Having Serious Doubts About 26.2

"Just go home," I told myself , about one mile into yesterday afternoon's sixteen mile run.  "Turn around.  You can get your long run in later in the week."  I was weary after a lock-in with nine youth from church on the night before, and a morning service project with those same youth pulling invasive English Ivy out from a hillside at a local nature center.

And so as I struggled up and down over the rolling hills of the first four miles of my workout yesterday I tried to talk myself out of the run, until finally my legs and breathing fell into a steady rhythm as the route plateued and then headed downhill toward the Potomac River, where a wonderfully flat three mile stretch of a canal tow-path awaited me.

In the final few miles my doubts returned.  "Stop here, call Jessicah, get a ride home," I told myself as I ran past a grocery store.  And again, at a split in the path where I could have made a quicker route home – but would have falled short of the sixteen mile goal – I once again tried to psych myself out.  "Go right, head home, be done."  My knee began to ache.  Finding the strength to stride over curbs and onto sidewalks became a serious challenge.

Nonetheless, I stuck to the plan and finished the run strong, despite the wicked hills that I faced after about mile ten.  In fact, this was my best long run to date – I hit every mile under 9:00, and my half marathon split was much faster than my time at the Richmond Half Marathon two months ago.

Yet when I got home I was worthless.  My body was extremely achey, and despite stretching, my muscles siezed up, making it very hard for me to move.  I couldn't eat much, I was thirsty for hours, and I was exhausted.  I fell asleep about 90 minutes after my run, woke up a few hours later, and then went to sleep for the evening.

Ever since running the Richmond Half Marathon in November, I have been eager to run a marathon.  I chose the National Marathon on March 26, because it would give the motivation to train during the winter. Furthermore, I loved the idea that I could go Couch-to-26.2 in one year.

(I began running last April, after 17 years of inactivity.  At the start, I couldn't run for two minutes without getting winded, but thanks to the Couch-to-5K program I got to the point where I could run a full 3 miles.  I wrote about my return to running in a blogpost last June, Getting Reacquainted with Running).

But I'll admit that I'm having doubts.  I got my butt kicked on – and especially after – yesterday's run, even as I put in one of my best workouts to date.  About 20 hours after my run, I still feel like garbage.  Do I really want to keep doing this to myself?  Perhaps I should dial it back and run the half marathon instead?  Or, should I be preparing for and recovering from my long runs differently, so that I'm not in such horrible shape a day later?

I'd greatly appreciate any advice that my running friends can share.  I'm not sure if I'm simply being plagued by fickle doubts – as I was on yesterday's run – or if I indeed need to dial it down and get more mileage and fitness before I try to conquer the 26.2. 

I know I can run a marathon, but simultaneously, I'm not sure if I can … right now, anyway.

Published by Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. Veteran. Jedi. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

8 thoughts on “Having Serious Doubts About 26.2

  1. Training for a long race, you will always have 1-2 long runs (or all of them, if you use the “Megan Landmeier I don’t have time for this training junk” plan) that suck. No other word, there will always be a long run or two that either during or after, make you want to cry, quit, cuss, give up, puke, or all of the above.
    Getting through those days makes you a better runner. It also makes you a better person. Anyone can train their body to run 26.2 miles. It’s a MENTAL sport as much as physical. Write down what works – foods, rest, refueling, water intake, and what doesn’t, then do what works more and what doesn’t work less. You’ll do fine in the marathon. You’ll feel good, then you’ll hit the 20 mile mark and hate your life, then you’ll cross the finish line and be more proud of yourself than you’ve ever been.
    Oh, and go sit in a tub full of all that delightful ice we have outside. Sometimes, that’s what your legs need. And drink Gatorade and eat bananas.

  2. You can do it. There are days when I feel like crap and I’ve been at it a bit longer than you. The good news in logging the miles now is that when you DO run the marathon your body won’t be so shocked. A few practical things: potassium level – how is it?, electrolytes – drink ’em, make sure you are refueling while running – gu is your friend, take a break for a day or two – you’ll miss it and want to get back out there, call me – I will run with you. Don’t give up.

  3. How much sleep did you get after the lock in? You will be very surprised how much rest the night before any long run at any pace can be…plus, I guarantee you that you were invested spiritually quite a bit during this time with the youth for your confirmation lock in.
    Just saying you were drained mentally, spiritually, and physically before making this run, and you said this was your best workout to date? Sounds like you’ve improved more then you ever imagined you had. Think if you had gotten proper rest the night before? Then what would it have felt like?

  4. What Ben said! What Christine said! What Megan said! You can do this.
    My advice is that you try running just a little slower…just a little. I’ll threaten to make you run with me. 🙂
    And…you need a new picture on your blog.
    Love you.

  5. I’m writing this as a former triathlete (VERY amateur, believe me) who is basically doing no exercise now, and it was training for a marathon that was my Waterloo. My advice, for what it’s worth, is don’t do a marathon in order to say “I’ve done a marathon.” Don’t set a deadline for your body. Let your body set the deadline.
    Easier said than done, I know. But I’m thinking if you were recovering from surgery, you wouldn’t be able to tell yourself, “I will be recovered by X date.” Well, you could, but your body will probably say, “Good for you, sweetheart. But you don’t set the rules around here.”
    One of the things I think is tremendously difficult about an exercise regimen is knowing when it’s your body saying, “Please stop now” and when it’s a trick of the mind. My hunch from what you wrote is that this was a body message because it did not stop once you started. But I have no proof whatsoever and, as I said, I’m not a runner, so what do I know? Still, I would urge you to be careful and not let an externally imposed deadline trump what you and your body think is best for you.
    How are you feeling now? Are you glad or sorry that you did the run? What do you think upon reflection?

  6. In my experience you have to listen very carefully to your body. It’s almost as if you have a suspicion that this run is too far, but you cannot cognitively think through the reasons why. But I would say that there is a little room to maneuver. You can push it a little if you think its just a low energy moment, and not a ‘got no reserves for this’ moment. The important thing about running a race is working on peaking at the right moment (the race) rather than following a strict schedule. You have to get in sync. Everybody has the rhythm to run a race but its like a clock in which you can adjust the time a little over time, as apposed to setting it twelve hour earlier all in one go. But as I said, there is space to maneuver, so you can extend yourself a bit. It’s always good to challenge yourself. Hope this helps.

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