By Gary Brimmer
For many runners autumn brings running a fall marathon. The weather for fall marathons is crisp and clear. Race morning brings that bite in the air as one takes those nervous breaths prior to hearing the gun go off, sending them on their way to hopefully a successful 26.2 miles of hell!!
But the results of a fall marathon be they good or bad, depend on what one did or didn’t do in the months leading up to that race. Each runner, if he or she properly prepared for their marathon put in hundreds of miles of specific training, probably went thru 2-3 pairs of training shoes, and drank gallons of water and Heed in the months leading up to race day.
The first step a marathoner makes is simply to make the decision to run the marathon. For a fall marathon it’s usually made sometime in early spring. They sit down and either make a training schedule themselves or, in the case of my athletes, have their coach send them their workouts. These training schedules, whether they are self made or done by a coach, are a form of a contract, a contract with nobody but themselves.
The schedule complete, the fun part begins. Early in the schedule the training is easy, relaxed, the calm before the storm. The early spring thru early summer weather is bearable. No realy hard workouts, just long easy mileage with some quick turnover work on the track. But somewhere around late June early July things start getting ugly. Not only do the workouts start to become more challenging, but the temps start to rise, along with the humidity. But, the strange thing is, as the training becomes more difficult, due to increased mileage and longer intervals, the body starts to harden. One will go to the track, almost in fear, body feeling tired, muscles sore, mind numb. The warm-up is a chore, but the marathoner works thru it, the strides start out to be forced, but the snap slowly comes back to the legs. The marathoner steps on the track for that first of what will feel like way too many 1000 meter or mile repeats. Off they go getting that first one out of the way. As the marathoner hits the first turn something happens, the body relaxes, the legs start to feel springy, the breathing effortless. The first interval complete, the marathoner looks at the split and sees that the time was right on the mark of what the workout called for. It stays that way for not only the workout, but for each of the training runs, sluggish at first but almost out of nowhere, the workout simply “flows”.
Not all the training runs are effortless; there will be plenty of runs that challenge the resolve of the marathoner. Plenty of long runs in the summer heat that melt the excess weight off the body of the marathoner. Plenty of early morning runs done in an attempt to beat the July and August heat, so many in fact that many times the marathoner will actually wake up 2 miles into a morning run! There will be aches and pains along the way. Knees will ache, hamstrings and calves will cramp up in the middle of the night. But, despite all this, the alarm clock will go off and out the door the marathoner heads.
But the best thing off all takes place sometime around middle to late September. The marathoner will be in the middle of a 20+ mile training run and IT will happen, out of nowhere, IT appears, unannounced, unseen, and totally by surprise. The IT is the smell of a fall marathon. The marathoner will simply smell the early morning air and the fragrance will be the calling of the marathon. If one has never trained for a marathon, the concept is foreign and can not be explained.
Summer turns to Autumn and the morning weather starts to cooperate. Recovery runs are done in long sleeves, shorts, and gloves! Each run seems effortless, miles fly by. The hard work is complete. The last long run is done and the marathoner doesn’t know what how to feel. Weeks earlier there was a dread at the start of what felt like endless 20 milers. Now with the last one in the bank, the questions start to creep in. “Did I do enough?”, “Will that one day on the track where I only did six 1000 meter repeats instead of eight come pack to hurt me?” But in the back of the mind the thought is clear, the work is done, now comes the taper!
The taper is actually the hardest portion for the marathoner, after weeks, even months of scores of 8 mile recovery runs and endless mile repeats, the marathoner feels guilty about heading out the door for “just” a 6 miler. But the belief and confidence in the training program override the desire to do more. All that is left is to toe the line.
So there they are, in the early stage of the race. In pursuit of the goal, be it to simply finish, break 3:00, qualify for Boston, or even the Olympic Trials. There will be rough spots in the marathon, just like in the months of training leading up to the marathon. There are no promises; the marathon can be a tyrant. But, trained right, discipline instilled, mileage done when nobody is looking the marathoner will reach the goal.
“Throwing up after a hard run is just your body’s way of telling you that you ran well.” – Gary Brimmer