Written by Natalie Ziemba, Denver Rescue Mission Intern
Running the Colfax Marathon means months of training with ample opportunities to get sick, injured and time to change my mind! So before I actually completed my marathon registration and paid the fee, I made sure that I really wanted to run 26.2 miles.
My training began. My first training day was kicked off with a successful 10 mile run. Knowing I could do that, I went and registered for the marathon.
After a few weeks of training, I upped the mileage to 12 miles, and I realized that it takes a lot of effort to maintain motion like that for so long. My arms were really tired after being held at my sides for two hours, so I added weights into my work-out routine.
When I hit my 14 mile training run, I noticed the culmination of my training. I had run one half-marathon previously, and 14 miles marked the farthest I had ever run in my life. Staying hydrated, building all my muscles and gradually cultivating endurance and stamina worked in my favor. I managed to run 14 miles without hitting the figurative wall, like I had in my half marathon. Exhilarating doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling – I felt I could easily run for days, and the marathon would be no problem!
At 16 miles, I found my training partner, George. I’m always hesitant to run with other people because it changes the dynamic of running, affects my stride and breathing, and adds general complexity to the whole endeavor. But it also adds entertainment, motivation and companionship. George encouraged me, I encouraged him and we ended our run feeling collectively excited about future opportunities.
Unfortunately, I also got a killer blister during my 16 mile run. I’ve learned from past experiences that you CANNOT run with a blister – you have to wait for it to heal. This blister was so bad that I could hardly walk for days (I should have taken pictures, it was really gross!). After a week, the blister was still there, but I knew I had to do something or give up on the marathon and all the training I had built up. I stuck to a bike for the next week, and then tried running again with George for our Saturday morning run.
I had planned a 4-mile route for us, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to go far. At the end of the 4 miles, I told George I couldn’t go any farther. He wanted to keep going and I told him he should. “Anything is better than 4 miles,” I told him. “And 4 miles is better than nothing,” was his response. Even though I was feeling discouraged, George supported my efforts and unfailingly believed in my ability to complete the marathon.
This past weekend marked my biggest undertaking yet – 20 miles – the longest training run on my schedule before the marathon. And I was doing it alone. I started at 5:30 in the morning, just as the sun was starting to peak over the horizon. When I really hit my stride and running was effortless, I looked around and saw how gloriously beautiful the Rocky Mountains were and could truly revel in the strength and ability of my body. When the running was not so easy, it was all I could do to look ten feet in front of me and set mini-goals for completing my run. My favorite part in every run is when I pass my previous record. I always think to myself, “Every step from here on out marks the farthest I have ever gone.” It is continual improvement and achievement. Jumping from 16 miles to 20 miles gave me a lot of opportunity to say that, but it also gave me a lot of opportunity to say, “It hurts too much to stop.” Every slight variation in pressure I felt in my shoes gave me a moment of panic. If I had to stop and re-tie my shoes, I would never be able to start running again, and I was miles away from my ending point.
By the time I finished, I felt physically exhausted, but still stronger than I expected. A short cool-down walk was followed by a cold bath to help my muscles relax – although I apparently didn’t sit there long enough because it still hurts to walk! However, the soreness is only minor compared to the determination, anticipation and excitement I feel for the 26.2 miles I’ll be facing in three weeks!