What has made training different this time?

I’ve had several blog posts in the last few months about how great and strong and capable I feel. This is sort of unusual for me during marathon training. Sure, I say it’s impossible to feel bad about yourself if you just ran 16 miles (and that’s mostly true) but this is the first season that I’ve felt great about almost all of the runs.

I remember the first time I trained for a marathon. We started the beginning of November in 2012 and I was so giddy and excited and nervous to start. It was like the first day of school. I didn’t know what was to come, I was joining a new group and didn’t know anybody, I had never trained for anything with other people. I remember that January telling myself during every run for a couple weeks that we train for mental toughness. I wanted to give up, not because the running was so hard but because I was so tired of creating my schedule around my runs.

So, why has this time been different? Here are my thoughts:

  • I didn’t miss a run. Sure, the first time I trained I didn’t miss any runs either, but I didn’t do 7 miles on Mondays. I usually did about 5. I think that extra little bit makes a big difference. I also didn’t do track much. I went to track a couples times as I was able but didn’t do the speed workouts on my own if I couldn’t make it to track. This time around I have done almost all of the track workouts and I think that has helped break up the monotony of running 4 days a week (even if I have done them on the dreadmill).
  • It’s no longer new to me. I’m in no way a seasoned pro (I’ve only done one marathon and it was awful) but I have now trained 3.5 times so I generally know what is coming, what to expect, how my body and mind will react to different workouts, distances, temperatures, etc.
  • Cross training. I really made cross training a priority this time. For most of training, I swam every Sunday and I did a core workout at least once a week (hopefully 2-3 days a week). While I wish I could swim more than once a week and could always do a core workout 3 times per week, I can tell this little bit of added training has made a difference in my overall fitness.
  • Yoga. I am becoming a yoga convert. It definitely helps with recovery.
  • I’m mentally more fit. A run doesn’t usually seem long to me unless it’s longer than a half marathon now. And sometimes 14 doesn’t seem that long. This has meant that I wasn’t able to psych myself out and get myself super nervous for runs until we were in pretty high mileage weeks and there really aren’t that many of those.
  • I don’t beat myself up over one bad run. Remember that awful 16 and that miserable 20? I knew that the week before both of those runs I’d had great runs and felt strong. In the case of the 16, I knew the heat was making everything super hard. I knew the one really bad day didn’t say anything about how fit or prepared I was.
  • I embrace hills. When I first moved to the area, I learned all sorts of ways to avoid hills as much as possible. Since I live in the middle of a hill, this is quite challenging. Slowly over the last couple years I stopped avoiding hills. I’m now to the point where I sometimes seek out hills and many of my runs while training recently have been anything but flat.

We’ll see in 10 days how this all plays out but I’m feeling strong and capable (and insanely nervous)!