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Road Weary

Marathon training. There's a lot encompassed by that phrase.

I've been diligently training for my fifth Marine Corps Marathon

(I'm pretty sure it's my fifth. It has been so many years since I last ran it, even the Internets don't remember, so I can't be certain.)

I'm finally coming up for air and starting my two week taper.

Pace. Miles. Splits. Hill repeats. Intervals. Long runs. Recovery runs. Easy runs. It's all so ... regimented.

Some of that rigidity is good. I'm enjoying having a schedule to follow, testing my limits, building strength, and logging consistent workouts. Without a plan my training devolves into whatever I feel like running: I tend to run too many fast runs (but not fast enough to benefit my overall speed). And after a few weeks with no plan, I usually find I've only run an average of four times a week. That's alright if you're running purely for the joy of it, but it isn't the kind of training that will make me a better runner.

There are parts of marathon training I truly enjoy. The ritual and routine of the Sunday long run. Meeting up with friends to share a few miles. Lazing around weekend afternoons in the name of recovery. Spending time in the Virginia countryside taking in the beauty of Fall and tasting some really lovely wines. And one of my favorite indulgences - brunch! - made possible when your run is done by noon.

This past weekend, I did my run along an exposed parkway, next to cars. The sun beat down. There was a headwind in both directions. It was the kind of specific and mental training that will pay off in spades when I hit the 14th Street Bridge with about 10K to go until the finish line. 

After a soul-sucking 12 miles, I finished my run on a half mile section of shaded trail. What a contrast! Sun-baked asphalt gave way to soft footing amidst colorful foliage. The wind ceased to be my foe, now gently cooling my hot face. The sounds of traffic were far away, and all I could hear was my leaf-crunching steps. I almost cried thinking of the trail runs I’ve missed this Fall.

The dappled light through the leafy canopy. The rhythmic sounds of my footfalls. The scent of wildflowers. The sounds of the trees as they move in the wind. The protective shade the woods provide. I'm looking forward to my return to trail running.


14 comments:

And Miles 2 Go said...

Good stuff, Kir. Also, sounds as if your mind is right for MCM. :)

Katie said...

Eeks! 2 weeks to go!

Liz said...

I completely hear you on this. I started doing trail runs last fall and it opens up a different side of running that you don't get on asphalt.

Sabrina Moran said...

I love that picture of leaves! And every blog post you write. I was going to save this post as dessert for after I worked on my term paper, but I couldn't wait. Enjoy the taper!

Allison said...

Good luck with the taper! I really need to try trail running.

Beth said...

There's still plenty of fall left when you're done with MCM. Recovery runs on the trails will feel glorious. Good luck with taper!

Dirt Proof said...

After 4 yrs of avoiding roads in favor of trails, ive been training for the Auckland marathon and have the same feelings as you. Can't wait to see the end of the pavement and get back to the trails!!!! How come 3 hrs on the road feels like so much more of a burden than twice that time on the trails?! Anyways, good luck at Marine Corps and enjoy the crunchy leaf season!

Sophie Speidel said...

Love that classic PH photo.

My Boston bound marathon training group buddies have wrapped up their fall marathons-- Wineglass and Chicago-- and are enjoying their unstructured days of running on -eegads!-trails with no watch or structure. The MCM training you have done will pay off big time when you want to run something long and hard in December and January. Hellgate? hmmmmm....

Jo Lynn said...

I've never done a road marathon. All the stuff I've done, that's something I have not. And loving trails as much as I do, I can't see myself doing one. Kudos to you!

hitthetrails said...

I'm completely with you on soul-sucking asphalt. Go tear up the MCM and then then enjoy the woods again. Your soul will thank you.

Kara said...

MCM is so close! I'm really looking forward to running this for the first time!

amy said...

I know exactly the feeling you mean with the sun and wind and the threat of mental shutdown. You're right about the bridge though. Just think about the lovely shade and leaf-covered paths - that should be more than enough to get you into Crystal City and up to Iwo Jima. I'll be out there cheering!

BrennanAnnie said...

Good luck out there. I hope to see you around mile 22. I will be the one with the loudest mouth.

George T said...

Happened to see your Twitter feed and ran across your blog. I really enjoyed reading about your running adventures. Good luck tomorrow. I'll be out there, too, for my 4th MCM. (No snow I hope.)