A lot has been on my mind lately regarding the Richmond Marathon. Perhaps because it's only 6 days away now?!! For one, I cannot believe this is my 4th marathon (+) distance for the year (Holiday Lake 50k, Rock n' Roll USA Marathon, Eastern Divide 50k, and now Richmond). For someone who used to shutter at the thought of running more than 10 miles, it's quite a cool feeling!
Training for Richmond has not exactly gone according to plan. I kicked off the training cycle with the Eastern Divide 50k. It was the middle of the summer and HOT. I had high ambitions of redeeming myself from my disappointment at Rock n' Roll in the spring, and was bound and determined that I would finally get the Boston qualification I've been striving for. But my life (and body) had other plans. I had trouble adapting to the summer heat, was traveling for work most weekends and my life was full of uncertainty concerning full-time jobs and where we would be living by the fall. When I was finally honest with myself, I realized I was burnt out. It became apparent that I was expecting too much and needed to take a break. In the past I have faced this same situation, except I relentlessly pushed forward and suffered major consequences. I was not willing to go down that road again.
Throughout August Jordan and I were essentially living on the road. Early September finally brought the stability I had been craving: We moved to Blacksburg and my husband took his first job as a physical therapist! Before I had realized it though, I had taken 6-8 weeks off from any structured running. Richmond had been the last thing on my mind, yet the time had come for me to decide whether or not I would run it, switch to the half marathon, or defer until 2013. I wanted to settle for the most comfortable option by switching to the half marathon, but my husband, being the motivating, affirming and crazy person that he is said, "I think if you start training for the marathon now you'll go into the race fresh and not overtrained." Wise words, but I didn't want to listen to him because such an idea was outside my comfort zone. In the past, I've lived in a world of black or white-- either I was well trained and would do the race, or I was not prepared and would not.
Long story short, I decided to start training towards the marathon but with the intention of building a base for a strong marathon performance come spring 2013. And this is still my intention. In the past 8 weeks, I have covered long runs of 14, 16, 18, and 21 miles. Some runs have felt effortless and many have been a struggle. Regardless, I am grateful for how quickly my body has regained the fitness I worked so hard to attain this past spring. I am no where near the shape I was going into the Rock n' Roll Marathon, but my love for running and the willingness to push myself to new limits has returned.
As I said, Richmond is now 6 days away. Though I am not as prepared as I'd like to be, I am excited to race and blessed for the opportunity to do so. Running is a gift -- it brings me happiness each day, leaves me with a feeling of accomplishment, helps to relieve stress and is a source of camaraderie between so many people. My dad, who is 63 and running the Philadelphia Marathon in two weeks, is running the best that he has in years. Countless friends will be running Richmond as their first marathon. My husband will be running one of his favorite races, the Hellgate 100k, in early December. These things also make me happy. Finally, reading all the stories about the NYC Marathon cancellation and the people who either ran on their own or volunteered on Staten Island has reminded me that running and racing is not just about me, or winning, or hitting a specific time. It's the journey that matters most. It's about believing in yourself and others, community, health, setting a positive example, striving for something great and learning about yourself in the process.
Unlike my previous two marathons, my plan for Richmond is not to strive for a stellar performance. I have no intentions of qualifying for Boston, or even setting a PR. This sort of pressure has not faired too well in the past -- I get over-ambitious and go out to fast, bonk, then look back on my race with disappointment. I have time goals for Richmond- I would love to be in the 3:40-3:50 range, but my main goal is to go out and have fun, run a conservative race, and stay strong through the final 6-8 miles. I plan to look for as many familiar faces as I can find, offer up encouragement to others, and sit back and remember why I love running. Who knows... maybe I'll even enjoy a treat at one of party aid stations. I want to get the full experience of racing in America's Friendliest Marathon!
For everyone else racing in Richmond this weekend, see you out there and good luck! When the race gets tough, I hope you will dig deep and remember all the reasons why you love to run.
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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