I know this was not the training and racing season we signed up for when we hit submit on the race’s website. I know some of you have rightfully thrown in the towel on training for a marathon that may or may not happen or has been moved to a virtual option for this year. After all, race day is the reward for all the training. It;s the icing on the cake. The cherry on the sundae. These truly are unprecedented times and everything each of you is feeling (self-included) is completely normal. We have never been through something like this before. I feel your frustration, your disappointment, and your lack of motivation to name a few.
The latter is why I am writing this. I have been known to inspire my massage therapist, bank manager, Uber driver, Walgreens cashier, numerous colleagues that they too can do a marathon! Most recently, one of my friends shared my contact information with her friend who just wanted to start running. Maybe 6 weeks after training with me for her first half marathon (which she wasn’t even planning on doing when she reached out to me as she just wanted to start running)….BOOM…She not only said the word marathon but said she wants to run the Chicago Marathon next year! The Marathon Whisperer strikes again! If you are open to a little whispering, please read on.
Remember Your Why:
Go back to that day that you hit “submit.” What was and is your why? Are you running for a charity near and dear to your heart? Are you running as a 50th Birthday present to yourself? Are you running to see if you can get faster after bringing your training up a notch from last season? Are you running to see if you too can become a marathoner, etc.? Are you running to cross a bucket list item off your list? I bet your WHY is still within you. It has not mysteriously left your psyche. It just needs to be dusted off! In addition to your why fueling your fire to run the marathon, the journey to 26.2/42K also takes a lot of self-drive and discipline. These two traits cannot be coached. Even I cannot coach someone into being disciplined and driven. It is all you! So, while you are dusting off your why, also dust off your self-discipline and drive.
To all the first-time marathoners reading this, I am proud of you and I haven't even met you yet. It takes a HUGEEEEE amount of courage to sign up for something that you have never done before. Courage that 99% of the population does not draw upon within themselves. Did your courage exit stage left? I do not think so. As Taylor Swift would say, "Shake it off!"
Be a part of the .5% Percent:
They say that once you run a marathon, you become part of the 1% club. As in, approximately 1% of the population completes a marathon. This is a membership that cannot be bought. It is only earned. However, in these trying times and with our races rightfully getting cancelled, postponed and or moved to virtual, I feel like the percentage of people that will still run their marathon on their own is an even smaller percentage. I am guessing maybe .5% of the population. This time that we are in right now will go down in history and when you look back on what you did in the year that chip mats, race expos, and official race photos were taken away from us, you can say that YOU RAN A FREACKIN’ DO IT YOURSELF (DIY) MARATHON. More on my tips on how to do a DIY marathon below.
All the Feels and More
One of my favorite parts about race day is the emotional roller coaster we get buckled into once we cross that first chip mat. From start to finish, we experience a whole gamut of emotions. For example, most of my marathons follow this pattern. I start out out of the gate beyond excited and on the highest runners high. Five or Six miles in, legs fell great and I am feeling awesome. “Marathons Rock!” I make it to the halfway point. I tell myself. “I got this! I just double my time for my half and dang this is going to be a great race. The mile markers are really flying by.” About mile 16 or 17, the conversation in my head changes to “Why did I sign up for this?! I knew this was going to be hard!” Around mile 22 or 23, it feels like someone is playing tricks on me and moving the mile markers. “Why are they taking so long to appear and why do my legs feel like concrete with every foot strike?" At mile 25.5, “holy crap! To that spectator that told me I was almost there at mile 14, take note. This moment right here is where you can tell me I am almost there!” Then at mile 26.2, “I DID IT! THAT WAS AWESOME! WHEN CAN I DO IT AGAIN?”
If you think about it, rarely in our day to day life do we get to experience so many emotions in one day? Having completed 117 marathons (and counting), I have to say that every marathon has been its own unique roller coaster ride. I never know which emotions are going to come out when and nor do I know how intense each emotion will be. I love it!
Having completed my own DIY Boston (4/20), DIY Big Sur (4/26), DIY Strolling Jim (5/2), Virtual Sugar Badger 50 Miler (5/30) and Virtual Comrades Marathon (6/14), I have to admit that the emotional roller coaster still has an empty seat waiting for you to take.
More importantly, if you think about how accomplished you feel when you cross any finish line, I have to say from my own experience, when you complete a DIY race or Virtual race, you feel an even greater sense of accomplishment. I think this is because your race was all you. There was no parade helping to push you through. No pomp and circumstance.
Having run over 300 races to date, I have collected a lot of bling! To name a handful, I have earned 2 of the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star medals, a medal from the Mt. Everest and Antarctica marathons and even the Seven Continents Club medal. If you think about it, we rightfully and proudly wear our coveted medals on race day and then maybe the next day for #takeyourmedaltoworkday. Outside of those two days though, our medals rarely don our neckline again. For some of us, the medals will proudly be displayed on a wall at home, in our office or even left in a drawer, etc. What we do carry with us past race day though, is what we went through, who we may have met, the places that we saw, the discretionary free time that we sacrificed in training to cross the finish line.
"Medals are nice, but they are only Symbols" Emil Zatopek (Czechoslovak long-distance runner known for winning three gold medals at the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympics)
Nothing new on race day!
One of the biggest and most common rules on race day is to not try anything new. I say, to throw this rule out the window when you are doing your own DIY/Virtual race! This is the best time to test drive whatever you have been itching to try such as a new pacing strategy, gear, hydration, nutrition, chaffing cream, etc. When I ran my DIY Comrades earlier in the month, I tried a new pacing strategy where I ran 3/4 of a one-mile loop course and then walked the remaining 1/4 of the course. This was a Thumbs Up! I tried a recommended diaper rash cream on my feet to help keep blisters away. Thumbs Down! Lastly, I tried "cooling" arm sleeves to protect my arms from the sun. I was afraid I would feel too hot having these on with my tank top. This was a Thumbs Up!
How to Run your DIY/Virtual Marathon
1-Comply with social distancing
3-Map out a short loop near your house that you can run over and over. This will provide you your own private bathroom and aid station.
4-Schedule a Video Conference Corral Start line for you and your friends to “start” your marathon together but apart
5-Start the race at whatever time you want
6-Play whatever music you want in your Corral while you are waiting to start
7-Stock your aid stations with whatever you want
8-Break the Tape (Make your own finish tape via toilet paper or painting tape) and win overall and your age group
9-Cherish this HUGE sense of accomplishment!
Whatever route you take with your races, I support you!
Coach Denise @MarathonWhisperer