Way back in January when I first started training for Mt. Rainier, I went onto the International Mountain Guide’s website. I was curious if they had any advice or training plan for prospective climbers. I was met with general statements such as:
“We recommend starting a training plan at least several months before your departure date.” (Obviously)
“If you outline your specific goals in advance you are much more likely to stick to them. “ (Debatable)
“As always, consult with your family physician before starting any new training program.” (Does anyone actually ever do this?)
“To create a training plan simply write down what you propose to do each day on a calendar for the months leading up to your Rainier climb.” (Really? That’s all it takes? I just write down what I want to do each day, do it, and then I’ll be ready?)
K-NOLS’ GET READY FOR RAINIER EXERCISE PLAN:
Day 1: Walk to the grocery story – I need milk.
Day 2: Run to the gym, but don’t go inside because I will be too tired to run back if I spend an additional 30 minutes weight lifting.
Day 3: Clearly I need to rest after 2 days of intense exercise.
Rinse and Repeat.
Clearly this wasn’t going to work. Now I’ll admit that there were a few more things on the website like – you should do mostly cardiovascular work, but some weightlifting as well. And that hiking other smaller summits was a good way to prep. This wasn’t enough for me though. I wanted a concrete plan that I could put on my calendar – exactly how much, how often. Something that I could look at each day and dread. The only thing close that I could think of was the training schedule I used for my marathon last year: http://www.halhigdon.com/marathon/MaraNovice1.html
Now I’m not really sure why, but for some reason I thought that if I did a marathon-training schedule, I HAD to run a marathon at the end of it. Like climbing Rainier wasn’t enough – oh no, I must also do the Seattle Rock n’ Roll marathon 3 weeks after. SUPERB IDEA.
So there I was, three weeks after Rainier, lying in my bed the night before the marathon, throwing a little internal fit. I don’t care what anybody tells you. No matter how old you get, you never get to old to throw a temper tantrum – it’s just that as we age we learn to internalize them. That night my internal tantrum rivaled any terrible two’s tantrum you’ve ever seen.
As I lay in bed with clenched fists I just prayed that the next morning at the start line I’d get a rush of excitement while being surrounded by 26,000 other runners.
False. Didn’t happen. Every inch of that 26.2 was a struggle. Every second was a mental battle of wills between me and the mile markers.
I am not a fast runner. I am a plodder. I will probably not ever finish a marathon in under 4 hours (my mom says never say never so I won’t….but you know what I’m thinking). I don’t really care what my finishing time is. When people ask me – I say, “I finished fast enough to finish” because that’s all I really care about.
There is something special, though about being a slow runner in a marathon. For about the last 6 miles of the race, you are surrounded by people like you. All the people who ran cross-country since elementary school or who are those rare breed that “love running” have long since finished.
No, now you are surrounded by the people who hate running, but make themselves. That dread every day of training – but do it anyways, because they are driven by the insatiable question – can I do it? You look around at people limping, literally groaning out loud, walking 10 steps, then running 5, doing anything they can to get to the end.
You see people helping other people – people they don’t even know. Words of encouragement coming from strangers because they know how you feel – they know exactly what you need to hear at that moment because it’s what they need to hear to keep going also. There’s a silent bond; an understanding that this sucks, but we’re doing it, no matter what.
During training for both my marathons I had a rule that I had to finish running. It didn’t matter how much pain I was in or how tired I was, I had to “run it in.” For both races I carried my cell phone so I could let my mom know where I was on the course. At 25 miles, I text her: See you in 15. Running it in.
There is nothing quite like that moment you round the corner to see the finish line. I frantically looked around to find my mom and brother on the sidelines. Luckily for me, my mom is one of the loudest people I know and I could hear her before I saw her. She was waving this sign that said “MOM” and then she’d turn it 180 degrees so it said “WOW.” I crossed the line laughing while she ran next to me on the sidelines screaming atta girls.
I grabbed my metal and every food sample I could get my hands on and limped to meet my mom and brother. Patrick excitedly exclaimed “we get a free beer!” Awesome I thought – something to numb the pain. It was an MGD 64. Are you kidding me?! I just ran a marathon! I don’t need to be skimping on calories right now.
After I found my way to a full calorie beverage, I reflected. The month of June had been a pretty intense month for me. I was definitely proud of myself, but more so I was proud of the journey I’d been on. I’m going to give away a little secret – without any training, you could probably get yourself through a marathon.
For me, the actual day of the race is only a portion of the battle. It’s the icing on the cake. The real blood and sweat come during the months before. I’ve heard people say, “oh yeah, I just did a marathon and I didn’t train for it at all.” I secretly want to tell them they didn’t really do a marathon, because it’s not just about 26.2 miles. It’s about all the miles, the time, and the internal temper tantrums you overcame to get there.