Confession: I have a love/hate relationship with marathon training.
I always say that my favorite part of the marathon is the journey leading up to the race. The actual marathon is just a bonus.
There’s something about the gradual progression from weak legs at 10k to feeling stronger at 32k weeks before the race. I especially like how you train your own mind: one begins feeling like 10k is forever and, in a few months, the same distance is just a warm up for an easy 25k. If you train with friends, then the experience is even more enjoyable as you embark on this crazy new adventure together, suffering and laughing along the way.
Having said that, with every marathon training period, I can’t escape the dread of running that longest run, the 32k 3 weeks before the race. Even in the early weeks of training, it looms over you like a rain cloud; you know it’s coming and you do your darndest best to prepare, but one can never be fully ready for such torment.
Last Sunday, I ran my 32k. And, for the first time ever, I had to run it alone. I had never realized, until the night before the run, that in all the years of running and after 13 marathons, I had never really gone on this road alone. I always ran the 32k with friends to make the long hours—and the sore feet—more bearable. As I packed my gym bag and prepared my gels for the run, I was filled with anxiety. Would I have the discipline to finish 32k without quitting when it got hot, exhausting, or just plain boring?
That morning, as I was about to start, I bumped into friends who coincidentally were training for Osaka Marathon too. I ran the first hour with them. (Thanks Michelle, Bambi, Hannah and Pat!) Then, I headed to Filinvest City where I met Jay and later on, Ardie, who were both also training for Osaka. Time flew by so fast in that first 23k. For the last 9k, I was all by my lonesome.
I won’t lie. It was tough. All the mircropore tape I had put on my toes to prevent blisters had slipped out and rested comfortably between the tips of my toes and my socks. It was like running with pebbles in your shoes. My socks and insoles were soaked with sweat. I wanted to change my top but didn’t want to stop and sit in the car for fear of cramps. Worst of all, I was hungry! All these little nuances started tapping at my shoulder the way little kids make you kulit when they desperately want your attention.
People may tell you that they listen to the birds chirping, smell the fresh air around them, and think happy thoughts when they’re out on these long runs. Sure, sometimes, you feel complete bliss when you’re out there on the road. But, when you’re down to the last few kilometres of a 30k plus run, all you hear is that voice in your head saying: What if I quit now? No one will ever know.
I did my best to silence all those nasty thoughts in my head. I stopped allowing minor things to bother me and looked at the bigger picture: I was so close to reaching the end of my goal! I calmed my mind and focused on putting one foot in front of the other. 30… 30.5… 31… then I did it. I finished my 32k and boy was I proud of myself!
What did I learn in that long 32k run and those solo last few kilometres until the end? Just three important life lessons really: 1) Things aren’t always as bad as they seem, 2) Quitting, even when no one else is looking, is just another way of selling yourself short, and 3) You have to enjoy being with the person you’re with the most, yourself.