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.