I Did A Marathon Once: Revisited

Looking for love in all the wrong places!
Looking for self love in all the wrong places!

I’ve been blogging for Salty Running for almost a year and a half now. Nearly 100 posts later and my, have I changed. I’d chalk my development up to a mix of taking the risk to put myself out there on Salty Running, turning 30 and buckling down to discover my spiritual self. Through it all though, one post I wrote in my early days as a blogger still sits with me. And as I begin to wrap up my first marathon training cycle in nearly nine years, I find myself coming back to it often on my final runs before the marathon.

My I Did a Marathon Once post was indeed controversial. Even if I was playing both sides, deep down I was arguing that at the time, I saw a difference between running a marathon and doing a marathon. And I thought that one was better for having trained for it and running it “fast.” Anything over 5 hours was a joke to me. In the post, I just danced around saying that, but that’s what I really thought. People called me out for being an elitist and even called me insecure.

Specifically, I remember one woman calling me out on Facebook. I don’t remember the exact comment but it involved something along the lines of me being insecure. Reading that comment made my blood boil! What did I get myself into blogging for the site?! Then later in the week, Salty wrote a rebuttal which instantly threw me on the elitist side of the ring.

It was a tough week. As time went on, I let that experience go, sort of proud of myself for asserting my opinion but every once in a while wondering if I was really insecure. At that time in my life, I was training at my highest intensity yet. I was constantly focused on getting faster and trying my hardest to keep up with some of my area’s fastest runners. I eventually saw some amazing results but that style of training would be short lived.

In December 2012, I had a mental breakdown (or maybe breakthrough) while attempting a track workout. I didn’t want to do this anymore.

I was trying to be someone I was not.

I was insecure.

At the start of this year, I made a vow to myself to try and get back to running for enjoyment first and attempt to rediscover why I run. I began logging my workouts by feel versus a certain pace. Surprisingly, I PR’d in the 5k off of this style of training. What changed? I was running for me, my pace, and for my body. I stopped trying to be someone I am not and as a result, I grew more secure of myself.

I chose to sign up for the Akron Marathon after getting inspired as a spectator of the race in 2012. It wasn’t running a fast time or a chance to run a Boston qualifier that inspired me, either. It was the race itself, the same race I “did” in 2004.

I was crying at the 2004 finish and I'm willing to be I'll be crying at this year's finish because the older I get, the more I accept the fact that I like to cry.
I was crying at the 2004 finish and I’m willing to bet I’ll be crying at this year’s finish because the older I get, the more I accept the fact that I like to cry.

I was naive in 2004. I recall making up a measly training plan and not even following through with that. I had some years of light training under my belt though and decided that going into the race, the best plan would be to run within myself. If I had to walk, I had to walk. Deep down, I knew that I would be able to complete the race but the fear and anxiety was likely the same as it was for anyone choosing to complete a marathon. Fast or slow, trained or not. I’m willing to bet thatย Phidippides’ training was less than ideal.

Truth be told, that marathon was one of my most enjoyable running experiences ever. Up until my late 20s, I treasured that experience. I did a marathon. Heck, I ran most of the marathon! And I ran a pretty solid time off of little training.

My training this time around has likely been triple the volume of what is was for my first marathon. At times, I get to thinking that based on that stat alone, I could run a Boston qualifier. But as race day gets closer, and some nagging foot pain looms, I am able to quiet that voice that likes to be defined by a number. Prior to this growth, I always felt like certain times weren’t good enough. Anything over 23 minutes for the 5k? Not good enough. Marathon over four hours? Not good enough.

Ladies, and some gentlemen, let me say it loud and clear. 23 minutes IS good enough! 4 hours IS good enough! 17 minutes IS good enough! 30 minutes IS good enough! 3 hours IS good enough! 6 hours IS good enough!

You get the point.

At the end of the day, it’s not about the time but rather the experience.

And just as I don’t regret so-called failed races, I don’t regret my previous post or responses. Without that experience, I wouldn’t have been able to grow into the runner (and person) I am today.

Happy fall marathons, everyone!

I write about mindfulness, mental health, and the professional sport of running with the occasional poking fun at the sport. When I am not running, I'm either helping people as a counselor or trying to make them laugh as an amateur open mic comedian.

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  1. I’ve enjoyed following your marathon training through your posts so, so much! Like most of them, this post really hits home for me. I’m struggling with the “not good enough” syndrome right now, and I really do want to get over it. I stopped running 5 and 10Ks because I didn’t feel my current times were good enough (because they’re slower than the times I ran 10 yrs. ago). I moved to the half marathon because there wasn’t any pressure. Guess what? The more of them I do, the more each finish becomes not good enough.

