The first week of training for a distance race is the easiest and the hardest. It’s the easiest because your motivation level is high, and because the mileage is not. It’s the hardest because it requires you to jar your brain and your body back into training mode. Depending on how long it’s been since your last training cycle, this can be quite the rude awakening.
I experienced this firsthand on Sunday morning, when I woke up at 6:30 a.m.to meet my running buddies for the first long run of my Virginia Beach Half-Marathon training. I’d gone to bed plenty early, and had enjoyed a chill night of homemade pizza on the couch rather than going out—basically, my pre-race strategy. Still, I was dragging to the extent that, had my buddies not been waiting for me, I would have skipped the run and headed back to bed.
The last time (post-wrist surgery) I attempted anything longer than a 10K was back in May, when a few of us ran eight miles to NoMa, an up-and-coming neighborhood near Union Station, on the Metropolitan Branch Trail. I was reporting a story about the neighborhood for The Washington Post’s Real Estate section, and I convinced the group to run there with the promise of a Nutella latte at a neighborhood coffee shop. The Nutella latte ended up being my sole motivation to finish—the last miles were really, really rough.
Last weekend, the story about NoMa ran, and so did I.
My training plan called for an eight-miler, so I ran the first four miles with my running buddies on the Capital Crescent Trail, then turned around to run the last four miles on my own. Things got ugly there at the end—turns out 8:45-minute miles for the first four miles felt like a jog thanks to a gradual downhill, which turned into a gradual uphill on the way back. But I finished, which is all that matters for those early long runs. My brain will remember that for next week, when I’m supposed to run the first of three 10-milers (we’ll see about that … ).
Today, I’m motivated by the fact that one week in, I already feel like I’m in better shape. I’m already adopting all the other healthy habits that make training easier (more sleep and spinach, fewer refills on the sangria). I’m even daring to dream of some fall marathons, including the Philadelphia Marathon Nov. 21; the Steamtown Marathon Oct. 10; the North Central Trail Marathon on Nov. 2.
But first, I’ve got week 2 of half-marathon training, which I’m hoping will feel like far less of a rude awakening now that week 1 is done.
What’s motivating you this week?