This weekend, we in Massachusetts experienced a much-needed break from the intense heat. That little ten-degree difference made ALL the difference to me on my long run this weekend. Rather than feeling like I was going to die and everything was terrible, I actually felt like I was running again (and felt like I felt good about running again!). It made for a very happy runner and a very pleasant run. It also made recovery a lot more manageable (though that might have been a direct result of me getting the correct mid-run electrolyte balance for once).
A lot of times, people marvel at this whole marathon training thing. If you bring up in casual conversation that you spend the weekends running double-digit distances, you’re bound to get a few gasps of awe. In my experience, you also get a fair share of “oh, I could never do that!”
Let me be the first to tell you: WRONG. You are WRONG. You can absolutely do that.
People who run aren’t special or super human, they’ve just worked very hard for a very long time to get good at something. If you’re reading this, you know by now that I’m not a fast runner; I’m just a persistent runner. It took me ages to build up the strength and stamina necessary to run for any period of time. I am nothing if not determined; the fact that I was having trouble doing something (and that I was tempted to say that I “couldn’t” do it) just made me want to do it more. As a result, I run. A lot.
Becoming an endurance athlete is not about some natural-given ability, or really anything you might be born with. Becoming an elite endurance athlete might have something to do with genetics, but that’s a whole separate ballgame. You don’t have to be going to the Olympics to consider yourself a runner. Becoming an endurance athlete is about discipline, will, persistence, and grit.
I get asked pretty regularly how it is that I fit these long runs in to my busy schedule; especially when it’s so hot out. The answer? Get up before the sun, go run, don’t stop until you’re done. But this has direct effects on the rest of my life; to get up before the sun, I have to go to bed before most reasonable human beings. I run on Saturdays, so I sacrifice my Friday nights to this. I need at minimum eight hours of sleep to maintain my level of activity, and when I’m forcing an early night I need to pad out an extra hour to make sure I have ample time to “shut down” before I can sleep. This basically means that at 7 or 8 PM on Fridays, I’m in bed. But that’s the trade-off; if you want to get up earlier, you have to go to bed earlier. No magic can fix or change that. There is no miracle cure for needing to sleep eight hours; you just figure out how to make it happen.
If you expect to see change in yourself, you have to be willing to change. In terms of training, if you expect to get better, stronger, or faster you need to be willing to adjust your habits to make that possible.
The moral of this story is: before you say “I can’t,” think. Really think. Is it that you “can’t,” or that you “won’t?” And if it’s the second, why not? Isn’t taking on the challenge really what life’s about?