Three years ago today, I ran my first marathon - Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, VA. (Yes, I know I look strong. Trust me. It's an illusion.)
I was completely unprepared. I had only been running for seven months. I had never raced a half marathon. I knew nothing about nutrition. I didn't respect the distance. I was injured. It may have been the stupidest thing I have ever done as a runner.
Looking back on my training and comparing it to my current marathon cycle, all I can do is laugh. I can't believe I made it across that finish line. But, I did - in 5:06:36. And despite how horrific the experience was, I decided to try it again. And again. And again.
In 10 days, I will run National Marathon. Marathon number four for me. And honestly, the first one I feel truly prepared for. I am 100% relaxed. I feel confident that I can shave 30+ minutes off my current PR. And I know (not think) that my ultimate goal is completely attainable. I am excited and "taper madness" is nowhere in sight.
So, how did I get here? What was so different between that first training cycle and this one? Well, let's see.
For marathon #1, I ran four days a week and peaked at 36 miles.
For marathon #4, I ran five days a week and peaked at 60 miles.
For marathon #1, my long run peaked at 18 miles. And I ran that once.
For marathon #4, my long run peaked at 22 miles. And I ran 20 or more, three times.
For marathon # 1, my average training pace was 10:35.
For marathon # 4, my average training pace was 9:14.
For marathon # 1, I had seven months of running under my belt.
For marathon # 4, I have three years and eight months of running under my belt.
For marathon #1, I had no race experience. I had previously raced two 5Ks, one 8K and one 10K.
For marathon # 4, I have a lot of race experience. I have raced one three miler, seven 5Ks, one 4 miler, four 8Ks, seven 10Ks, one 15K, one 10 miler, one 17.75K, nine half marathons, three marathons and three sprint triathlons.
For marathon #1, I thought that 26.2 miles was ONLY 26.2 miles.
For marathon #4, I know that 26.2 miles can fly by or feel like an eternity. I know that A LOT can go wrong over that distance. Or everything can be perfect. I know that preparation is key, but sometimes, luck makes all the difference.
For marathon #1, I underestimated the mental strength and determination it takes to you run your best race.
For marathon #4, I know that my mental strength will be tested. I am ready for that test. And 10 days from now, I will prove it.