Marathon Training Update: 20 Miles

I have a confession: I have been dreading my first 20-mile run from the moment the idea of doing a full marathon popped into my head.

I solved this problem in my typical fashion of, well, ignoring it until the actual day arrived.

I mean, I was prepared. I had my snacks (I’ve been chewing on gummy candies…I need to get something that is actually made for runners), I was well hydrated (I’ve learned that the only thing that keeps me from drying out is to drink at least half a bottle of Gatorade G2 cut with equal parts water an hour before I run), and I had my course mapped out (starting at the bottom of Manhattan, then running 11 miles up the West Side Highway and then 9 miles back down). I was wearing one of my favorite running outfits. I had my music. I was ready.

But as I hopped off the subway in the financial district, I was utterly terrified.

It sounds silly, but the long runs, especially those that are a distance I have never run before, give me an extreme amount of anxiety. Anything could happen. I could get injured or feel horribly sick miles from home.

Okay, those are really the only bad things that could happen. BUT STILL.

In the end, though, I knew I had to just do it. I’ve found it helps if I don’t think of it as running 20 miles, but rather that I am going to run for three hours. I hate wasting time in general, and I tend to stress out when I feel like something is taking up too much time. If I just remind myself that I have cut these three hours out of my life just for running, though, my stress level calms and everything feels more manageable.

So I just started running.

I kept my pace slow-ish, running the first half at about an 8:30 mile pace. I also made myself stop at almost every bathroom for a quick drink of water, rather than waiting until I felt thirsty as I had done in the past. I deliberately planned to be at my least favorite part of the course (everything north of 90th street because there’s no where to stop for water or bathroom breaks) midway through the run — I knew if anything was going to go wrong for me, it would be in the last third of the run, so I wanted to be closer to civilization.

Around mile 11, I started to feel tired. But I told myself that I had run so much farther than that multiple times, so I wasn’t allowed to be tired yet. (I actually said this to myself in my head.)

Around mile 16, I was definitely tired (my pace was a solid 9:13), but felt pretty good otherwise. I started to let myself believe that this run was actually going to go well. When I hit 18 and felt infinitely better than I had during my 18-mile run, I was elated. A bad run can really mess with your head (“Am I just incapable of running this far? Has this whole thing been a horrible mistake?”), but a good run is equally as vindicating.

At mile 19, I let myself pick up the pace mostly because I just wanted it all to be over.

When I finally hit 20 and got to stop running, it was like a gift.

The first thing I did after I stopped running: take this picture.
The first thing I did after I stopped running: take this picture.

I finished in just under three hours, which makes me feel pretty good about my race-day pace. It also helped that Saturday was the first spring-like day we’ve had in NYC in about four months — hopefully the weather will be similar in Paris once April 6th rolls around.

All in all, I’m just so relieved it went well. It’s so easy for me to start doubting this whole endeavor (and I do pretty regularly), but a smooth, non-painful run is tremendously encouraging.

You guys. I really think I’m going to run a marathon now.

Hope everyone else had a great weekend too!

Marathon Training Update: 18 Miles

I’m not going to lie — I’m in a bit of pain as I write this post.

Saturday’s run was another personal best in terms if distance, an (at times) grueling 18 miles. Now that I’ve crossed into the second half of my training schedule, it’s like play time is over. These runs mean business.

Two days before my run, I attended a class at a new (to me) gym called Revolution in Motion through my ClassPass. The session was designed around movements that strengthen and stretch muscles to help prevent injury. I ended up being the only person to show (7:30 a.m. is early, yo), so the class wound up being a completely personalized session. The trainer gave me a few moves to counteract my plantar faciitis, which has been acting up a bit lately, and gave me a foam incline board to stretch at home. Plus, he was from Queens, so we bantered about our favorite restaurants. All in all, a good experience.

Saturday was D-day. As I mentioned at the outset, this run was not easy. Originally, Diana and I had planned to run on a trail I like in Long Island, but it turns out it hadn’t been plowed at all. Instead, we headed to the Bronx to the start of the West Side Highway Running Path, planning to run nine miles down and back. The first three miles were weirdly uncomfortable (I think I was thrown off by the unsuccessful morning), but then we shook it off and I felt pretty good until mile 12. Then…well, then things took a turn.

Can I just say that realizing you have to run six more miles despite being deeply uncomfortable might be one of the worst feelings ever?

