Inside My Mind During a Long Run

Last week I discussed the “peak week” of my Paris Marathon training, in which I would be running over 52 miles. I survived my long run of 22 miles on Saturday. I’ve been training for over a hundred days and am rewarded knowing the next 2 weeks will be my taper.

Training is not all physical preparation. You may be familiar with the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule. My theory with running a marathon is that the physical aspect is 80% of the work but the ability to finish the physical task is 20% mental. I only use this cause and effect parameter because it is widely known, but in reality, it is more 60/40 to 50/50 or more inversely the further along you get in the marathon or especially around “the wall” – the point in the marathon, usually around mile 19-20, when a runner experiences a wave of fatigue from running out of carbohydrates and having to transition to burning fats to keep going.

So from a scientific standpoint, you will get tired, duh. Here is where the mental will power will be in overload. Do you ever wonder what makes a marathon runner keep going? There are so many reasons and each is so personal, it’s impossible to group us all together. Here’s a peek inside my brain the day of my long run:

Night before prepping 

  1. checking next days weather – I hope it’s 50 degrees and sunny or partly cloudy, if it rains will it be all day or just morning, will I have to run first thing in AM or more in the afternoon to work around bad weather?
  2. washing running clothes appropriate for predicted weather – crap I wore my favorite blue leggings on Monday, do they really smell? Do I HAVE to wash them?
  3. charge my Garmin watch – my best friend and worst enemy, let’s not get temperamental and say I’m out of memory storage at mile 17 okay?
  4. getting goos, chews or snacks prepped – ugh I ate all the sour apple last run, I guess lemon-lime will do, yuck. And the banana chews, I hope they don’t make me feel like I have to poop this time like last time…
  5. make sure there is plenty of anti-chafing gel – no, you can never have enough, god remember the shower after I had some chafing under my right armpit? I thought I was taking a shower made from fire, that was fun…
  6. limiting caffeine – I’m glad I don’t really like coffee or soda, but all of a sudden I’m craving a coffee and Coke, and not that diet bull shit
  7. hydrate – how many ozs of water am I supposed to have in a day? Is it 8 oz 8x per day or an ounce per pound? Am I sure I only had 16 oz total today? Crap, if I drink 4 bottles in the next hour will that cover it? I will probably have to get up to pee at night. I have to pee now. I don’t drink enough water. It’s so boring, I’m hungry.
  8. eating high carb, low sugar meals – Thanks to my weekly meal planner, this is actually a no brainer, except did I defrost the chicken?
  9. no alcohol – Ok maybe one or three beers, it’s Friday night
  10. hydrate – I forgot. Shit. This is hard. I’m thirsty, I want ice cream.
  11. set alarm – I’ll set it for 8am but know I probably will hit snooze until 9am. Maybe 10 is better? Those are two hours I could have been halfway over with my run. Those are two more hours of being so comfortable in my bed. Life is hard.
  12. go to bed before midnight – I’m 35. This is my life. EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s 8pm, I wish I was in bed now.

Day Of Run

  1. Hit snooze – Again, and again, and again. Ok, I’ll compromise, I’ll get up at 9 – 1-hour sleep 1-hour run done. Win-Win.
  2. Check the weather – If it’s good weather, perfect, let’s do this. If it’s bad weather, shit, oh well, let’s do this
  3. Brush teeth, wash face, minimal makeup – might take a selfie for Instagram
  4. Before getting dressed, lather up the sunblock (top of the head if you don’t wear hat, face, neck, ears, chest above sports bra, hands, calves – any exposed skin) – I hope this shit doesn’t sweat into my eyes. I wish there was a magic soap lather that showed if you miss a spot. I always miss a spot. I had a racerback tan line for 2 months following Boston 3 years ago…
  5. Before getting dress, lather up the anti-chaffing gel in weird places (armpits, top of the sports bra, under sports bra – I wish I didn’t have to wear a sports bra, top of pants elastic, between your butt cheeks, and the other place – you know and if you don’t guess, between upper thighs especially if they touch – no I’ll never have a thigh gap, all over your feet and between your toes) and no, it’s probably never too much.
  6. Get dressed – in clothes I’ve worn before and know will not cause chafing issues. Oh, man I have to really do this. Internal cry.
  7. Prep my water belt – money, just in case, god I hope I don’t need to take a taxi home, 2 10 oz bottles water, 2 10 oz bottles of sports drink or something with electrolytes, strategically place goos and chews in order of how I will use them – then start thinking about in the run when I will consume them (first goo at 8 or 13 miles depending on how I feel then determining when I will consume my water/drinks – maybe start 5 oz at 6 miles and 5 oz every 2 miles going forward – will I have enough to help chase my goos? yes I think, if not readjust plan to adapt…)
  8. Music list on point – I‘ll go to Airplane Mode, just in case to keep my battery life. I’ll probably check Facebook or Instagram at mile 10 or 20, just to give me something to do
  9. Mental Check – why am I doing this again? I have to run for the next 3 hours and 50 minutes, I hope I will finish in 3 hours and 50 minutes, maybe I’ll be faster, maybe I’ll be slower, I can walk if I have to, it’s ok. I’m not trying to win this thing. I can take a taxi home if I want to. I can do whatever I want. I want to finish in 3 hours and 50 minutes. I hope I finish in 3 hours and 50 minutes, what if I don’t? I will. THIS IS WHERE YOU REALIZE YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY INSANE.

