Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I Need Your Advice: Should I Run a Spring Marathon?

I’ve been mulling something for a while now, and I haven’t gotten any closer to an answer: Should I commit to running a spring marathon?

Dan and I would finally do 26.2 together!
At least one friend is running the New Jersey Marathon, which is the race I ran in 2014. It’s near my house, it’s a reasonably well-organized race, and it’s neither too big nor too small. It’s also very scenic, with most of the course along the Jersey Shore. And running close to home means my friends and family can come out and cheer me on.

In all, I had a positive experience last year, and if I'm going to do it, this is the race for me.

But I can't make up my mind. And there are a few reasons why. Maybe you can help me out.

The Time Commitment
The big lesson I took away from training for the marathon last time is that running is the easiest part of the whole shebang. It's all the other stuff that's hard:
  • There were many nights when I was so tired I was in bed before 9:00.
  • At least one full day of the weekend was consumed by a long run and then recovering from the long run.
  • I didn't get to see enough friends and family -- partly because I was so busy, and partly because I needed to make sure I was getting enough rest and not screwing up with late nights out drinking.
  • Some chores just went by the wayside. There just wasn't enough time and energy for everything.
The flip side is that, having one marathon under my belt, I should have a better idea of how I need to manage my time. I've gotten ruthlessly efficient in preparing my gear for morning runs. I have a better sense of how to schedule the rest of my life around running. And I'm hoping that now that I don't have to get any kids onto the school bus, I have a little more flexibility.

The Mental Drain
When you're training for a marathon, you're doing one of three things:
  • Sleeping
  • Running
  • Thinking about running
It's hard to focus on work, family life, chores, etc. And you really get to be a drag with the people in your life, because it's all you want to talk about. "I hope that twinge in my knee isn't serious." "I ran negative splits the last four miles." "I have 400 repeats planned for tomorrow." God, what a bore.

But again, there's a flip side that comes with experience: I should be better able to compartmentalize. Training for a first marathon is a journey of discovery. But many of those lessons are already learned. I know a lot more about my body and the signs of injury or illness. I have a stronger sense of pacing and what I'm capable of, so I don't need to obsess over that. And probably biggest of all, I know I can do it, which will save me a lot of tossing and turning in bed.

Is a Marathon My Goal Right Now?

This is the aspect of the issue that's weighing heaviest on me. In the past six months, I've started making some real progress in the gym. I feel stronger, I look leaner and I've actually lost some very stubborn weight.

But I know that if I commit to marathon training, I'm going to have to scale back my resistance training.
  • There's just not enough time to fit everything in.
  • Even on days when I have time for lifting, I may not have the energy.
  • As a runner, I definitely want to avoid hypertrophy -- in other words, marathon training and bulking up don't mix.
With the winter months arriving, many lifters are going into bulking mode. They're eating more in an effort to put on size. But if I'm going to race, I don't want to do that. With a May 1st race date, I've probably passed the point at which I can unring the bell. So I have to choose.

So What Do You Think?
There is no question that completing a marathon is the single most challenging physical accomplishment of my life, and the feeling of pride I still get from having done it is huge. And I would love to see if I can improve on my time. 

On the other hand, I've gotten to a really good place with my fitness regimen, and I'm not sure I want to give that up right now to commit to four months of arduous, specific training. I will have to sacrifice some of my strength goals to get ready for the race, because I just won't have the time and energy to focus on both.

Also, I didn't mention the weather. Training for a spring marathon means a lot of winter miles -- which can mean a lot of treadmill work. Total drag.

And of course, I can't discount the strain -- on both me and the people around me. It's a big commitment, and not something you can take lightly. Am I really willing to sign on for that?

So I'm asking all you Regular Guys out there your opinion. Should I do it? Should I sign up for the marathon?

Let me know what you think in the comments, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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