Mind Over Emotion: The Build to my 2nd Marathon
Updated: May 28, 2022
In 15-days, I’ll step to the start line for my second Marathon. 26.2 miles in Buffalo, New York, and the opportunity to leave it all out on the course; a true test of endurance and strength of will.
The build-up for this race has been 14-weeks of consistency, focus, intention, and hard-work. The perfect recipe for a great result, come race day.
Before getting into the mental side of things, I’d like to thank my coach and friend, Sara Manderscheid for providing me with the programming, mentorship, and encouragement necessary to help me become a stronger runner. Your commitment to excellence inspires me to provide the same level of coaching to the athletes that I will get to work with in the future, and serves as evidence that this is about so much more than running.
I could talk/write forever about running, why I run, why marathons are so great, and the methodologies behind my approach to running; but I will aim to be a bit more concise than that, at least in this post. Rather, my goal is to compare my second marathon training cycle, which has just reached the tapering-phase, leading into the race on May 29th, to that of my first build-up, towards the Indianapolis Marathon this past November.
Through these reflections, I hope that you as the reader, and a practitioner towards your own goals, will find an elevated level of embrace towards the process. My decision to begin running marathons was never about the finish line. I don’t run to race, I run to train. Likewise, we don’t live to die, we live to experience all that our day-to-day lives have to offer.
When you consider a goal that you aim to achieve; or envision the person that you want to become, don’t commit based solely on the end-result. Invest into a process that you’re willing to struggle through. Endure not because you want the glorified moment of success, but because you want to grow stronger through the challenges, hardships, and failures.
No matter what your journey looks like, embrace all that it has to offer, and all that you can become through the challenge.
“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination”
First and foremost, confidence has been built through the act of showing up, every single day. This commitment to training began from the first miles logged in late-July, as I began the 16-week prep towards my first marathon. It continued as I recovered from the race, and re-engaged with structured, focused training, through the Winter months of this year. My foot never left the gas pedal, it just pressed with varying levels of pressure, depending on the needs of my mind and body.
When I chose to invest into running, I discovered a passion. A desire for continued growth, that uses running as a measuring-stick for progress. If it wasn’t running, it would be something else. I just want to commit to a process, put in the time, and see where hard-work can get me. Running is my personal, preferred means for doing so, but it’s one of many avenues that we can pursue.
1. Enhancing Intent with the Help of a Coach:
At the outset of this training cycle, I wanted more structure. Rather than following a pre-established program, with no specific individualization, I wanted to train in a more purposeful way. So I hired a coach. Through the one-on-one approach of Elevate Your Running, and Sara’s strategy, I’ve been able to reserve some of the mental energy, previously used on planning and adjusting training, to now be focused specifically into my physical efforts.
I view and consider my workouts a week in-advance, understanding and trusting that the work being prescribed to me is the work that will move the needle. This belief fuels my effort, and narrows my focus, as I commit to progress.
One major change that was implemented, as a result of my working with a coach, was the programming and execution of two workouts per week, in addition to the weekly long run. For those who may not be as accustomed to marathon-style training, a ‘workout’ denotes any hard-effort days, as opposed to the easy-effort, low-aerobic training runs, which will typically make-up ~80% of weekly training volume.
Easy-effort running is crucial to development in the endurance space, as it allows for much of the needed adaptations to occur within the body, over the course of a training cycle. However, with the goal shifting from simply finishing the race to racing the race, the implementation of an additional speed workout day was a logical approach to the 12-16 week marathon build.
As a result of this decision, I’ve had the opportunity to show up and perform on a consistent basis; tapping into a space of my mind and body that will ultimately be displayed on race-day. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that we pushed the envelope on many occasions over the past 14-weeks. My body felt it, but my mind was encouraged by the realization of hard-earned results.
For many athletes, and in many scenarios, this approach is not necessary. I don’t expect that it will be the same for my third marathon prep, as it was for this one; yet, the same principles can be applied to varying degrees.
Regardless of the structure, our pursuit towards goals can be scary, but we have the opportunity to perform in the face of fear. Our journey’s are filled with hardship and trials that will force us outside of our comfort zones, but we have the opportunity to embrace the uncomfortable. And finally, our paths will surely be paved with self-doubt and resistance, but we have the great opportunity to prove to ourselves that we are stronger than any challenge that will present itself.
For me, these are just a few of the empowering lessons of marathon training, and they tie perfectly into the next variable that has been maximized over the past few months - the long run.
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn bright until brought to a focus”
Alexander Graham Bell
2. Embracing the Long Run:
Every long run is an adventure. You set out, either with a structured workout within the miles, or with timeless easy miles to log. No matter the intent, if the distance is ‘long’ to you, there’s surely to be some nerves preceding your first steps.
How will I feel? Will I achieve the standard? What will the conditions afford me? Am I prepared? Only time will tell.
The more we practice working through these feelings, the more accustomed we will become to overcoming hard things. Some runs will be massive confidence builders, displaying just how far you’ve come. Others will test your mind and body, mile by mile. In both instances, you are afforded the opportunity to conquer and grow stronger. Don’t let it pass.
The weekly long run has been one of the primary areas that I’ve been able to move the needle throughout this training cycle. Five 20-mile or longer efforts (21-20-21-22-22). Plenty of time to acclimate to discomfort, and learn lessons along the way.
There were times when the mileage would wear on me. I wouldn’t want to prepare my mind and body for the following day’s training session; nor did I look forward to displaying the courage and resilience necessary in performing to standard. But each day and week, I did. Whether I wanted to or not, the goal of performing at a high-level of May 29th conquered all.
Mind stood atop emotions.
“What we feel is a choice”
3. Time to Taper:
As I write this, I’m about two hours removed from my final long run, and officially shifting the focus towards taper.
Today’s run was a huge confidence building session. I owned the responsibility of approaching the 18-mile run as if it were race day. Carb-load in the three days preceding, wake-up at the same time that I will on race morning, practice nutrition and fueling, and hit my goal paces for the middle 10-miles of the workout.
Another brick stacked.
Funny enough, taper can be the hardest two-weeks of an athlete’s marathon build-up. Mileage and intensity drop, rest and recovery are emphasized, and all you can do is wait for race day; counting down the days.
Our nature is to work. To run through any wall that is placed in front of us, and to grind out as many miles as is prescribed. Is it easy? No. But we’re more comfortable in this space. Ask us to pull-back and invest in the act of doing less, now that’s true discomfort.
Yet, if it means a strong 26.2 miles on race day, and the potential to accomplish a lifelong goal, then I’ll do whatever it takes.
“It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of the pursuit”
15-days until Marathon #2, and I’m fully invested in the process. I believe that I have an extremely strong performance to leave out on the course, and look forward to the act of manifesting this vision.
Marathons are a humbling experience; the build-up certainly has been, on many occasions. But above all else, they are empowering. As I ran the final mile of the Indianapolis Marathon this past November, I had tears in my eyes. I was struggling to find a breath, not because of my pace, but because I was overcome by so much emotion.
I had proven to myself that I could set a big goal, work tirelessly towards it, and display the passion that had previously been buried within.
The lesson learned is this:
Pour your heart into something. Make yourself vulnerable to the potentiality of struggle, pain, and failure. Keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other, and realize just how strong you are.
Hard-work, sacrifice, and dedication; they’re yours to invest in.
You can go as far as you’re willing to take it.
Get after it,