Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Unsolicited Advice for the First Time Marathoner (2)

I was thinking the other day about things I wish someone had told me before my first marathon.

Things that made me SO nervous, things I obsessed about that turned out to be nothing, things I didn't think twice about that turned out to be something worth obsessing about, and I think I finally concluded that the one thing that bothered me the most was "What if I cannot over come THE WALL".

I obsessed over this one point for months on end.

Only, I discovered something on race day...

There is no such thing as the wall.

No, I'm being dead serious.

You have trained your body with a solid marathon training plan in the months leading up to race day so that it can go this distance.  So on race day if you are fueling properly, drinking as needed, pacing yourself according to your own goals and not your neighbors or the elites running out front... there is no need to fear the wall.  I've heard runners say it happens at mile 18.  I've heard them claim it at 22.  Frankly, I've been to both those places twice on race day and haven't seen hide nor hair of it.

Did I feel despair?  Sure.

Was I freaking tired?  Absolutely.

But here is a photo from me at Richmond Marathon mile 22 of 2009.

and here is one from me at Richmond Marathon mile 22 of 2010.

If that's what the Wall looks like, well... bring it ON! I'm just sayin'.

Besides, we've already established that in 2009 I made a bunch of rookie mistakes.  If there was a wall to be found, surely I would have discovered it.

I am not saying that you cannot find a huge mental block constructed of hopelessness at the marathon distance.  If you go looking for it, you can find almost anything at a marathon, including a grown man in a tutu and tiara, or a viking hat, or a pink running skirt.  What I'm saying is that the physical end to the ATP in your system caused by a chemical failure of the mitochondrial electron transport chain resulting in a complete shut down of your muscles... aka, The Wall, isn't really even a possibility.

You have to believe all this, or you would never have signed up for your first marathon.

Mental block is not the dreaded wall.  A friend of mine says it best, "Mental issues are not training issues".  I believe that is true, they are a lack of preparation of a different kind.


fancy nancy said...

Oh man I remember all the fears I had before my first marathon! Added to that it was during a huge NorEaster storm!!! Mental toughness is huge...it can get you so much further!!

Anonymous said...

Wow this was a powerful post and a great deal of help to me, a newbie runner

Amy W said...

Thanks for the always needed advice!! I was worried about the wall until I read this...

Mel -Tall Mom on the Run said...

Love the pictures and the message.. And FYI there is a Big ole wall if you are under trained....TRUST ME!!

Katie said...

Thanks so much! You need to write more of these posts.

Run with Jess said...

Love today's post! I'm going for #1 in October, but I fear not!!

Kristen said...

Awesome post. I'm not in marathon training yet...just half marathon, but I still feel like I won't 'be able' to make it! I love the quote that your friend said!

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

I agree that runners should not fear a wall if they go into any race educated about what they are doing.

Whether your wall is built out of fueling problems, lack of training, dehydration or mental issues; anyone can hit a wall and it doesn't have to be during a race. I usually go into races reminding myself that on any given day I could have the run of a lifetime or feel like I've been running a lifetime.

I did hit a wall. A hard one. During (maybe) marathon number 8 or so. Hubbs was running the same marathon. I was a good half hour in front of him until I hit that wall. (I think that day it was hydration issues but you knows) The upside is he caught up and we crossed the finish line together. Maybe that wall was there for a reason? Maybe.

Meredith said...

Um. Could you just make a podcast for all us newbies with your motivational words to get us through our first marathon?? Seriously though. Love reading your unsolicited advice. I will hold it near and dear and continue to read it as I train. Thank you!