Training for a Real or Metaphorical Marathon

Shannon Wilkinson at the start of the 40th Annual Portland MarathonI’ve started training in earnest for the Portland Marathon in October. (Not to mention a climb of Mt. Whitney a couple weeks before it. I might actually be crazy.)

As I’m planning my training, I’ve been thinking about what worked last year, and what will help me feel successful this year.

The practical side is pretty easy.

I’m learning ChiRunning and they have a book and online marathon training program. I’m using that, and structuring the runs according to the principles I learned last year from Run Less Run Faster (which I originally typed as Fun Laster!).

Between these two programs I have all the training runs I need to do between now and October on the calendar.

But what keeps me going.

Last year, I was inspired by raising money for the fight against lymphoma, a cancer that has touched a number of people dear to me. I was inspired because it was my first marathon (and only my second running race). I was inspired by the thirty-some people who donated on my behalf, and all the people that cheered me on during the race both virtually and in person.

This year, I’m not participating in the Team in Training program, so it’s even more important for me to be really clear about why I want to do this. What’s really going to inspire me to keep training over nearly five months, and to keep running for about four hours.

That picture needs to be big and powerful and compelling, full of the emotions and qualities I’ll need to stick with it and feel good about it.

That picture is starting to form, and it’s getting clearer every day. And that’s one of the tricks, staying in touch with it, and building it on the days you feel especially inspired and letting it carry you through the days that you don’t. There will be those days.

This isn’t just for running.

What I’m setting up for myself to successfully train for the marathon uses the same principles I’ve followed for every other long-term project or big goal I’ve wanted to accomplish. It’s how I started my first business. It’s how I became a coach. It’s how I climbed Mt. Hood.

Here are the basic things to keep in mind:

  • Know your goal – understand why it really matters to you
  • Create and follow a plan – it doesn’t have to be elaborate, but knowing what you need to do really helps
  • Build a base at the beginning – keep it small and doable as you gain experience and build new habits
  • Intensify over time, as your skills improve – challenge yourself to steer clear of ruts
  • Cut yourself slack, you aren’t going to be able to do every single step perfectly – know that, be okay with it and keep going
  • Enlist the help of other people – don’t underestimate the power of having people in your corner

Photo Fun: Can you spot me in the picture? (Here’s a hint, I’m wearing purple.)


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