Training for My First Marathon
by Joseph Espinoza
The marathon is a leveling ground that humbles even the most seasoned runners. It can be intimidating yet liberating. Tough yet rewarding. But preparing to face this 26.2-mile beast doesn’t stop people from toeing the line and I’m no exception! As race day approaches, I can’t help but think about what’s helping me not only reach the start, but cross the finish line with everything I’ve got.
How It All Began
Most runners can agree, we can have a love-hate relationship with running. The early stages of my running began as an out of shape 12 year old running laps in the park prepping for his first soccer league. I did the sprints, the drills, and worst of all, the laps around the field. I didn’t have much at the time to keep me going in the sport, especially when my lack of stamina was paired with two left feet, but what I realized was I had a competitive spirit. I had to be faster than everyone else no matter how much I huffed and puffed through it all. Little did I know in these moments of frustration on the field, with beet red cheeks and burning lungs, that I would learn to love the activity I despised most. Fast forward, through a competitive high school and college track career, I discovered a passion for running along the way. I’ve trained for everything from 800m to the 5k and I’ve even trained for steeplechase and 400m hurdles! In just a week’s time I’ll find myself lining up for a new distance – the Chicago Marathon!
Marathon training can be a roller coaster with ups and downs and twists and turns, but I’ve met a lot of wonderful people throughout my running journey who have helped me along the way. As a true student of the sport, I’ve asked countless questions to various coaches that were not only knowledgeable but willing to answer anything I threw at them. I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned over the years and help lead workouts for other athletes training for the marathon and even coach athletes in various distances. And this year it’s my turn. I’ve seen what it takes to train for a marathon by pacing others and now I am applying that to my own training. The realization that I crossed paths with so many other people along the way, whether they helped me or I helped them, motivates me to put my best foot forward throughout my training, and soon, on race day.
Training for the Long One
No matter how experienced the runner is, we all get nervous and have our good and bad days. One of my toughest runs so far was my long run three weeks out, arguably one of the most important long runs of the training cycle. I attempted to run a two day stack of 26 miles within 24 hours (see Brendan’s blog explaining why he likes stack days), which would’ve been my biggest volume weekend before my taper. Day 1 was a six mile run with no problems and day 2 was supposed to be 20 miles. I just didn’t have it in me to finish. I fell short finishing just under 12 miles. My legs & energy just weren’t there.. It was disappointing to say the least, but after calling it short and taking a day off, I went into one of my most consistent and strongest weeks of training ever. Way to build back that confidence!
It’s easy to get caught up on how individual runs go, or the massive amount of data our watches can produce, or even comparing ourselves to others, but the most reliable fallback for any runner is our individual consistency. Consistent hard work paired with an emphasis on rest and recovery is the key to improving in any discipline and running is no exception. Marathon training isn’t built in a day so taking the time to appreciate the individual “bricks” that go into our race day performance along the way can carry us to our finish line. I’m thankful for my family, my friends, and everyone I’ve shared miles with who got me here and I look forward to showing what I’ve got on race day!