

In addition to my goal of having fun with training for this race, I also wanted to focus on doing something more than just my own, petty “look at me and how much I run” approach. I chose to fund-raise and run on behalf of Girls on the Run because they are an organization that I believe advocates all the best things about running. Girls on the Run gets down to the grass roots of the pure joy, confidence, and enthusiasm that running can instill, and this was a message I wanted to both advocate to others and internalize for myself.

No matter what happens—I’ve raised a lot of money and promoted a group whose cause resonates with so many of the reasons I love to run. And for that, I’m proud and humbled to run on behalf of them.

I suppose there are actually a lot of advantages to running a marathon that isn’t a goal race. And despite my uber-competitive mind trying with all its might to both “be a hero” and finish with an impressive time—for now, she’s going to need to shut up. This is a really good opportunity for me to tune into the part of running that isn’t competitive—the part that isn’t tangible, or “qualifying,” or up to some standard.

I’m going to run because I love it, and no matter what happens—Sunday is just one more day I get to run. In the second biggest marathon in the world— no less. If nothing else, I want to finish how ever many miles I run knowing that I ran smart and I ran happy. Anything else (finishing, a decent time, etc.) will just be gravy.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for listening to me spill my very-full brain. These are the times I’m so happy I have a blog, both as a way for me to get out my thoughts and a way to communicate with runners who’ve experienced all the same things. Writing everything down has always helped relax me—and I’m already feeling more excited for Sunday.

I’ll have a post tomorrow with a few more specifics as to strategy, logistics, etc. I’ll also post a link to how you can follow me during the race! We’re getting closer and closer…and my window of complex carb consumption/hydrating/foam rolling is here.

Bring it on, baby.

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4 thoughts on “My Brain on Marathon

  1. Emily

    Oh my goodness! You are reading my mind!!! My foot is a swollen crap. Still not hurting when I run… except for when it is swollen (it is) and hurts to be in a shoe. I’m running it. But I’m also making friends promise to drive me grocery shopping once a month if (when) I’m in a boot. I’m excited beyond belief but being realistic. I stagger between ‘I am so ready for the marathon’ and ‘I might die…. seriously injure my foot… cry’ But I’m also not going to NOT run because of my foot. It has been in the same condition for three weeks. I can still run (well 20 miles, we’ll see about 26.2 miles) and the 20 didn’t change anything for the worse. After the marathon I’ll see a doctor. Until then I’ll count down the minutes to the start line. If i know anything, I know I will be at least running mile 1. We’ll see from there! Party time corral C.

    Reply
  2. Ricole Runs

    YOU ARE GOING TO DO SO AWESOME!!! I’m so so so SO excited for you! Off topic (kind of) – did you sign up to be a GOTR running buddy yet?!?! DO IT DO IT DO IT.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Chicago Marathon Race Recap | Run Birdie Run

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