For the past 6 months, I’ve been training for the Marine Corps Marathon. I’m doing it for a lot of reasons – it’s the 10th anniversary of surviving a major accident, 20th anniversary of the first time I ran the MCM, and the 25th anniversary of my first marathon (NYC in 1989). A lot of people I talk to say that I’m crazy for trying to do this – I’m not very fast, I’m really sore and tired after the long training runs, and it’s not good for me to be running this far. To be honest, I’m NOT very fast, I AM sore and tired…and it might not be ‘good’ for me to be running this far…..but I’m doing it to see how far I can push my physical limits, despite my age and medical history. Since it’s an anniversary of sorts, I also wanted to celebrate those milestones, especially the journey back from my 2004 accident.
I’ve had to be very methodical in my training – I don’t bounce back nearly as easily as I did in my 20’s. The training runs during the week are fairly routine….but part of my program has been to do a long run on the weekends. It started off as 5-6 miles….then each week, it would get longer and longer. In August, I was up to 15 miles……and then they got even longer.
Once I hit 10 miles, I found that I needed to be taking on water during the run – In the summer, I’d lose a lot of fluid from sweating…and by not drinking, I’d get dehydrated and be miserable for the next several hours. I worked around that by breaking my run into 5-mile loops, where I’d have water waiting for me each lap.
At 15 miles, I couldn’t seem to go any further. I’d hit that third lap….and I’d be done. After reading up on how to handle longer runs, I realized that I was literally running out of fuel. Our bodies can only carry so much readily available fuel for ‘work’, and I was reaching my limit. I found that runners use gel packets of simple carbs (with a little caffeine) to keep going. I found some that were tolerable, and added a second ‘water stop’ by caring a water bottle to the half-way point of my loop, and picking it up on my last lap.
Having not been able to go beyond 15 miles, I got up to 20 miles the next weekend, and the one after that. Yesterday, I did my longest run of 22 miles. I hadn’t ran that far in 20 years….and 10 years prior, I was told that I might not walk again, let alone run. Did I do it day one? No way. I did it the way Covert Bailey (author of Fit or Fat) said to do it. “Start so slowly, people make fun of you.” Over time, I built up my distance….and in the long run, I’ve made it further than I ever thought I would.
Have you got something that seems too big to tackle? Break it down into smaller pieces, and start slowly. Build up your effort over time….and in the long run, you’ll get there too.