As I was responding to an email from a friend who was interested in getting into running and training for a race, I realized how much knowledge I’ve accumulated over the past 6 years of running. It is really crazy what we did the first round of training and what we have learned over the cycles. I decided to write a letter to myself before I ran my first marathon – Nike Women’s in San Francisco – in 2005.
Dear Kerry (circa 2005),
First, congrats on signing up for a marathon, but do you even know how far a marathon is? Didn’t think so. Rather, did you know that the one you signed up for was in San Francisco with some of the hilliest streets in America? Good job on doing your research. You will realize in the future that you will look up terrain and location, paying close attention to inclines, and the type of terrain you are running on.
Had you set a goal for yourself? Oh, right, just to finish. Well you will, but a lot of the time spent running your first race will be spent talking about how you cannot, how you should have ran more, ran faster, not skipped workouts especially critical long runs. Remember that for your other races, because there will be others despite what you will tell yourself during the race that there is no way you will do one again, to train smart. In fact, invest in a running group to train for your next marathon. You will find that all the negative self-talk you do to yourself will be replaced with teammates words of encouragement.
Cotton shirts are not what you run in, honey. Although you trained during cross country in high school in cotton t-shirts, they will not help you when you are running three times the distance that you ever imagined doing in high school. Once you ditch cotton shirts, you will need to set a budget for yourself so that you do not buy-out Nike or lululemon or Sports Basement. In fact, while we are talking about money, set a whole budget for running. The races that you will want to participate in are not cheap and you will find yourself dropping $80-100 on a half marathon often and $100 for new sneakers to make sure you are supported properly.
Speaking of support, take care of the girls and get yourself some good sports bras. Again if you ran in them in HS, they do not cut it any more. In fact, get your shoes replaced. I’m pretty sure your shoes aren’t even meant for running. You will learn what different forms of pronation mean and how a shoe can support or hinder your form.
Take care of yourself not only with running. Imbalances and overuse lead to injuries. Lift some weights, work the core and vary your cross training.
When you finish that marathon, you will realize that your time is only a number and that there will always always be someonewho ran faster or further. You will soon appreciate the fact that you will see improvements in how well YOU perform and that will be the only thing that will matter to you. You will accumulate medals and race bibs that you will not know what to do with! However, each will have a memory, moment that is photographed in your mind that will help you dig deep when you pursue your next endeavor.
Don’t let someone who has run more than you be intimidating. Don’t intimidate someone who is just starting.
What you will realize is that a passion of yours will be to encourage others to be the best they can be physically and mentally. You won’t go on to medical school like you planned in a few years. Instead, the life you will create for yourself will be full of tough choices, lots of miles, and changes of courses that will ultimately lead you to a much more happier place.
Kerry (circa 2011)