Posted by: deerharas | April 13, 2008

Lessons Learned

The OKC Memorial Marathon is exactly two weeks away – time for another training update. The program I’m using lasts twenty weeks, so I’ve been in official training since December 10th. These past eighteen weeks I’ve learned quite a bit about running, my body, and myself. I figure a sharing of “lessons learned” will work quite well as an update.

Lesson One: Two are better than one.
When I initially considered running a marathon, I figured I would be doing so solo. Thankfully just before training began, my friend Jamie offered to train and run alongside me. Now that race day’s almost here, I know without a doubt that I could not have come this far alone. It’s as though God saw my desire, knew my insufficiency, and provided the means. Solomon knew what he was talking about.

Lesson Two: The next best thing to a partner is music.
As big of a music person as I am, when I’m running with someone, I prefer to do so sans iPod. However, put me on a treadmill or on a long run all alone, and tunes are a must. In last year’s half marathon, I began the journey with “Eye of the Tiger” and crossed the finish line to “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.” There’s just something about just the right song at just the right part of a run. A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran” got me over the hill of death (next lesson) yesterday, and Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” brought me home.

Lesson Three: Hills will kill you … and make you stronger.
Oh, Edmond. You really can’t go anywhere without encountering some shift in elevation. Scenic? Yes. Runner friendly? No. Well, I take that back. I may not like the hills, but I know they make me a better runner. A few weeks ago, I charted out an eight mile course whose last half mile included what has since become known as The Hill of Death. It starts at Bryant and Ayers with a slight, slow incline which lures you into a false sense of security. However, get past the nursing home and I honestly think the hill begins to laugh at you as it pummels you with it’s increasing steepness with no end in sight. You make it over the crest at Blackwelder thinking it’s all over, but oh no. One more up and over before you hit UCO and are finally done. Seriously, the hill is evil. The first time Jamie and I ran it, I couldn’t catch my breath. I am literally gasping for air almost in tears as we reach UCO, and in her fully functional and virtually unaffected voice, Jamie says, “That was hard. But so good for us.” That about sums it up.

Lesson Four: Drink lots of water … that’s not just propaganda, you know!
I have never been more conscious of my fluid intake than these past few months. The day before a long run is critical. It’s the difference between a lethargic tedium and an energetic joy. Oh, and carb loading, too. The rumors are true; what you eat the day before a run has a profound effect on your performance. Pasta is a must.

Lesson Five: Training for a marathon does not equal weight loss.
Now while not the motivation nor purpose behind my decision to run a marathon, the thought of losing a few pounds seemed like a nice little bonus. Not so much. It turns out that running miles and miles makes you more hungry. And there’s the mentality that I’ve fallen into: “Oh, I just ran 14 miles, I can eat whatever I want!” Well, yeah, but I can’t expect to lose weight that way. Granted, I’m sure that I’ve gained some muscle in my legs, but that’s not all that’s not all that’s made the scales creep up these past few months. It turns out that marathon training is actually not the best time to try and lose weight. From my training book, “Your body has been making the adjustments necessary to run a long-distance race, not to go to a 10-year high school reunion.”

Lesson Six: Kick up your heels.
There are several dangers out there for road runners, two of which I’ve encountered being dogs and cars. A few weeks ago, Jamie and I were finishing up a run in a her neighborhood when a medium sized black dog came running straight at us from about fifty yards away. It was barking and growling, so needless to say I was a bit terrified. We tried to ignore it, but the thing was literally at our heels (evidently that’s not just a saying). My response was to kick my heels up as high as I could while I kept running, thus hitting the dog in the face. Thankfully it worked, and it left us alone. Then yesterday, I was crossing an intersection, fully entitled with the walk signal signaling me to walk, when a car decided to race through what was no longer a yellow light. We’ll add these to my growing list of near death experiences.

Lesson Seven: It’s all in your head.
We’ve all heard it before. “It’s all mental.” Nothing could be more true of running. Sure, there’s the physical side … blisters, asthma, injuries, chafing. However, I’ve come to realize that the mental side is infinitely more difficult perhaps because it’s actually in my control. Last week was our twenty mile long run, the longest we’ll complete before the marathon. We went out of our way to make this run as pleasant as possible, marking off the most scenic and varied route. Now while I wouldn’t call the first seventeen miles entirely pleasant, they were actually at times enjoyable. However, the last three miles were killer. Everything in me wanted to stop. Every ten seconds or so I would internally debate whether or not to tell Jamie we needed to walk a block or two. It was all I could think about. My breathing was noticeably labored, but thankfully Jamie kept silent. If she had opened her mouth to ask me if I was okay, I know I would have caved and told her I needed to stop. We trudged along together in silence, finally turning our last corner and finishing our last city block. And we stopped. And I felt good. Not because I was done running, but because I didn’t stop any sooner. It’s a mental victory I’m counting on for miles 20 through 26.

Well, those are my “this side of the medal” lessons. I’m sure I’ll have a few more to share come April 28th.


  1. […] considered running a marathon, I figured I would be doing so solo. Thankfully just before train City Memorial Marathon – Race DetailsOklahoma City Memorial marathon Information by […]

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