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How to Run a Marathon by the Way You Feel

Today, I ran the Twin Cities Marathon, which is also the USATF Master’s National Marathon Championships. This was a big goal for me this year. At the same time, I recently was attacked by a dog while out running and after that, I wasn’t sure where I stood as far as pace.

Due to the stitches from the bite on my leg, I had to take almost two weeks off right in the middle of my race prep phase of training. It was quite hard on my body to completely stop running after putting in 105-107 miles per week throughout the training cycle. After that, I had one week of training left, and then I was supposed to taper (cut down mileage as the race approaches to rest the body).

It was even harder to come back to running after a dog took a bit of my shin away. I had also lost around 5 lbs of lean mass. “Lean mass” doesn’t just mean muscle, according to a bodyfat scale, which actually gauges water content in the muscle. The body stores carbohydrate for longer runs, as well as associated water. This is something that builds up over weeks of marathon build training. You can see this gradual buildup in the graph of my lean mass below, as well as the steep decline after the dog bite. The time window was too short to be able to regain this upon my return.  And I definitely felt this in training.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.22.44

Before the race, I was able to meet awesome runner and 3:05 pace group leader Harvey Lewis, who is associated with, “Pain by Numbers,” a running club I used to regularly run with in Cincinnati. Upon talking to him, he suggested I run just to enjoy it. This thought stuck in my head.

A couple miles into the run, it was not feeling right. So I decided instead to run by feel and, as Harvey said, enjoy the run. Even with this strategy, the hills hit me in the late miles. I felt the missing training time, carbohydrate storage and lean mass. Honestly, I do not know if I could have finished the race, had I not run the earlier portion of the race “by feel.”

My original goal before I was bitten by the dog based on my training times was a 3:12 or faster. After being bitten, I was confounded by trying to come back as well as unsuccessfully having changed to a Garmin Fenix 3 GPS watch. It was giving me inconsistent times. I guessed that I would run a 3:15-3:25 at this point.

Today after deciding I would just enjoy the run, I ignored my GPS buzzing at me and just ran a 3:29. My heart rate stayed low, around 144 average, just above a zone 2 long training run. After the race my Garmin said it would only take just over a day and a half to recover. Still, I felt that was what I had given the circumstances, and I refused to criticize myself. Sometimes, it’s best to be happy just to be able to run.

Later, I noticed a cough I developed during the day had become worse and I felt feverish. I knew something was off when I started the marathon. Had I not run by feel and slowed it down versus forcing myself to use a pre-prescribed pace, I do not know how much sicker I would be right now.

A book I’ve been listening to lately by Dr. David Burns speaks about perfectionism. How often do you push yourself to achieve and get angry if you don’t perfectly meet the goal no matter what? If this is repeated, it can lead to dissatisfaction in many areas in life. It is a choice to instead be flexible, and be happy with what is. Running by feel is similar to living by feel. Are there areas in your life in which you could be more flexible? Would this lead to increased happiness and satisfaction in your life?



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