-- Marathon Running Information, Coaching and Advice from Coach Joe English

Training — Be proud, even if your training was ugly

running-advice-bugI’m always proud of people when they finish marathons. I was talking to one of my runner friends last week who had just finished running her third marathon. I told her that I was proud of her and I felt like she didn’t quite believe me. “I am too,” she said in a slightly tentative way.

Be Proud- Even if your training was uglyThe back-story here is that she hadn’t trained much for this marathon. In fact, I would almost say that she hadn’t trained at all. She did a little bit of running and maybe did one long-ish run. I believe that her hesitation was that she didn’t do much to prepare and hadn’t followed a marathon plan. But as I said, I am always proud of people when they finish a marathon. I was proud of her. Here’s why.

First, the training for your marathon is intended to prepare you mentally and physically to meet your goals in finishing the event. Your training then needs to be designed to help you do what you are setting out to do. If you’re trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials then your training will have to incorporate the right amount of work to help advance that goal for you. But if your goal is simply to finish the race, then the load might be lighter — especially if you are already in good physical shape.

Second, your marathon training is intended to help you avoid an injury in the race itself. If you were to do absolutely no training and then go try to run (and probably walk) 26.2 miles, you run the risk of some pretty serious injuries or at least a very lengthy amount of time hobbling around on very very sore legs. Marathon training programs are designed to slowly increase the distance over a period of time, because this is the best way to avoid suffering a major injury in the race. I like to imagine a marathon training plan like a set of stairs. To get to the top you take one step at a time. If you try to jump from the bottom to the top in one big leap, you risk really hurting yourself.

Third, the amount of training that you need really depends on your physical fitness to begin with. Some people are blessed with legs that were made for running and others are not. I fully admit that the longest run that I did before my first marathon was probably not more than 10 miles and I was able to finish it. That was just me. I’ve also talked to other runners that have done astonishing things (like running sub 2:45:00 in their first marathon) without much training. On the flip side, I have dried the tears of people on marathon courses suffering horrendous pain from sore legs, stress fractures or worse because they didn’t train and couldn’t fake it. I have in fact even seen people pass out, fall over in heaps and have to be carried over marathon finish lines, some of whom were just not in the shape that they needed to be to be out there.

But the main thing here is that however you get yourself to the finish line, it’s always a big deal and should be celebrated. Sometimes training won’t be pretty. You’ll crush your foot under a freezer door or get pneumonia and be out for weeks. You may have to do what I call the “Hail Mary” and just go for it. Does it matter that your training wasn’t perfect? No. What matters is that you made it somehow. You probably endured a lot of pain along the way. You probably wanted to quit. You probably wondered if you should have ever tried to do this crazy thing. But you did it. And for that I’m proud.

So maybe let’s just remove the template of training going perfectly and understand that life isn’t perfect. Life is what life allows itself to be. And from there we make do with what we’ve got.

When you finish your next marathon, no matter how ugly, just know that I am proud of you.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News


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  1. 1. Running Advice and News » Recation — Proud and Feeling Lucky to be in the Game October 15th, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    […] they are real people. Today my friend Cat, who was mentioned in last week’s post about making the most of what you did in your training, adds her reaction to the post. Cat is a great woman and I think her perspective comes through loud […]

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