“Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction.” – William James’ quote reportedly used by ultrarunner Scott Jurek to sign off emails
With the Chicago Marathon looming, I have been spending some of my free time at night looking for some inspiration. One of the best books I’ve read is “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, whose descriptive account of ultrarunning provides plenty of inspiration. For Grandma’s Marathon, I adopted the “easy, light, smooth” mantra to push through discomfort of running hard for 3-plus hours.
The above quote by William James, repeated in McDougall’s book, doesn’t quite work as an easy-to-remember mantra, but I am looking for a new source of strength for this marathon as training winds down. There’s a fine line between pushing oneself too far, and straddling the edge of our limits. Pushing ourselves to the breaking point, and backing off just a little, can help us break through plateaus and reach new limits.
That’s why this training cycle has been difficult to gauge. In many ways, I don’t feel ready for the marathon. An injury has forced me to play it a bit safe. But the second time using this training program also has me wondering if I’ve adapted more to the workload, which hasn’t seemed as difficult this time.
Last year, in my buildup to the Twin Cities Marathon, it felt like some one pulled back the layers of skin and used a vegetable peeler on my hamstrings. My legs burned all the time – and prompted me to take more days off. I chalked it up to continually training hard for marathons with little more than a few days off.
This year, though, I haven’t experienced anything like it, despite running far more miles. My legs felt fresh in the days leading up to Grandma’s Marathon – and they still feel good now. Finding myself in the dangerous taper zone, I feel like running more miles – not less. But that’s exactly where I want to be heading into a marathon – exercising restraint and resisting the urge to run too much will leave me amped on race day.
Up way too early this morning, Riley and I headed out before 4:30 a.m. It turned out to be a perfect morning – 49 degrees and a light wind – for a run. It was eerily quiet, but I found an extra gear this morning for another dozen surges. The training program allowed me to skip the speed workout, but that really wasn’t an option once I stepped out the door under a clear, star-filled sky. With a little more than 6 miles under my belt, it felt good to speed along the streets alone.