A few weeks ago, I did this:
I registered for the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. And by doing so it meant that I had committed, or at least paid to, run 26.2 miles through my home city. Crap. Crappity crap crap.
And so I find myself training for a marathon.
Training for a marathon. Those four words are no joke. Marathon training is no joke and I'm only a few weeks into it. While I've trained for and run nine half marathons in the past two years, I find myself at a loss and just as overwhelmed as I did when I first started running three years ago. My painful and slow 14 mile run felt just as challenging and rewarding as the first seven mile run I had ever done. I'm gearing up mentally for a sure-to-be-interesting 15 mile run this weekend and reveling in the completion of my 15 page thesis paper and thus the official end to my graduate school career. These two events (15 mile training run and 15 page paper) seem to have nothing in common except for the number 15 but they are very similar. When you decide to go to school part time while working full time, you have to be committed. And when you decide to train for a marathon, you have to be committed. And you can't go to graduate school unless you went to undergraduate school and you can't do that unless you went to high school school and you can't do that unless you went to grammar school. Both are the accumulations of many goals that are depended on skills and lessons learned on each level.
Marathon training takes everything to a new level. There is a reason that few people go from a C25K program directly to a marathon. It would be like going from kindergarten to college. There are things you have to learn along the way in order to succeed.
5Ks, 10Ks, and halves give runners the lessons and tools they need to smartly train for a marathon.
5ks teach us that running is fun and rewarding. Reading is fun and rewarding. 5ks are the elementary school in the School of Running. You learn the basics like the joy of comfortable shoes, eating better, pushing yourself, the importance of stretching, sweat is good, pacing, etc. It's multiplication tables, vocab, spelling tests and writing.
10ks teach us that running is fun, rewarding and we can do twice as much as we thought. We learn about nutrition, fuel, wick-away gear, injuries,dehydration, goal times, hills, PRs. It's about expanding on the skills you've already learned and building them into traits. This is where some student's talents or strengths are discovered. Here I learned I that I'm not a fast runner, but I'm good at endurance. Some may discover the 5 and 10K are great for running really fast for a while but can't hold it for too long.10ks are the middle school of School of Running.
Half marathons are high school. You're confident in your skills and have a genuine interest in running. The finish line at the end of 13.1 miles is like the diploma. Training is more intense, results matter more, but there is still room for play and growth. It's an achievement and sometimes you move on to bigger and better things.
Enter the Marathon. Marathon = college. It's intense. You're gone for long periods of time. If you don't understand how to stay hydrated on a long run, you will struggle; just like you'll struggle if you never learned how to draft a thesis essay in high school and have a research writing class in college. There are skills and lessons that are expected to have been acquired at this point. You should know to stretch thoroughly and how to use a foam roller at this point. The training plan is like your syllabus. Half marathon training should have taught you what you, as a runner, need to do to have a good or bad run. High school should have taught students how to study, organize and thrive in college. There is still room for play but you have to work harder to get it.
Good news is that it doesn't have to take 13 years to go from kindergarten to Marathon University in the School of Running. It just takes time, growth, patience, determination and drive. I'm thinking there are a lot more parallels between school and running. X-crossing is like homework; bibs are like final exams, medals could be the honor roll...I could keep going.
How about you? Are you a beginning student in the school of running or have you earned your Master's in marathoning? How do the principles of education come into your running world?