Yes, there is a difference. I have been a runner most of my adult life. I have been an endurance runner for about eighteen years. I have run in thirty-eight marathons, and I have intentionally trained for about a third of them.
Running…oh the joy of running. I have built relationships, have explored new areas, have gotten lost, have found myself, and have worked through personal mental health challenges through running. It is such a simple sport. It does not require gear. It can be done anywhere. It is just one foot in front of the other. There is nothing fancy or glamorous about it, which is why I think I enjoy it so much.
Traning…well that is a whole different animal. When you train, you are intentional. You shift the simplicity of the sport. The way you view running adjusts. The leisurely routes become planned. You start to consider gear. You start to plan, and if you get serious, you start to rearrange other aspects of your life to accommodate the training. When you become an endurance runner, your mindset has to adjust. You should be spending more time on your mindset than you are on the actual running. The running is still simple. It is one foot in front of the other, but if you don’t spend some time on the mindset, you will stop mid-stride and think that you cannot go another step.
This week I made the shift from running to training. I signed up for an earlier fall race, which means I needed to start training three weeks ago. The good news is: I have actually been consistently running for a few months (thanks Covid), so I could pick up the training at week three of sixteen instead of one of sixteen which means that I am not too far behind on the training schedule. The Air Force Marathon cancelled their race in Ohio, and they opened it up to all runners because it is going to be a virtual run now (thank you Covid). The expectation is that it must be completed in the month of September, so a few runners on Okinawa signed up for it, and we are running it September 14th. I love the idea of being on a plan, of being intentional about my running, and I love the idea that running the Air Force Marathon will be my thirty-ninth marathon, so Marine Corps Marathon can be my fortieth marathon.
I have lived on Okinawa for almost two years now, but I haven’t gone through a summer here. I moved here August 31, 2018, and last year (summer 2019), I went home to work from Memorial Day until Labor Day. That being stated, I have been on island long enough to know that heat, humidity, and hills are a real thing. As I looked back at old training plans, I decided to go back to the basics. It is the first plan I ever used, and it got me through several marathons. There are no hill-repeats; I get enough of those just by the nature of the geography on island. There are no sprints; who needs sprints when you have hills? I always say, “hill-work is speed work.” There are no intervals; those come naturally with the hills too. There are no time goals; when you have extreme heat and humidity, your body will naturally just run slower – a lot slower. This means that the goal is simple – get to the marathon/finish the marathon. In this case, the clock and times are not my friends. They will just be more discouraging, and with all that is going on in the world, THIS needs to be a positive experience.
Week one, run one. It is only three miles. Why was I nervous? I think the nerves came from knowing that I am about to do something challenging. This would be run one of fifty-two runs that will make up this training cycle. I think that I was also nervous because I knew that I was changing my running to be more intentional. Instead of waking up and doing a check on how I felt, I knew I was waking up, not hitting snooze, and taking this seriously. I was nervous because I announced on Facebook that I was doing this, and I know that people are watching. (I did that on purpose; it is part of my personal accountability. I need to be held accountable.) The run itself would be easy enough. I have run this little route enough times to know that I like it. Success!
Week one, run two. Welp. We have officially hit Okinawa summer. As good as the run was from a mental strength perspective, it was very challenging from a runner’s perspective. No more walking up hills because they are hard. Push up the hills because that is part of the mindset training. It was five miles with no breeze, ran out of water before I hit mile three, and the sun came out from behind the clouds. Thoughts started coming into my head like, “what have I committed to? How can I do TWENTY-SIX if I am struggling with five?” Then, the reminder was: don’t worry about twenty-six. Don’t even worry about five. Just get through this mile. I never walked. I had a successful, albeit challenging run. Two more runs for the week!
Week one, run three. Another short one! Thank you. Short, sweet. I got this.
Week one, run four. This would be the longest I have run since last fall. Eight Miles. To an endurance runner, eight miles is not a lot, but as you work on building, or in my case, re-building, anytime you are running “the longest you have run in almost nine months,” it feels intimidating. It also gives you the opportunity to feel accomplished when you complete it. I took the prep to this run seriously. Even though it was only eight miles, the prep work is part of the training. Electronic devices off by 8pm. In bed by 8:30. Alarm set for 4:30am. 120 ounces of water the day before. Body Glide out so that I don’t forget it. Hydration device accessible. After I ran out of water on my hand-held by three miles, it can’t be used for the longer runs. Preparation is now a thing, and I took it seriously. By doing it now, I will be good at it by the time the runs get really long and really hard.
Someday, I will share my first marathon training experience, but for now, I am going to feel really good about intentional training, and I am going to feel really good about finishing week one.