Collapsing on a grassy patch, drenched in sweat, I lay on the ground with my eyes closed and arms outstretched. Mumford and Sons played on my iPhone a few feet away after my adopted marathon anthems motivated me up a hill and through the final half mile to my parked truck.
This was the conclusion: the last true long run before the St. George Marathon, now 4 weeks away.
A slight breeze offered little relief from the suffocating humidity, intensified by the surrounding corn fields, and the September sun offering up 80-degree heat. It was not quite 11 a.m. We had started 3 hours earlier with no plans of bailing.
More than 3 months of running every day had built my fitness, which offered the only buffer to the difficult training conditions. And mentally, overcoming the heat and humidity from the past few months could bring added benefits if race day conditions allow for a fast marathon.
Over August and September, my friend Maggie and I have made bi-weekly trips to southeast Clay County to run the hilly gravel roads. It’s much easier to commit and complete the various loops on these roads, a longtime staple for my marathon training, with good company.
A fitting end
Last Monday marked the conclusion of my consecutive days running in the buildup for St. George. Last year, my streak took me almost entirely up to the start of the New York City Marathon, and proved to be an effective way — by playing on my strengths and habits as a runner — to train.
In 2014, the streak proved therapeutic in overcoming 18 months of inconsistent training and injuries. Running 103 days straight, more than 5 times longer than anything I’d previously done, doesn’t offer much chance at recovery. Most coaches wouldn’t recommend it.
But I learned some valuable lessons about myself along the way. Even without rest days, I went into the New York marathon feeling stronger than I recalled for any previous marathon.
This year, the streak didn’t start intentionally. A week after running Fargo’s half marathon in May, I went for a short run and decided to just keep running every day.
The streak’s end, though, did come with deliberate intention: a 15-mile run on the 15th anniversary of losing my mom. It was a tribute run, and offered a chance to feel comfortable with rest days built into the weeks leading up to St. George. Those 15 miles left my legs feeling scorched, and joining Rachel and Dave assured that I’d get in each symbolic mile.
Below is a closer look at this year’s streak.
Consecutive running days: 107
Fewest daily miles: 4.03
Most daily miles: 20.65
Total miles: 759.82
Average daily miles: 7.10
Other notable facts about training
Biggest monthly mileage: 272 in August (second only to 287 in September 2014)
Weight loss: 19 pounds
Races: Dewey Duathlon, Red River 10K, Average Joe Triathlon
The last push
With 4 weeks remaining before St. George, my training is going to take on a different approach. After 8 long runs, and months of running every day, my focus will be developing a little bit of speed heading into the marathon.
In early June, during a speed training session, an injury nearly sidelined my efforts for St. George. The focus turned to mileage rather than speed.
Fully recovered, and a strong endurance base, I’m building in some rest days and speed days. And, of course, another staple for marathoning success: a tune-up race.
Last year, I used the Wild Hog Half Marathon in Grand Forks as a primer for New York. But, this year, my fall race comes just one week after the Grand Forks event, and the two are too close together. Instead, I’m helping out with the Wild Hog and hoping to help others have a great time.
Next weekend I’ll be lining up for the Dick Beardsley Half Marathon in Detroit Lakes.
Both are premier “can’t miss” fall events, having become a favorite for area runners, and offer great environments for either a goal race or tune-up for a fall marathon.