MensJournal.com Senior Editor Mike Conklin is running his first marathon, the Rock 'n' Roll DC Marathon, on March 11, 2017, and he's documenting his training here with weekly posts. Here's last week's. You can also follow him on Twitter.
After last week’s installment of this column, with its half-jokey headline and smattering of real-talk about the struggles of marathon training, I had some conversations with family members and readers alike that led me to believe I may have been coming off as a bit unhinged. And while, yes, it is true that some days can feel somewhat… bleak, I’m also trying my best to remain aware of what a privilege it is that I actually get to run aimlessly around for hours at a time — that I’m healthy enough, that my wife is tolerant of all the time I spend away from the house, and of all the times I just randomly fall asleep, which is happening more and more frequently lately.
Running is boring and lonely, not to mention physically grueling, but as a person who’s no stranger to becoming wildly obsessed with new hobbies — record collecting, researching audio gear, shopping for high-end watches I can’t actually afford — I can also say without question that it’s by far the most rewarding pursuit I’ve ever embarked on. I feel like I get to hold my head a bit higher on those days when I wake up super early to get a run in; I wear my soreness like an invisible badge of honor, and I experience a perhaps strange amount of pride every time I switch to seltzer instead of opening another beer at night, even though I probably shouldn't have to "switch" in the first place. Plus, who am I kidding? Coming ever so slightly unhinged is part of the fun.
Speaking of which…
If you’ve read these posts before, you know that Sundays are my normal long run days, and the official start to my training week. But since last Sunday was Christmas, I switched things around and set out on what was supposed to be a 12-mile-long run on the morning of Christmas Eve. The weather was rotten — a steady, sometimes strong rain fell from the moment I walked out my front door until I finally gave up at 10.5 miles a couple hours later. This was by far my most challenging run yet — my feet were soaked, my face was freezing, and my phone died about seven miles, leaving me with no podcasts, no music, nothing — and certainly no company out there on the road. I mentioned this last week, but at one point I found myself sitting on the ground under an overpass on the side of a busy highway. It felt crazy and, at the time, altogether unpleasant, one of those moments where you really question just what the hell you’re doing out there. But in retrospect? The whole thing felt pretty badass.
No running, just beer. And presents. Check out this awesome coffee mug my wife bought me.
Oh God, nothing again. Pretty sure I spent most of the day walking down from my apartment to the garbage to throw out the endless stream of cardboard boxes and plastic that held all the toys my kids kept making us open for them.
Got back out there for four “as you feel” miles, meaning I was supposed to run without looking at my watch, at whatever pace felt natural, which I am physically incapable of doing. I snuck a few peeks throughout, but tried not to obsess the way I’m prone to, and I wound up at 9:05/mile pace, with negative splits throughout. I never quite felt settled in, and my legs were feeling kinda dead. The holidays were maybe starting to catch up with me.
Remember that time I said I was gonna find a strength routine and really stick to it because I know it’s one of the most important aspects of training for a marathon?
Right, well, that hasn’t happened yet. (Keep making jokes about it, idiot, and then see how you feel at mile 20 come March 11.)
On the schedule for today was a hill workout, but nothing too specific — I was just supposed to find some hills to tackle in the middle of a six-mile run. The key was to maintain a solid effort after each hill, to acquaint the body with how it might feel during hillier portions of the marathon itself. I ran a mile warm-up and then ran back and forth, up and down a couple big hills near my apartment for about two and a half miles, then did another mile and a half as a regular run for a total of five. I never know how big the hills are supposed to be for workouts like this, but I definitely feel like this workout served its intended purpose.
Not a whole lot to report on this one — five regular miles on a cold, unpleasant morning on a path that has become my home away from home. I read so much about marathon training these days, and I’ve seen a lot of people say every workout should have a clear purpose — I have to admit that this one felt aimless. Then again, I’ve also seen lots of people say how important it is to just be out there on your feet piling on the miles whenever possible, so… we’ll go with that.
Week 6 at a Glance…
Total Miles on the Schedule: 27-30
Total Miles Completed: 24.5. Close, but not quite.
Skipped Workouts: None, technically, but I cheated here and there on a couple.
High point: Though I've now written about it twice and inadvertently given you guys the impression that it caused me to lose my mind, the whole hiding under the overpass thing was pretty funny. And, again, even though I came up a little short on my long run (I really need to stop doing that), I felt pretty good about myself for accomplishing what I did, given the circumstances.
Low Point: The feeling of aimlessness that took hold toward the end of the week wasn't all that enjoyable.
Key Piece of Gear: This week's MVP is an absolute no-brainer: On my rainy 10.5-mile long run, I wore the Brooks Cascadia jacket, and I cannot say enough about how it performed. After an hour and forty-five minutes in heavy winds and a driving rain, I remained perfectly warm and perfectly dry — as did my phone. At $260, it ain't cheap, but I've been seeing it on sale quite a bit lately. Take a peek around, and I'm sure you will too.
Next week: 28–32 miles with a 13-mile long run that I may or may not have already skipped, which may or may not be causing me debilitating anxiety.
For more info about the United Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington DC Marathon, follow them on Twitter or Facebook, and to join in the conversation, use the hashtag #RNRDC. And if you want to sign up to join me on March 11, use the code RUNNINGDC to get $15 off your race fee.