I ended up slogging through (I stopped to walk a couple of times…knowing that I had to start running again is also in the running for one of the worst feelings ever), and finally finished a few minutes after Diana. I then spent most of that evening horizontal before collapsing into bed at 10:00 pm. I party hard, you guys.

I felt equally incapacitated Sunday, but a morning spin class at Revolve Fitness (that I initially regretted deeply upon opening my eyes that morning) turned out to be just the thing to loosen everything up. Who knew?

This morning, I feel pretty much back to normal. I took a core/stretching class before work, and I have to run five miles tonight, but I’m not dreading that nearly as much as I thought I would Saturday night.

It’s almost like I’m getting stronger or something.

Only six more weeks to go!

The post in which I release all of the feelings.

I need to let a few things out.

In the immortal words of white girls everywhere, I’m over it.

I’m over the cold. Do you know how cold this winter has been? No one in New York remembers a winter like this in the last ten years or more.

That’s how cold.

It just keeps snowing, and the temperature keeps not budging above thirty. It’s a sick joke.

Speaking of sick jokes, here’s another one: No matter how cold it gets, I still have to train for a marathon.

That means one to two runs a week in the biting cold, wondering just how many times I can lose feeling in the tip of my nose before it just falls off. It means that at least once a week, I spend hours in literally freezing temperatures wearing various layers of spandex and fleece and telling myself that it’s not that bad.

And let’s talk about those hours. I’m getting tired, y’all. The last month, I’ve been leaving my apartment about half an hour later than normal because, when my alarm goes off at the usual time, my brain just rejects that it is time to get up. My body refuses to swing my legs to the floor and vacate the bed because I’m so dang tired and did I mention it’s cold out there?

Because, oh, another thing: My apartment is freezing. The super keeps playing dumb like we’re imagining that our thermometer says it’s below sixty degrees. Like maybe we won’t notice. But I notice.

And then when we complain, the heaters magically turns on for a few hours. And then it shuts off and we start the song and dance again.

I am tired of this dance and I hate this song.

And you know what else? In an effort to avoid exposing my tired, cold skin to even more frigid air, I foolishly decided taking the bus eight blocks would be smarter than walking this morning after a 7-mile outdoor run. I then sat on said bus for an hour before finally giving up at ninth avenue, meaning I STILL ended up walking five blocks in the cold. I COULD MURDER SOMETHING RIGHT NOW.


My apologies for this spree of negativity. I promise to do better next time.

Marathon Training Update: 16 Miles

Marathon training presses on.

Saturday, I set a new personal record for distance: 16 miles.

All in all, it wasn’t that bad. Diana and I were able to schedule the same time to run, so that always helps. (There is nothing lonelier than two hours of solo running.) And for about 90% of the run, I felt pretty great.

Until the final two miles rolled around. Then my hips and knees started feeling tight and sore, and the 30-degree weather I had been ignoring seemed to kick it up a notch.

We crossed the 16-mile mark cold and uncomfortable, but we crossed it.

I’m not feeling too bad about it, though. When I did the 14 miles, I had a similar experience where only the last two were a little painful. Hopefully it’s a trend that continues.

It’s true what everyone says, though, marathon training is a mental game. Diana and I have started this thing where we’ll pretend we’re just starting to run mid-way through a long run. For example, on Saturday’s 16, after four we said (out loud) that we were just going to do two six mile runs real quick. Then at 11, Diana turns to me and says, “Do you want to do a quick five-mile run?”

It sounds corny, but it helps to break up the trek.

We’ve also started experimenting with eating whilst we run. I’ve never done this before (I rarely even stop for water during half-marathons), and it’s a little strange. On Saturday, I ate about four Swedish Fish (two at mile seven, two at mile 12). I don’t love candy on a normal day, but the extra sugar did help. Next long run, I might try one of those sports chews or something. I still can’t get on board with the goos.

Any recommendations from my runner friends?

I’ve got three weeks until the first 20-miler (which I honestly can’t even think about right now) with two 12-mile runs and an 18 in between. BUT, I’m about halfway through with training.

Right now, let’s just focus on these pretty pictures of paris, okay? Okay.




{image sources here, here, and here.)

Running Games

Not surprisingly, training for the marathon is giving me flashbacks to training for my first half.

Mostly because, starting yesterday, almost every long run is going to be the longest distance I’ve ever run at one time.


