This could obviously be a post about religious beliefs and how they relate to running which, since most of my mid-week runs are done in a very large cemetery, could be interesting, but instead will be about believing in the training process. How do you know that you’re training will carry you across the finish line on race day?
Since I mentioned that I run through a cemetery almost daily, I will digress for a moment to share some thoughts. When we first moved into our house – almost exactly a year ago – and the previous owners suggested that we could run in the cemetery, we were both a little horrified. It seemed a little macabre and perhaps a bit disrespectful. Instead I’ve come to see my time in the cemetery as peaceful and meditative. I enjoy seeing my elderly neighbor on his morning constitutional where he not only greets me with a smile and wishes me a good day but he picks up trash from around the cemetery and clears the walkways of fallen branches. I read the names of the decreased and try to imagine what they were like. I’ve read about the Nobel Prize winning geneticist, Marshall W. Nirenberg, who helped crack the code of the translation of RNA into amino acids. I’ve come to believe, as Dumbledore has said, “To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” I consider it an honor to run in the company of so many lives who stories are unknown to me.
From the philosophical to the practical…. How much does one’s training plan really matter? As someone who has relied on Galloway training for all of my previous marathons, it is a mental shift to my current training plan. Galloway training, for better and for worse, relies hugely on the long run. Most of your training endurance comes from very long long runs with the mid-weeks runs mainly there to maintain fitness. As someone who often works long hours, there is a certain appeal to being about to do two 30 minute runs mid-week and, as long as nothing goes wrong on the weekend, put the fate of your training entirely on an every-other-week mega-run. Jeff Galloway believes that your “wall” will be the distance of your longest run in the prior 3 weeks and, therefore, recommends long runs up to full marathon distance. And I have done that several times.
My current training plan has a VERY different philosophy. Instead of 60 minutes of mid-week running, I am training almost every day. I spend over an hour on the bike twice a week for cross-training. I have 2 midweek runs in the 75 minute range – one is usually a fartlek run and the other an interval run – plus a weekly hill training session of about 35 minutes. Instead of 60 minutes midweek, I’m running 185 minutes midweek. Plus the biking and my Saturday long run and Sunday recovery run. My longest long run before race day will be a measly 3 hours and 15 minutes. At my training pace that translates to maybe 16-17 miles. Not the 27 miles I ran before my previous NYC Marathon. How will that work on race day?
I truly believe that my overall fitness levels right now are very high (minus my current cold with the cough that won’t go away). I’m running faster at the same heart rate than before, even though the temperature and humidity haven’t improved yet. The cross training has made me stronger and I’ve been mostly without injury (minor shin splints which resolve quickly with the foam rolling that I should be doing more consistently). And so it becomes a matter of faith. Do I believe in my coach and my training plan? At this point I have no choice so I will believe that I can get myself across the finish line in November feeling strong.