This weekend was great. Why, you ask? Because I had a chance I wasn’t expecting to run another marathon!
In Atlanta, the Publix marathon is well-known. It’s a great course that wraps around the entire city, giving you a tour of everything ATL has to offer – MLK’s childhood home, the church he preached at, a beautiful skyline, all of the major colleges (Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Emory, and Agnes Scott), Centennial Park, the various neighborhoods, and – it wouldn’t be ATL without them – hills.
Now, I’d heard about this course. I have friends who have run it and warned me against the hills. I’ve had running store employees preach about its beauty. I’ve oscillated about whether to do it – and figured that, knowing myself, I’d probably end up doing in in the next 10 years.
But this year? Yesterday? I wasn’t expecting it.
Fact is, I needed (and still need) some time off of training after my last marathon (Dallas, December 13, 2015). Not off of running, just off of training. I like a good challenge and I do miss the rigor of training, but I am finding other ways of challenging myself in my running. So, while I’ve been running, I haven’t been training for a marathon. As any experienced runner knows – those two things are very different. It’s one thing to run a couple miles a couple of days a week. It’s another to have regimented long runs, speed work, etc.
But then my friend called the day before the Publix marathon, asking me to run with her. Did I want to?
First thought: YES
Second thought: Oh my gosh why did I even have that thought
Third thought: Wait, I should think about this…
Fourth thought: Why am I thinking about this??
Fifth thought: YESSSSSSSSS
After doing the requisite Google search: “Can you run a marathon without training?” I took the plunge and told my friend I’d be there.
Turns out, that was the best decision I could have made. The race was absolutely fantastic, and I ran it without any sort of expectations. To be honest, it felt just like I was out for a daily run – I was running in my city, some of the course was part of one of my running routes, and I wasn’t pushing pace. I wasn’t running to perform; I was running to enjoy.
And thus the race was a great reminder to me. I run because I like it. I run because I think it’s fun. But sometimes I have the tendency to put all these sorts of expectations on myself. I catch myself thinking that just because I can run a certain pace, I should run that pace… all the time. That to do anything less is slacking somehow.
Which I realize is completely ridiculous. You’re supposed to have easy days, hard days, speed days, long days, rest days, etc. But sometimes I turn the very thing that’s supposed to be fun, supposed to be free, into a chore or a requirement or a measure of my worth. Which gets me back to the training break. I need some time to run 16/20/4/8/26.2/etc. miles because I feel like it, because the weather is great, because I’d like to see what I can do, because I want to discover a new part of the city, but NOT because I have to.
This race was a great reminder of being motivated not by fear, but by love. To explore, not expect.
And, as with most of running, it’s a good reminder to me for the rest of my life as well.
Would I recommend that someone else do the same? It depends.
If someone doesn’t run at all, I wouldn’t recommend that they do a marathon without training. You might cross the finish line, but the likelihood of injury and misery is high. All the wisdom of Google confirms this – it’s physically possible, but also physically miserable. Plus, training is fun. One of my many favorite parts of marathon running is the training. Also, running knowing all the hard work you put in amplifies the experience of the marathon. Why deprive yourself of that?
But if you run upwards of 35mpw (miles per week) regularly, a marathon will take less of a toll on your body. Or, rather, it will take a toll, but your body is used to that. If you run it for fun, it’s completely within your powerhouse. Ultimately though, it’s like a lot of running. You’ve got to listen to your body, which is unique.
So, what are you gonna do for fun?