This is the hard part. The last four weeks before the marathon. All of my longest runs are behind me. I am lifting less and cutting back on the speedwork just a little so that I don’t tire out my legs in the final weeks of training and I am ready to move onto something new. The problem is I still have four weeks – three more long runs and six more speed sessions. There is more work to be done, but this is where I begin to get restless. I just want to run it already.
In the past I have done just that. Found another marathon a few weeks earlier and gotten it done. One of my best marathons happened that way. Every March my local running club hosts a marathon on the trail I run on week in and week out. I don’t do the race every year, but I always know its there.
Two years ago I thought I might use it for a training run. The plan was to just run an easy 18 and then head home. But, of course, that isn’t how it worked. I felt great. There was no stress to it, no expectations. Finishing it was easy and apparently not at all surprising to my husband.
But now its fall and though there are four local marathons, the other three are all after the one I have planned. So, I am forced to be patient. To try hard not to sabotage all of the work I have put in. In the words of my teenage son, I have to “just deal.”
Those who know me know that I encourage others to complete the marathon. That I believe anybody can do it if they train for it and believe in themselves. The kicker though, is the training. The marathon itself is fun. The first few weeks of training are fun. But, the four weeks leading up to the marathon are not.
I remind myself every marathon season that training is fifty percent mental. If I put my mind to it I can continue to train and improve. I remind myself of that, but I forget to remind myself to be patient, to take the last four weeks to tweak the bits of my training I can and enjoy it for what it is.
“What it is” is the opportunity to settle in. To get comfortable and know I am ready. It is the time to rest my legs from the twenty milers of early training. It is a chance to train mentally. To visualize race morning and the miles that will follow.
It is also the time to settle into my rituals. The month before the marathon my family watches more sports movies than any other time of the year – Invincible, Remember the Titans and one of my all time favorites, Without Limits. I also pull my favorite running books from the shelf – The Runner’s Anthology and The Long Road to Boston.
Apparently though, it is also my time to grumble about wanting to be done already. Though this is the first time these words have made it to the page, I recognize them as the same ones that tumble through my mind before every marathon.
For me, it is the hardest part of marathon training, because suddenly, I have the time for self doubt. I am not working as hard and that little marathon devil sits on my shoulder questioning this training program, no matter what “this” training program is. Shouldn’t I be out there doing more, pushing harder? Shouldn’t I just throw that program away and go with my gut?
This year though, I will shut the little devil in a shoe box and leave him in my closet. Hide him away and try to enjoy the extra time and the extra spring in my legs. I will trust the program and give myself a break. Marathon day will be here soon enough.
And like my children who wait with baited breath for Christmas morning, I will wait and enjoy the anticipation.