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Thoughts on Training for Your First Marathon Alone

November 5, 2013

When I first started to toy with the idea of training for the Rocket City Marathon, I did what any tech-savvy young(ish? I’m young-ish, right? Guys?) runner would do: I googled that shit.

I read so many “How to run a marathon” pieces of writing, my brain began to hurt.  And, what I found was that most of the articles (blog posts, pinterest pins, vlogs, tweets, memes, etc.) recycled the same 10 tips or so over and over again.  Give yourself enough time to train.  Learn how to fuel properly.  Build up to your long runs slowly. 

Find a running partner.

That one came up again and again.  I understand that there are many, MANY benefits to having a partner (or group) to train with, especially for a long, taxing event like the marathon.  Running with a partner means that someone else is out there waiting for you for those 6am runs, and if you don’t show up, that makes you a pretty big asshole.  It’s also a source of entertainment—I imagine the miles often must fly by when you have someone to talk with, laugh with, groan with, and cry with when the miles get really tough.  Having someone to train with can help you to push yourself further and faster, and can serve as ample distraction when you’re on mile 18 of a 20 mile run and wondering why the ef you ever thought it was a good idea to train for a marathon in the first place.

But.

I’m not training with anyone.  I’m training with, to quote my good friend Beyonce, “Me, myself and I.”  So I thought I’d write a little bit about what it’s  been like to train for my first marathon solo. 

Training for the marathon all on my own wasn’t really a purposeful, conscious decision—I just don’t have a running partner.  Never have.  When I go home, I’ll run or walk with my mom or sister.  And my sister and I ran a half marathon together a few years ago. But, for the most part, I run solo and always have.  And in many ways, despite knowing all of the advantages of running with other people…I like running alone.

I’m sure I could find a running partner if I really tried.  And Huntsville has a really active running community, so if I were looking for a group to train with, again—I could find one. 

But running has always been a form of “me” time—which feels all the more precious now that Lila is here.  God love her, but this little girl:

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…is quite the handful.  Especially now that we’re in full-fledged toddler mode, it feels like every minute of every hour of every day is filled with…well, noise.  Screaming.  Crying. Laughing.  New words.  Toys that talk.  Songs about listening to your body when it’s time to use the potty.

The list goes on and on.

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And so, what I’ve found more than anything is that training alone has allowed me to carve out designated hours, three or four times a week, of blessed, blessed silence.

For the most part, since the marathon itself won’t allow headphones, I’ve been trying to do my training without music or podcasts.  Which means that I’m running for upwards of three and a half hours:

Photo: Finally hit twenty. Feels like a training #milestone.

…with nothing but my own thoughts. 

So you might be wondering…what do I think about on those long runs?

And the answer is—to some extent, I couldn’t really tell you.  I’ve always been good at letting my mind wander and floating off into daydreams, and I feel like that’s come in handy during these training runs.  Really, I just let my mind…go.  I think about Lila. I think about possible assignments and paper topics for my classes.  I think about blog posts I want to write (like this one!), and recipes I want to try. I think about vacations I’d like to take, places I’d like to travel.  I think about names I might like for our (non-existent) second child.  I think about celebrities—Chloe, why’d you take him back, girl?!?  I think a lot about whether we’ll ever *really* know what went down between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

No, right? I mean, clearly, the answer is no. 

So in other words—I think about a whole lotta nothing. 

But you know what?  I find it incredibly…well, relaxing. I don’t get a lot of time to spend simply thinking to myself these days, so to have hours of that on a run feels like a luxury. 

I also think about running.  I watch my pace.  I imagine myself on race day—crossing the finish line and finishing strong.  Oftentimes I’ll break my long runs into mental segments—it sounds a lot less daunting to think of twenty miles not just as TWENTY MILES, but rather as a half marathon, plus a 10k and a mile.  See?  Easy?

Running all those miles by yourself isn’t easy—but then, should it be?   On my long run on Sunday, around mile 17, I found myself thinking, “DAMN IT, this is hard!!!”  And then I thought…well, duh.  You’ve just run 17 miles. Of course it’s hard.  Time for some words of wisdom from the great Jimmy Dugan:

It’s cheesy.  But it’s also true.

Training for this marathon has been one of the most difficult, but rewarding things I’ve ever done.  And I still have a month left, haha.   Occasionally, I wish I had someone to commiserate with, someone to bitch to when the miles get really tough—because they do.

But for the most part, I’ve liked training for it alone.  It’s made it not just a physical challenge, but a huge mental one as well.  When I cross that finish line, it’s just going to be me.  And there’s something great about knowing that I got there totally on my own—alone.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2013 9:29 pm

    I trained for the one marathon that I did alone. I kind of like running alone and just being with my thoughts (and music though- I would totally bring headphones anyway. I know you’re not supposed to, but many races look the other way and 26.2 miles in silence is a lot!)

  2. itzyskitchen permalink
    November 5, 2013 9:48 pm

    I don’t run with music (most of the time) either. I’ve trained for all of my halfs with Kay. I am contemplating a full….

  3. November 5, 2013 11:58 pm

    I love this Anna! I started running alone too. I went out on my own and I loved it. Then Tony started wanting to run. We run at the same time, but not together. He’s way faster than me. I’m good with that. I won’t lie, I like that we set out at the same time and just meet up in the end. We talk about the run afterwards, so it’s like chatting it up with a girlfriend. We are always around each other, so actually not running side by side for every step is a good thing for us, but also I think good for us that we can talk about running together. I go into my own world when I run. I have been listening to music when I run up to this point. My half allows it though, so I’m not ready to completely give it up…yet. Though I do love completely clearing my head and just zoning out when I run. There is no better feeling! I’m so happy for you Anna. You’re doing such a great job! Oh, did I mention Tony roped me into running a full with him. Yeah, I think he’s of the mentality that misery loves company…

  4. Emo permalink
    November 6, 2013 4:28 pm

    I’m so proud of you! I bet you’re enjoying that me time. 🙂 I also let my thoughts wander when I run. Jon thinks deep, deep thoughts and a co-worker I know thinks about his cases. Bleck. I’d much rather think about whatever happens to float through my mind (and often, that’s pure fluff).

    • November 6, 2013 5:17 pm

      Haha…I want to know what these “deep, deep thoughts” are that Jon thinks. 😉

  5. November 7, 2013 4:13 am

    Hi Anna! I’m not sure if you got my last comment! I think there was an error. Anyway, I just wanted to say that i can so relate to needing time for self. After having Lucy, i realize how important it is to tend to body, mind, and soul! Thank you for doing what you do. I so admire you!

  6. tay permalink
    May 19, 2014 11:36 am

    I always thought I was one of the few runners that liked alone time. I also thought “darn , I’ve managed many half marathons alone but can I do a full”? Your blog just answered my question 🙂

    • May 19, 2014 12:36 pm

      I love running alone! And yes, you can do it!! 🙂

  7. Roxanne ritualo permalink
    December 23, 2015 12:15 am

    I love this! I love running alone and training on my own.

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