I’ve had a very rough time these past two weeks, but I think I’m coming out of it with a better understanding of myself and my limitations.

I am a perfectionist and a control freak and I always have to be the best at EVERYTHING.  I am a competitive person – even if it is against myself.  I don’t ever want to admit that I might not be awesome at something.  This was also the case with my marathon training.

I used to run cross country when I was in high school, and since then, I continued with sports through college, grad school, and my adult life.  So I never really lost my athletic ability or got very out of shape.  After recovering from my broken ankle, I decided to dive back into running and racing.  Before then, I would run, but it was just for fun, and usually with my dog.

So I did what many runners do.  I went out and ran until I hit the wall – to see what I could do.  I ended up doing about 5.5 miles.  Which wasn’t bad considering until then I would only run about 3 miles at a time, maybe once or twice a week.  I was lucky that I didn’t get injured from jumping headfirst into running.  I consider myself fortunate for that.

After signing up for my first marathon, I needed to pick a training schedule.  Hal Higdon’s training plans were highly recommended, so I put all the distances for his Novice I plan on my calendar and had at it.

About three weeks in, I was feeling great.  The runs were easy – even the long ones –  and I felt like I could do more.  So, being the overachiever I am, I decided to switch my training plan to his Intermediate I plan.

It’s important to note, that Hal Higdon’s Novice plan is for people who are training for their first marathon and just need to make sure they can get through the distance (that’s me).  Intermediate is more for those who are on their second or third marathon and know they can do the distance and are now working more on time (not me).

So I did the Intermediate I plan for about four weeks.  At week seven of my training, I was burned out.  I wasn’t looking forward to my runs anymore.  I was tired and grumpy and it just wasn’t fun anymore.  I started skipping runs (short ones only – I didn’t miss my long ones) and telling myself I would make it up the following day.  Which I never did.  Well, maybe once.

So this week I took Wednesday to Saturday off.  I told myself that I was going to rest and recouperate and not let myself feel guilty about it.  I wasn’t going to try to “make it up” another day.  And during this time I was going to try to listen to my body and figure out why I was feeling the way I was.

I decided to be honest with myself and admitted that I was overreaching with my training.  As much as I don’t like to admit when I am a novice at something, I AM A NOVICE MARATHONER.  I have never run a marathon before.  I have never raced more than a 5k (that will change this spring).  And the last race I did was in 10th grade (which will also change soon).  Although it may PHYSICALLY be within my ability to follow the Intermediate I training plan, it is not in my best interest (mentally and physically).  By trying to follow that plan, I am risking burnout, fatigue, and overuse injuries.

So I switched my training plan back to the Novice I, and since doing so, I feel much less stress and pressure.  I will still get through the race, and I don’t need to make myself miserable in doing so.

I have three goals for my first marathon (in this order)…

  1. Finish
  2. Without walking
  3. Under 5 hours

That’s it.  If I can finish, I’ll be happy.  If I can finish without walking (I see that as very do-able), I’ll be very happy.  If I can finish without walking under 5 hours (also do-able), I’ll be THRILLED.

Maybe I’ll try the Intermediate I plan for my next marathon.  Until then, I just want to make sure I can do the distance.