It has been quite a year for me.
Last November, I ran my first marathon. I loved the experience and the process of preparing for my marathon debut. But after struggling with an injury through the winter and early spring, my focus has been on other running pursuits. Marathons may be in my future, but not this fall. And here are a few reasons why I am perfectly okay with that:
1. I am in complete control of my life.
This is a somewhat farcical statement, but what I really mean is that I am not subject to the world dominating dictator that is the marathon training plan.
This time last year, my universe was ruled by a rigid training schedule that effectively delineated so much more than merely when and how to run. My sleeping patterns, eating patterns and social calendar were structured entirely to suit my training. Even my non-running fitness pursuits needed to be worked in around the prescribed repertoire of said training plan.
I have to say: I love not being a slave to a spreadsheet.
2. I can eat what I want.
Again, this may sound funny, because one of the things that people are so excited about when they are training for a marathon is their purported carte blanche to eat whatever the hell they want.
Well, that isn’t really how it works. You see, it is pretty easy to pack on a few pounds during marathon training in the name of “carbo-loading” and “re-fueling.”
But, at least for me, it seems that running shorter doesn’t rev up my appetite in the same way. I always make sure to do hard workouts before breakfast or dinner, this way I can go right in to a meal after I stretch and shower.
I don’t have to have something quick to “re-fuel” and then still consume a full meal a short while later.
And I can eat things like fresh fruits and veggies, instead of feeling that I need to fill up on dense foods such as chia muffins and nut butters.
I am also taking in less gels and gus and bars and chews, because — who needs them when you’re running for an hour or less? I can stockpile those calories and use them on real food after my run.
3. I have less baggage.
Ooh! Running out the door with almost no crap is unbelievably liberating!
No SPI-belt, or hydration pack or gel-filled pockets to weigh me down? Sign me up!
I am out the door so much faster than I was when I was training for a marathon. I just lace up, grab my keys and go.
4. I never intended to become a “serial marathoner”.
I know there are people who run twenty or more marathons in their lives. I cannot deny that I am impressed by that.
But it simply was never my goal to become someone who runs marathon upon marathon. I don’t feel that I need to run a certain number of them in my lifetime, or even once per year.
When I first began thinking about running marathons, I could think of five that I really wanted to run: New York, Boston, Big Sur, Marine Corps and Wineglass.
That list hasn’t changed very much. And I have already run New York.
Sure, I could be persuaded to run London, Paris and Rome, as well. But truthfully, I could be persuaded to do pretty much anything in any of those magnificent places.
I hope that I will be lucky in my life to be able to run all five on my original list — happily, speedily and injury-free — maybe some more than once, and maybe a few more that aren’t on my list.
But I don’t feel committed in any way to running another just yet.
5. I can focus on speed.
As I found myself last fall in the truly self-reflective period that is marathon taper, I began to think about how I wished I had spent more time and focus on becoming a faster runner before tackling the marathon distance.
Coming back from injury, and being told to avoid running slowly was a big catalyst toward me actually shifting my focus away from distance and toward speed this year. But there’s more. I have learned how to become faster. I never thought of myself as someone who could be a “fast” runner, but I am running paces now that defy any expectations that I ever had of myself as an athlete. I am blown away and I know that I can do more. I am running shorter, but more frequently and my training is more targeted at hitting certain paces. I do strength and explosive exercises that I never thought of doing before. I have even added swimming as my cross training. It has changed everything for me.
When I run my next marathon, I want to really see what I can do.