The Run

  1. First 6 miles – Wow, I just finished 6 miles, like that. I’ll reward myself with 5 oz of water. 
  2. Mile 7 – Look at that swan, it’s pretty. Can they be vicious? I’ve never heard of an attacking swan. Black Swan the movie is pretty sick though. Imagine being a ballerina, their toes must hurt. Shit, my toe hurts.
  3. Mile 8 – Is the path going to be flooded today? Remember two weeks ago you had to find an alternative route because of flooding, it hasn’t rained in a week. That’s rare for here. It is gray all the time. How do people in northern Europe stand the weather? It’s depressing, not as cold as Boston though but still depressing. It’s sunny now though. I love the sun. Should I take Vitamin D supplements? I actually feel good, I’ll wait to take my goo.
  4. Mile 9-10 – Is that new construction? I don’t remember it being there last week. Is my left knee hurting, no, should I stretch? I have a good rhythm. Drink water. 
  5. Mile 10-13 – 30 minutes just went by, I’m more than halfway through. Awesome. Dammit, I’m only halfway through. I think I’ll have that goo now. Yup, the left knee is funky, like every 7th step. Right foot hurts more though. Not bad, just annoying. I like this song.
  6. Mile 13-15 – I hate this part of the run. I’m pretty awesome, not many people are running 15 miles right now. God this is hard. Why is my right foot acting up? Is it sneakers? Should I wear my old sneakers on marathon day? Oh man, my dad and sister are coming to France. How far is Champagne Region from Metz? That would be a fun day trip. I want Champagne. 
  7. Mile 15- 18 – I still have an hour left of running. I hate this. I don’t want to do this anymore. My chews are making me thirsty, I still have water left. Thank god. I want to stop. I am lucky to run. I hate running. I’m so happy about having moved and changing my job. I think I’m sick to my stomach because I’m not sure if I will make enough money. Happiness isn’t about money. But I like to travel, what are my travel plans coming up? Happy thoughts, I’m going to Switzerland to snowboard. Don’t get hurt before the marathon. What if the weather stinks? I’m also going to Amsterdam, Prague, Portugal. THIS STUPID RIGHT FOOT. Count the number of stoplights coming up. I hope they stay green. I think if I stop because of the red light, I will just give up. Oh thank god the first one is red, I appreciate the small break. I’m losing it. 
  9. Mile 20 – This is going pretty well
  10. Mile 21 – Only one more mile, I’ve got this.
  11. Mile 22 – HOW LONG IS THIS MILE GOING TO LAST? I still have to do 4 more miles for the marathon. I’m physically crying now. I did it. I did it. I never want to do this again. I’ve done 7 marathons, I’ve got this. THIS IS MY LAST MARATHON. Until the next one…

The struggle is real. You learn how absolutely, fucking, crazy you are. And you realize the beauty and struggle and wonderful and awful things that surround you. You are able to get deep, funny, emotional, and shake it all off and do it all over again. Running is therapy and if you think for a second that I’m crazy, I am going to 100% support you. I think it’s great I found a way to take in reality and escape from it all at the same time and grow mentally and physically from it. It’s probably why I say this will be my last marathon but it probably won’t be because I’m not done getting all the crazy out yet 🙂

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