Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?

Marine Corps Marathon

Image via Wikipedia

This past Sunday I got all my long run gear together and headed out to Central Park in an attempt to conquer 18 miles.  I got through one, and then I gave up.  I was already drenched, nothing felt right, and mentally I think I’d given up before I even got to the top of my first hill.  The humidity was between 75 and 80%, and the temperature, while not super high, was probably in the low to mid 80s, maybe the high 70s.  It was miserable, and so was I.

By the time I got back home, I’d made up my mind: I would not be running the Marine Corps Marathon.  A week ago, I’d decided that I could actually do it, that I wouldn’t have to drop out of the race after all, and that even though I would do it slowly, I would still run those 26.2 miles.  At this point, I have no idea where I stand.

I originally registered for the MCM in 2010, but decided to defer my entry when I realized that running both the Marine Corps and the Philadelphia marathons was a bit ambitious.  I’ve wanted to run this course for a long time: I grew up right outside of Washington, D.C., and running through that area means a lot to me.  The idea of it makes me feel connected to my family, including my maternal grandparents, both of whom passed away in recent years.  At this point, I’d say the race is more sentimentally significant to me than it is an athletic goal or achievement.

Between now and the marathon, I could potentially do long runs of 18, 20, and 18 again before beginning my taper.  But none of that changes the fact that I’m probably pretty severely undertrained at this point.  I know people who’ve gone into marathons without doing more than a 13-mile long run, but do I want to be one of those people?  Could I be one of those people?  Just because they exist doesn’t mean that my body can do the same thing.

I keep wondering what it is that made my training go south (and why it’s gone south more than once in the past few years), and I think that while part of it has to do with approaching the whole thing in the wrong way, a big part of it has to do with how much I am still struggling to fuel myself well and treat my body with the respect it deserves.  Recognizing the role my eating disorder has played in the process of preparing for this and previous races makes me want to show it up by doing the marathon.  Deep down, though, I know that that’s not really the way the problem needs to be addressed, let alone solved.  At least I can take comfort in the fact that I have finally managed to identify how much of a negative effect my ED has on my running.

I guess what it boils down to is the fact that I have no idea what to do.  Do I let myself off the hook, lay the idea of running the marathon to rest, and start focusing on training for the Philadelphia half-marathon in November?  Or do I do what I can in the next few weeks, and show up at the starting line of the MCM fully understanding that I can always DNF if I have to, and that anything could happen?  I don’t expect to PR, and I don’t even know that I’d expect not to take walking breaks.  But I’d be putting myself at risk for injury, and possibly stressing myself out more than necessary.  Honestly, I’m stumped.

Have you ever faced a situation like this?  If you haven’t, what do you think you would do in this case?

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  1. can you defer again? it sounds like MCM means a lot to you, and i think you’d rather enjoy it with a strong run vs. struggle through it after some slack training.

    (as someone who has run marathons with slack training, i advocate against it. it hurts!) 🙂

    i would possibly look into why you feel like you have to do marathons now (if you feel that way, anyway). you certainly shouldn’t feel pressured to do one, and health is always more important! maybe stick to half’s and shorter while working on other areas of yourself?

    and definitely don’t compare yourself to others. i was doing that bad when it comes to my mileage vs. someone elses… my race times vs. someone elses… and ultimately i think it just made me worse off (ended up burnt out).

  2. For me, sometimes it’s hard to tell if I’m frustrated because I’m training poorly or I’m training poorly because I’m frustrated. The only thing I find that helps is to do a low impact countertraining (uh, my technical word for it) session – if you’re a runner, go do some yoga, pilates, or just a long session on a bike or in a pool. Something that you can do with no physical expectations or pressure – just continual movement to give yourself a chance to think. Or in my case, force myself to think and not be distracted 🙂

    If the training is the source of the stress, might be better to defer or bow out of this race. If the emotional attachment to this particular event or other life stress is what’s causing training to be difficult and stressful, see if there’s something you can do to help that problem and see if the training “symptoms” resolve themselves!

    I know I’ve found myself crying and dry-heaving halfway through a run or feeling like screaming in frustration halfway through a spin class, and usually it’s because something else in my life is not lining up.

    Good luck!

  3. I agree with Samantha – as long as you fit in those three long runs, then taper, you’ll be fine. Consider the marathon a training run don’t try to PR – that’s where potential injuries can happen.

    If those runs don’t happen, yes, skip the marathon. You are young, there will be so many other opportunities. Part of me thinks you need to follow your gut with this one, but you could also use a confidence boost. You have done this before and you can do it again!

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