Since the Chicago Marathon is inching closer and closer, I find myself reflecting more on my training these days… and comparing it to that of last summer. Some things I’ve noticed:
- Quality. This summer’s quality has been much better simply because I’ve been more diligent about mixing it up – going long on the weekends, doing some sort of speed each week (hills, tempos, or 800s), and doing the standard “run how you feel” jaunts.
- Quantity. Thanks to a much more forgiving summer schedule this time around, I’ve had way more time to devote to running. Last summer, I was in the throes of grad school and consequently juggling FT school, an unpaid, PT internship, and FT employment, so my days were quite long, and only sometimes included running. I haven’t checked last year’s log to officially know, but anecdotally, I think I’m least a hundred or so miles ahead of where I was last time around.
- The enjoyment factor. Closely related to #1 and 2, I enjoy running when I do it often, in no small part because it is not obnoxiously taxing. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good challenge, but it’s nice when “easy” runs are actually “easy” and not “death-defying.”
- Mixing-up the race calendar. Like many, I tend to be a creature of habit, and in the running side of my life, this often means doing the same races year in and year out, just for the hell of it. Since winning the Chicago Athlete contest earlier this year, I’ve been fortunate to not have to pay for many race entries (since I’m mostly only running what they’ve paid for me to run!), and I’ve also ventured out and have tried some new ones like the Sunburst Marathon or the San Francisco Marathon. I’m still eyeing some other races later this summer and into the early fall, but suffice it to say that variety is the spice of life.
- Additional camaraderie. Last summer, typically Jack and I were chugging out the miles together most Saturdays. This summer, we’ve added my Boston Bound buddies to the group, and this additional camaraderie has been great. Now I have a whole group of people to keep me accountable and on my toes (especially during speedwork!). Running with a core group of buddies has also been fabulous during the summer because even though there will almost always be someone unavailable to run (due to vacation, work, whatever), chances are, there will almost always be at least someone ELSE who’s willing to run at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday to beat the Chicago humidity 🙂 Kristin Armstrong, over at Runner’s World, recently articulated these very same sentiments as she wrote about how humbling it is to train—hard—alongside running friends. I encourage you to check it out here.
It’s a bit exciting, and also slightly terrifying, to think that we’re <50 days to the Chicago race. I say “exciting” simply because that’s what I think races are—usually, tons of fun, and a great way to explore a city (be it your hometown or just somewhere you’re visiting for the week)—but also “slightly terrifying” in that, at this point, I’m about 90% certain I want to go for it and hit 3:35 this time around. 3:35 seems doable, given my training this summer, but is still a good 2 minutes faster than my marathon PR… which is enough to make me second-guess this… but if we don’t push ourselves outside our comfort zones, we don’t know what we can accomplish, right?
On that note, I’ll leave you with a few bits of sage wisdom that I’ve read lately that resonate with this “hunkering down” portion of my fall training schedule:
“You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.”
“A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they’re capable of understanding.”
“You only ever grow as a human being if you’re outside your comfort zone.”
–Percy Cerutty, running coach (courtesy of RW’s “Daily Kick in the Butt” email from 8/24/10)