When I trained for the half, that meant it was the first time I’d ever run five, six, eight, ten, twelve, and, finally, 13.1 miles. Training for the full means the first time running 14, 16, 18, 20 (twice), and, finally, 26.2.

My brain has a hard time aligning those figures with the actions required to accomplish them. When I start thinking about the number of hours in the cold, foot strikes on the cement, and energy burned, it can be a little overwhelming.

My running partner, Diana, and I talk a lot about the “games” runners play to make the long runs more bearable. You’re not running ten miles. You’re running five miles out, and then five miles back. You’re not just running for two hours; you’re burning enough calories to eat whatever you want for dinner.

Sometimes the mental games work. Sometimes you dig deep, grit your teeth, and just grind out another few miles.

Plus, as everyone east of the Bay Area knows, it’s pretty dang cold out. (Yeah, marathon training in the winter may not have been the smartest choice.) I find I don’t even fret about the distance anymore so much as I dread the cold.

That walk from my apartment to the subway to get to the park? Worst part of my week.

I like to think that by the time the real race rolls around (and spring weather with it), I’ll be so thrilled to be able to feel my face and fingers, the whole thing will be a breeze. (Right?)

I hope so. Because the worst part of Saturday’s 14-miler was easily the sub-30 temperatures. And, you know, when it started to snow during the last half-mile. That was just the cherry.


Overall, though, it has been interesting to see how training changes my perceptions on things. It used to kill me to run more than two miles. In fact, I can remember a time when running two miles sounded like torture.

On Saturday, when I hit nine miles, my first thought was actually, “Yessss, only five more!

Who am I, you guys?

Marathon Training Update: 12 miles

For the last few years, I’ve been saying that I would like to run a full marathon someday.

The funny thing is, I don’t think I have really believed I would do it. Especially after battling my first real running injury, I had kind of added running a marathon to the list of things it would be cool to have done but that I didn’t really expect to do. (You know, like swimming with sharks. Walking on the moon. Cutting my hair into a bob.)

In fact, I probably wouldn’t have signed up for the run I did if not for my ambitious friend who I had already discussed going to Paris and running a marathon with (separately). When I agreed to do it (at the same time), I did so despite the nagging voice in my brain whispering in a panicked voice that this was a bad idea.

Part of the problem was that the Philly Half wasn’t great for me. My training was tough, and I hadn’t run a 10+ miler that didn’t make me feel like death in over a year. I was really worried I had made a terrible (and expensive) mistake.

So when I set out to run twelve miles yesterday, it wasn’t without a healthy dose of trepidation.

New running shoes I'm really counting on to boost my confidence.
New running shoes I’m really counting on to boost my confidence.

I’m pleased to say, though, that the run went pretty great. I felt good at the end (though a little sore). My legs and hips felt a little tight, but I made it through without needing to stop at any point. That sounds like such a minor thing, but I can’t begin to tell you how much it put my mind at ease.

Because I can do this. It’s just going to be hard. But I’m a big believer in not running away from stuff just because it’s hard.

So now I can say, confidently, that I am running a full marathon. In April. In Paris. And this time, I really believe it.

Eight Miles in Eight Degrees

Marathon training has officially begun. As has my concern that I might be insane for thinking this time of year would be fine for marathon training.

On Saturday, Diana and I attempted our first long(ish) training run. It was supposed to be ten miles.

The temperature clocked in below ten degrees.

And thanks to a recent mini flurry, the ground was also covered in an inch or two of ice, snow, and slush in most places.

I know what you’re thinking: Justine, why didn’t you just run on a treadmill?

Don’t think I didn’t consider it. But my tolerance for that hamster wheel tops out at about five, maybe six miles. Ten would have been brutal.

So despite the cold, Di and I loaded up in fleecy layers, gritted our teeth, and braved the elements.

We ran around Central Park, five miles out. The plan was to run the full five back, but after about six miles of hopping, slipping, and tip-toeing around ice encrusted sidewalks, our whole bodies were exhausted. (Plus our pace was nothing to write home about.)

Since we’ve both dealt with injuries in the past, we decided to call it quits at eight and pick up the extra miles during our shorter runs this week.

And, you know, my face was so frozen by the end that I could barely speak.

I’m planning to do my weekday runs at the gym (hopefully streaming some Netflix to distract myself), but I still have a 12-miler next Saturday to prep for. Any cold-weather tips from my runner friends? Maybe a really great jacket you love? I’ll take anything.

Only 12 more weeks to go!