Sunday, October 14, 2012
Do I still want it bad enough?
This is the question I find myself asking as I sit 2 weeks from my first marathon on Oct. 28th. The honeymoon phase of my relationship is officially over. Now as with all relationships I have to find out if it is really worth it.
For nearly a year and a half I ran every time with a sense of enthusiasm and joy because it was something I never thought I’d even be able to try let alone succeed at. Race after race, milestone after milestone, it all worked seamlessly. Now after 5 months of marathon training I find myself sitting here with a severe case of burnout.
Sure, I can come up with extenuating circumstances that have thrown my training off. My job has been terrible at making a clear work schedule. I find myself unable to set long term runs since my schedule seems to change every week. I can easily think of a half dozen runs ruined by this incompetence.
I could also point to actually going too hard in my training and having nagging injuries catching up with me. These make it difficult to maintain a normal running schedule when you're constantly having to rest aching body parts. I have had pain in my hip flexors and groin for months and the left heel pain has made it tough to walk at times. Still, I have continued on. I have bought a few different insoles for my shoes, a foam roller for my muscles, things that I had hoped would reaffirm my commitment and keep me motivated. Yet here I am 2 weeks to go wondering not only if I can do this, but if I want to.
I liked the idea of pushing myself time after time. I felt like this was all coming too easy, the distances, the races, the weight coming off. All of this kept my feet moving for a year and a half. I am thinking that the idea of running a marathon clouded my judgment. The actual training is an unbelievably arduous process that has tested me beyond what I thought.
Running in and of itself is hard enough. Add to that my stress-filled cooking job, the heat, being on my feet all day, I was at a disadvantage before I even hit the open road. That I even made it this far is a victory in and of itself. I am looking back at my charted runs since I began Memorial Day Weekend. These are the facts. In the calendar year before I began marathon training I had logged 920 miles. Granted there may have been something here and there I missed, and bike riding and other forms of cardio were not counted, but that averages out to just under 19 miles per week. Since starting training I have been regularly topping 40 per week, a good sized jump from what I was used to.
Before marathon training I had run a distance of 15 miles exactly 3 times in 14 months. In the 5 months since beginning marathon training I have eclipsed 15 miles 9 times including 3 20+ runs. My beginner training program suggested only 1 20 miler. I have also included several difficult hill runs to prepare myself for the 12 miles of hills in the middle of the marathon route. Those are the straight numbers.
I am in the tapering phase now, dropping my long runs to 17-18 miles. I cannot find the motivation to even step outside. The process of getting my gear ready, going to a place to run, stretching, and actually running does not thrill me like it used to. Could it be as simple as I am fatigued from a really good hard training regimen? Could it be that it does not excite me since I am always running on my own? Many times I tell myself I have come too far to just give up. I paid my money for the race and have every intention of running it, but then what?
I wanted to run a 10K trail race in Nashua, NH the day after my 35th birthday, November 3rd. The thought of amping up for another race has me seriously rethinking that prospect. Do I finish my training, run my marathon, and take some time off to recharge my batteries? Is it that easy? Trying to get motivated will be even harder during the cold winter months, right? Hitting the road when it’s sunny and 75 is much easier to do than forcing yourself out the door when it’s cloudy, breezy, and 35.
So I find myself asking ‘Do I still want this?’ I look at my medals and race bibs and wonder what it all means. Even a few months ago I had these plans to run the Boston Marathon next April with the ultimate goal being to go run the Honolulu Marathon in 2014. I can’t see myself doing 2 more full-length marathon training programs. It is not fun for me right now, it feels more like work, like a job. I’ve had my share of injuries and doubt but I never thought of giving up. I thought that I was a runner now, it was part of me. Maybe I still am. Maybe my fellow runners, especially ones who are training for their first marathon, or remember how their first one went, can give me some encouragement. It obviously is bothering me if I have written this much. All I know is in 2 weeks I will complete my marathon, my time is not important anymore. What happens in my head and my heart in the days and weeks after that will tell me if I am truly a runner or just a poseur who got as far as he could before turning back.