Marathon Update: How Could I Forget That?

Splits on WallstreetFor the last few weeks I’ve been doing a little personal experiment.  As I’ve talked about before, this marathon I’ve decided to run/walk instead of just walking.  I’ve been using a plan specifically for run/walking the marathon and I had been following that plan exactly.  I’d made some gains in speed but not what I was hoping for and my long runs were really not that fun,dictated as they were by beeps from my watch alarm.

It hit me during one of the shorter runs that I sometimes felt like I could keep running when the “walk” alarm went off, and sometimes it felt like a tremendous struggle but I kept running, all based on the prescribed intervals of running and walking.

It hit me that I was buying into a concept that I hate  – the idea that our bodies are just  limitations to overcome, just meat sacks with no useful information or feedback for us, that they can’t be trusted and and that athletic achievement means at best ignoring and more likely overcoming our bodies by forcing them to do things that they don’t want to do.

Except, since I left diet culture, that hasn’t been my experience of my body. So I thought what if I did my marathon training like I live the rest of my life – in partnership with my body.  So I decided a couple weeks ago that I would do my long run working with my body – no watch beeps, no prescribed plan.  Run when it feels right, walk when it feels right.  I was nervous because, as I talked about before,  I see training as insurance and I didn’t want to waste a training session, but I reminded myself that if it didn’t work I could always go back and it was just one run/walk.

So I set off on my long run/walk.  I won’t say it was fun, but I will say that it was the least sucky run I’ve ever done.  I didn’t trust my math as I looked at my times but sure enough when I got home and entered it into my spreadsheet I had dropped my time by 2 minutes per mile.  I thought that it might be a fluke.  The next week I completed my interval training run/walk and my hill run/walk as usual, and was off on my long run.  My pacing was even faster than the long run the week before.

I could kick myself for falling into the old trope of body as limitation/enemy, but it also speaks to one of the main reasons I did this marathon in the first place.  I wanted to do more things to push out of my comfort zone so that I could learn things about myself, and so that I could apply old lessons in new environments like, oh I don’t know, TRUST YOUR BODY AND LISTEN TO IT!  Of course there are still miles and miles (and miles and miles) and did I mention miles, to go before the marathon, but I think those miles will be better if I remember that it’s me and my body against the miles and that my body has some really helpful things to say if I’ll just listen.

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11 thoughts on “Marathon Update: How Could I Forget That?

  1. That’s great!
    Out of curiosity, what or whose training plan had you been following? I’ve tried several (Hal Higdon, Runners World, etc), but certainly your “listen to body” sounds best…

  2. It’s really kind of amazing what we can do when we treat our bodies as partners rather than enemies or obstacles.

    Rock on!

  3. YAY!!! Another layer of the internalized oppression that separates us from our precious bodies – gone! And thank you for sharing your reflections so we can understand that this is an ongoing struggle even for people who are highly skilled at resistance – because the message that we can’t trust our bodies is almost everywhere.

  4. I recently started trying/learning to run after 30 years of believing I couldn’t thanks to juvenile fibromyalgia. Turns out I can run if I listen to my body, but if I try to “push it” or do it on someone else’s schedule/pace, the fibro flares up and I’m stuck back in bed again. So I have become a total devotee of listening. 🙂

    (I literally ran the length of two nonconsecutive blocks my first time out. It was all my body could take. Every run/walk since has been more running and less walking, though, as long as I listen.)

  5. Trusting my body, REALLY trusting my body is something I’ve only started in the past couple of weeks, and as early as this morning I started questioning myself. This post was a really great reminder that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been at the body acceptance/listening to your body game, sometimes you fall into old habits.

    Thank you for being such an authentic writer and sharing your journey with such integrity.

  6. I have been trying to do the same thing as well. The last time I seriously ignored my body, I ended up with shin splints, and pretty much had to abstain from running for a few months.
    Still trying to shake the annoyance I get when I have to…um…stop and take a break. I’m trying to think of it as a “second wind” and accept that if I want to keep running enjoyable, I’d better get used to it.

    Nervous about upping mileage for the same reasons, but I’m thinking 1/10th mile/week should be sufficient to get me ready for a 5k in October. 🙂

    Run like the wind, bulls-eye! 😉

  7. Nice! I think a training plan is a good starting point if you have no idea where to start, but listening to your body should trump the plan any day. Bodies get really cranky when we don’t listen.

  8. There’s a lot of “you can’t trust your own body’s advice” coming from those who make a living out of the sports industry. Schedules … yeah, there are more training plans and wannabe gurus than I can count, most of ’em (not all) claiming to have the definitive answer to training. Because “just go out and run” isn’t a very commercial concept.

    We can’t be allowed to trust our thirst to tell us when and how much to drink. We can’t let our appetite select appropriate real food, we NEED gels and special fluids and whey shakes and we should be simultaneously cutting calories, adopting a painfully orthorexic diet, and eating enough to fuel our training. Double bind, anyone?

    We can’t trust our feet to tell us what shoes fit and are comfortable, we have to be measured and videoed running on a treadmill so that a suitable shoe can be chosen for us. If that shoe doesn’t feel right, that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong shoe, we need to wear it in. Running hurts? Your gait/cadence are wrong. Running doesn’t hurt? Your gait/cadence are still wrong and you’ll suffer for it eventually, best see a running skills guru bebefore the damage is done. Judging your effort level by perception and experience? NOOOOOO! You need a heart rate monitor and another guru to teach you how to use it, and you need to run to numbers. Feeling good at the end of a five mile run and want to do another couple of miles whooping and singing because you’re loving the sheer joy of moving fast? Oooh, no, you shouldn’t do that, the dragons will get you.

    Bath in icy water, hit yourself with a stick, if something hurts pay someone to hurt it a bit more, see a physiotherapist every couple of weeks as an insurance policy …

    That’s before I start on the naysayers. Why do some people care so much about other people’s harmless hobbies? Concern trolling about changes in body shape and the ubiquitous “it’ll ruin your knees” abound. I don’t get much of that from people who know me well (apart from my parents, who think I’m too old to be running races and whizzing around on a racing bike) but occasionally people who don’t know my history weigh in with unsolicited advice about my diet and training. I’m not averse to picking people’s brains, but I’m old and experienced enough to know who to ask and what questions to ask them.

  9. Thanks for this great post. I always enjoy reading your marathon updates because they let me think of all the movement I will do over the weekend.

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