Discover more from The Half Marathoner
When the miles start testing us
Our training brings longer runs, questions to ask ourselves
We’re running Richmond this fall!
Join us when we get together in person to run the Richmond Half Marathon in Richmond, Va., on November 11, 2023 — and, add yourself to ‘The Half Marathoner Newsletter’ group during the signup process. Can’t wait to see you there!
I’ll never forget the first marathon I signed up to run. It was more than twenty years ago, when I was half the age I am now. At the time, the longest distance I had ever run was 10 kilometers; but when a friend asked me if I’d like to sign up to run a marathon with her in a few months’ time, I answered “sure!”
Why did I say yes? Why did it seem possible? I’d only run just a little over six miles at the longest, so I really shouldn’t have felt confident at all. But it seemed do-able; after all, I’d already run about a fourth of a marathon. Why not tack on 20 more miles? How hard could it be?
A few weeks in, I found out. Our weekly long runs started at eight miles, and progressed each week by adding one more mile. It wasn’t long before we were running 12, 13 and 14 miles at a time — which also meant it wasn’t long before I started asking myself, do I really want to do this?
I felt that way this weekend too, when I ran my six-mile long run for the 16-week training plan we’ve been following in preparation for this November’s Richmond Half Marathon (which you still can sign up for and run with us, by clicking here).
Not because six miles is all that far; I know a number of you are running twice that already! But it’s the longest distance I’ve run in a while, which means my comfort zone is smaller than it used to be. This weekend’s run helped me push at its boundaries and expand it a little.
That last sentence makes it sound easier than it was; conditions were hot and humid this past Saturday, making it more challenging from the get-go. My first couple of miles came and went like they always do, but by the time I reached the half-way point, I was starting to feel the late summer heat we’re known for in Georgia, and it was starting to drag me down a little.
It was in those moments on the run when I remembered a lot of the things I’ve written to you over the years — encouraging things about how to push forward, even when we’re not feeling it, or want to. You find out what you really think when you experience a test like that in a real, concrete way; it’s no longer an abstraction. In those moments we find out how we really feel, and what we really want, I think.
What’s interesting to me is how my own comfort zone expands and contracts over time. Twenty years ago, six miles would have been a breezy, light afternoon run I might not have given a second thought to running. This weekend, finishing six was a big push for me, and gave me a big feeling of accomplishment.
By November, I plan — hope! — to be in a place where 10 or 11 miles will feel like no problem. But I’m going to have to keep pushing at the boundaries of my comfort zone between now and then to get there. I’ve been running — a lot! — on my treadmill at home, and it’s definitely helped me accumulate miles and get fitter these past few months.
Still, it’s only going to get me so far. I need to be out more often on the trails I ran last weekend, contending with the conditions and the varying terrain, the hills and all the twists and turns, if I want to get strong enough to run 13.1 miles again.
Over the weekend, I took a drive to my hometown of Augusta, Ga., and a podcast I’ve listened to before popped up in my feed, an interview Marc Maron did with Jerry Seinfeld back in the depths of the pandemic, in the summer of 2020. There are so many great moments in the interview, but one that really caught my attention came at about the half-way point of the show, when Jerry described how he developed his work ethic as a comedian, coming up in the New York comedy clubs of the 1970s:
“The most seminal event of my career, let’s go back to [the New York comedy club] Catch a Rising Star in 1976. And, I’d see a guy [a comedian from the club] get on the Tonight Show. And, he had about 35 minutes of material.
But, you know — 35 minutes, that’s one strong six minutes clean on the Tonight Show. That distills down to six minutes. And then he goes on [the show], does well. Goes on again… not as good. Goes on a third time, struggles — never see him again.
I noticed that as a young man. I went ‘Ohhh… now I see how this works.’ [I realized that] what you think you have is not what you really have. When they put you under that light, in that context, under those constraints… so I realized, I have to have a way of growing that’s more than just hanging out, bullshitting with other comics. I need a better system than that, and so I set about creating that for myself.”
The line in the last paragraph above — “what you think you have is not what you really have” — that stuck with me. Because I find it really easy to believe my level of fitness is what it used to be, simply because I’ve run long distances in the past; but when I put my body to the test, I find out what it’s actually ready for.
How about you? What are you finding out about yourself as you train these past few weeks — whether you have a goal race in mind or not? (And how is your training going in the resurgent heat we’re experiencing this week?! 🥵)
As always, keep in touch and let me know how your running/life is going.
Extra credit: Amanda Loudin’s latest article on fall marathon training (“It’s Time to Up Your Miles and Find Your Pace”) goes into lots more detail on how to think about this stage of training, especially if you’re aiming for 26.2 — it’s well worth a read 😃
Our training miles for this week
So, we did a second six-mile long run this past weekend — how did yours go? If you’ve looked ahead in the training plan, you’ll notice we stair-step our long runs that way; add a mile one week, and then run it again the following week to keep building our confidence. And then, we do it again for the next two weeks after that.
Here are our miles for this week:
Tuesday, Aug. 22 — 5 miles
Thursday, Aug. 24 — 5 miles
Saturday, Aug. 26 — 7 miles
Sunday, Aug. 27 — 2-3 miles
As always, feel free to reach out with any questions about our schedule, your running, or anything else 👍 — Terrell