    My goal this coming year is to make it about the experience, not the time. Following your training cycle has helped me see that it’s ok to feel this way, because you can still be a real runner without being obsessed over the time on the clock.

    1. Thanks for following along, Janet! Sounds like you are heading in a good direction though. It does take time and even when your mindset changes or evolves, that doesn’t mean there will be days when you slip back into negative thinking. It just becomes more manageable as time goes on and self confidence is increased. Best of luck!

  2. I really enjoyed this post! Thank you! I used to think that the same thing in regards to racing times. I don’t anymore because after I ran my 20 miler this last sunday and came to the realization that I may not make my Marathon race time. My goal at this point is to run for as long as I can and then when I do have to stop to not stop completely, and just keep walking, to not to stop.

  3. Hmm, I’ll confess it, I’m with the old you in a lot of ways.

    I normally want to praise two different aspects of marathon training: commitment and initiative. Initiative comes from getting up the steam to get out and push yourself beyond what you believe you are capable or comfortable doing. Commitment is getting out there and pushing towards that goal every day. Hard.

    Those of us who just enjoy running marathons and run the same pace every time are not as impressive as the person who pushes through for their first marathon (barring extenuating circumstances). I also am not as impressed with a person doing the minimum to finish for the seventh time as I would with the person consistently dropping 80 mile weeks with speed work to push hard for a new goal.

    I’m impressed with your first 4 or 5 or 6 hour marathon, but after you’ve survived the first gauntlet, you’ve got to push to make it impressive again.

    1. Hi Kathy, thanks for the honest response. It’s tough when the running community is a numbers community. But I think that if we focus on what instrinsically motivates us versus just focusing on what extrinsically motivates us that over time, we may become faster, even without trying. It’s a fine balance between pushing oneself out of enjoyment and pushing oneself to try and be like someone else or to meet some kind of social validation. I often found myself in the later over the years but now see that I feel much more like a “runner” when I just listen to the pace my body wants to go.

  4. I am glad I wasn’t reading this site at the time. One of the things I enjoy about the running community is that *most* runners are very positive & encouraging. One thing I actually don’t like about this site is that none of the bloggers are even remotely slow – and let me tell you, I am not the only slow runner out there. Even on my slowest HM I have never been last.

    No, I have never run a marathon. Not because I’m afraid, but because it would take me 5+ hours & I simply don’t want to run that long.

    Anyone in my running group will tell you I show up & I do the work & I am trying. I really, really, REALLY wish I could run faster . . . in fact, I know I’ll never be fast; I simply aspire to be average, but even that seems to elude me!

    But I never give up. I keep trying, I keep training, I keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    And that’s no joke.

    1. Hi Judy. Thanks for the criticism. I really appreciate it. I want to tell you that I started this site to write about running for women who take their running seriously and want to improve. It’s a mentality, not a pace. So many women’s running sites/resources are geared to things like weight loss, running for fun, looking cute and the like, but we are here to help other women who are looking to run faster or just need to feel some camaraderie in their quest to get faster or to fit in their training in their busy lives. It’s not easy to be a competitive amateur female athlete fast or slow. We all need support and help! We have featured bloggers attempting to qualify for the Olympic Trials all the way to newbies who need to walk every 2:00 of their workouts. We’ve written about speedism and respecting our fellow runners and so many topics that fast or slow runners alike can relate to. We’ve never been a site solely for “fast” people!

      The other thing that is important to me about this site is that we’re honest. We’re not here selling stuff with fake product reviews. We’re not sugar-coating our opinions. We tell it like it is even if it’s embarrassing or a painful truth. By being honest about her feelings, Ginger started a conversation way back when that caused her to think and ultimately grow as a person. That could never happen if we weren’t honest here and not afraid to say something that might hurt someone else’s feelings (btw, if you disagree with something we say here, we WELCOME your dissent! We relish it, in fact! We love a good conversation/debate! And we respect those that have differing opinions!)

      Thanks again!

    2. Judy, I’m going to throw in my 2 cents because I just helped coach a group workout that has all abilities, goals, paces and accomplishments. One of the young women was struggling and was a good 1-2 minutes off the pack. I looked back and saw her grab her hip. I ran back to her to check on her. She’s been struggling with an injury and is just getting back. I ran the rest of the workout with her. She felt bad for being slower, and she was ready to quit. I told her that the people in front of us should be because their race was in 3 weeks–she was out here and that’s what mattered most. Next thing I knew–we finished the workout together.

      That’s what matters most–you and everyone is out there trying hard and reaching their own personal goals. That’s what we believe here.

  5. We are all on our own journey, fast or slow, tough or easy, is in the eye of the journeyer. (Is that a word). Focus on your journey. Great post.