Week #1 of training for the Columbus Marathon is complete.
Mileage count: 20. Six miles ran on Tuesday, nine on Thursday, five on Friday night.
After five years of running, I’ve definitely learned what works for me and what doesn’t. KT tape is a no-go, since it never sticks to my skin and instead of supporting the muscles, it just winds up flapping around in the wind, as though my knee or ankle has its own Jolly Roger. I don’t like to carry small snacks such as gummy bears or pretzels with me in case of my blood sugar dropping (running with any food in my stomach is nausea waiting to happen) and Gatorade is only for long runs or races in the heat of summer, since drinking back my calories and then some on a short run is counterproductive to weight maintenance.
Those are some examples of common running advice that may work great for anyone else, but for me has the opposite effect. On the flip side, I’ve found that the more water I chug before, during and after a run helps prevent headaches. Light yoga and daily foot massagers in my massager does wonders for reducing DOMS, and not overeating helps me feel better for my run days.
This training cycle is a little different for me, since it’s been over a year since I last had a true training cycle. Last year when all of the races I registered for went virtual or were cancelled, I spent a lot of time farting around. I didn’t feel the need to or really see the point in running a ton of miles or trying to increase my speed, since the only places I was running were bike paths in the suburbs around Columbus. I wasn’t even running downtown last year, which was a pretty drastic change from my regular running the year before. Frankly, if I wasn’t actually going to travel, run in-person and have that racing experience, there just wasn’t any point in going balls to the wall.
I started out this year with the same mentality, in addition to carrying the burden of unemployment and a mild depression. I ran but I didn’t really care about it, and eventually cross-training on the elliptical became the priority since cross-training typically isn’t as hard on the body and because I wanted to focus on burning calories instead.
A word from the formerly-not-so-wise: don’t eat your feelings. Turns out spending every day on an elliptical does squat if you’re only going home to eat your sadness in cookies with a side of macaroni and cheese.
But now I’m back in the saddle. In-person racing is back, and with the return of races means it’s time for one of my favorite autumn traditions: running the Columbus Marathon.
Last month I registered for the full marathon. This is my fifth time running Columbus and my ninth full overall. I’m excited and my emotions are already starting to get the better of me. In addition to being a great race with the support of an entire city behind me – it’s a close tie between Columbus and the Cleveland Marathon for who has the best spectators – the marathon is a huge fundraiser for Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The last four times I’ve ran it, I’ve always gotten emotional and cried. 24 of the miles have a Patient Champion representing them. Some of Patient Champions are quite young, as young as 2 or 3, and some of them are in their late teens or 21. The younger patients are there with their parents and families, who tend to do most of the cheering, while the older patients truly get into cheering and supporting the runners. Mile 10 is dedicated to the former Patient Champions who come back and support the runners.
Mile 11 is the emotional gut punch. This is the Angel Mile … which is exactly as it sounds. I have to make a conscious effort not to read any of the signs, and yet I always manage to read one as I’m running by and start crying. The Angel Mile is for the families who took their children to Nationwide Children’s Hospital who no longer have their kids with them. The first sign I read in 2017 was held by a family of a baby girl who had passed away the week before the race after succumbing to a birth defect at three months old.
Back in 2019, the last time I ran, I was crying and amazed by how many of the families would come out and cheer on strangers. You know they have a lifelong pain in their hearts from losing their children, and yet they choose to show up, honor their kid’s memory and support the rest of us while we run to support the hospital. The sign that killed me in 2019 read “(Our daughter) couldn’t finish her race, so you finish your race for her.”
I started sobbing as I was running, and was sobbing so hard that I lost my voice for the rest of the race.
Actually, now that I’m writing this and thinking about it, I’m starting to tear up again.
Okay, time to pull myself together and get on with the recap.
The actual recap:
This week was my first week, and I had the mental/emotional desire to go whole hog. However, this isn’t Allison’s first rodeo and I know that going whole hog and running all the miles at the beginning is how you get hurt and sideline yourself, which is painful and counterproductive.
So I made myself cap my mileage at 20 for the first week. Originally I thought my breakdown would look like 5-5-10. However, I’m practicing the art of being disciplined but flexible and really listening to my body. In the past I used to get up and run bright and early in the morning, since I’m naturally an early riser. While I’m still able to rise early in the morning, physically I did not have the ability to get up, get out of the house and run. I woke up dehydrated and needing water, and it would take several cups for the headache and dizziness to go away.
Since I couldn’t chug between eight to 10 cups of water first thing in the morning, I decided to move my running to the evenings, so I could have a full day of water in my system. This worked out far better than I could have expected. On Tuesday and Thursday I drove up to Dublin and ran six and nine miles respectively, and felt great the entire time. I felt energetic and ten years younger.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday were resistance training days. Lifting is my first love and is something I’ve always done, but with marathon training, it becomes so much more important to run strong. Lifting keeps the bones and joints strong, which helps prevent injuries from running long distances and putting stress on the body. It’s also a great way to keep the heart healthy and at lower risk of developing heart disease.
And if I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: women who don’t lift and especially work the upper body are doing themselves such a disservice. There is nothing sexier or more feminine looking than a muscular back, shoulders and arms. Anyone who tries to discourage a woman from lifting because “you’ll look like a man” is not only an idiot with no idea how differing levels of testosterone work, but have no idea how great a woman looks and feels when she has a strong upper body.
I bought a Men’s Health a few months ago and created my own upper body workout plan based on the workouts in the magazine, and after two weeks of Monday-Wednesday-Friday, I can already feel the difference in my body when I run and in how much stress I can handle.
I even ran five miles on Friday evening after lifting. I knew I wouldn’t have time for a run on Saturday or Sunday, since I had to housesit for my folks, so I decided to get my five miles in that night, cap it at 20 and call it a good first week.
So to sum it up: 20 miles and three lifting sessions are done. I’m enjoying two rest days before next Monday rolls around, and I’m looking forward to gradually increasing my mileage. I want to get myself back to running 40 mile weeks like I did in 2019, and I think I’ll be there sooner than I realize.
So far all of you who have stayed with me, I so appreciate you. Running is fun and writing is more fun, and having folks to share it with just adds to the love of it all.
Yours in writing and running,