I just finished my marathon for January. I've been having some aches in my heel and leg lately, so it took a little bit longer than usual. It took 14 days, about 7 1/2 hours total.
Hitting the finish line in Annapolis
In past months, I have been down to 13 days; getting to 11 days would be great. In hours, I'm off of a record time by about 5 hours. The Women's marathon record was set in 2003 - 2 hours, 15 minutes on one day at the London Marathon. Granted, the record-holder and most marathoners run the race all at one time, but I figure 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles anyway you put it together so I've allowed myself a month. Why rush?
I've started running 5Ks (all 5 of the Ks sequentially) and wanted to challenge myself to get in more running - for the races, for general physical fitness, to combat all the M&Ms and chocolate cake I consume. In an online fitness group, I noticed a few of the runners planning for marathons, so many per year or collecting a race from every state - some kind of goal like that. I decided I would do that, too - a marathon per month.
At first, it sounded like an easy enough challenge - surely, I do that with my "run 3 times per week" plan. In the first month I kept track, I realized that not only did I not run a dozen times, I didn't come close to 26 miles. The problem with the "3 times per week" plan? If I get busy at the beginning of the week and don't run until Friday, I figured what's the point of running on Saturday? In this structure, there was no way to catch up. Additionally, "run" was not defined. Did that mean a 15-minute mile for 15 minutes or a 10-minute mile for an hour? I could basically make anything count.
The goal-setting experts suggest you make your goals structured, achievable, and measurable. For instance, "I'm gonna run" is not a goal. (Neither, by the way, is "I'm going to eat better," "One day I'm going back to school," or "I'll get right before Jesus comes.") But, "I'm going to run 26.2 miles within 30 days" is.
Marathon-length is definitely measurable, and within 30 days was achievable. At the end of the month, there's no question whether I met my goal or not - I either made it 26.2m or I didn't. I keep track every time I get on the treadmill, run around the track or down the street. As they say, "what gets measured, gets done."
Because I count all the pieces of the miles, I've found ways to fit it into my schedule. When I feel like I don't have time to exercise, I remind myself that I could easily trade some other mindless, unproductive task and run a mile. On days I'd rather sit and do nothing, I've run down the street. While my kids are at sports lessons at the gym or at chorus practice at school, instead of waiting around eating chips, I've run. I count every mile, half mile, every tenth. I also try to improve my pace so that I'm pushing myself to get better.
Running has lead me to some interesting experiences and something I've rarely ever done - running and exercising on vacation (even before the marathon goal)! Crazy, right? In totaling up my miles, I've run on both coasts - across the Golden Gate Bridge, up the hills of San Francisco, and along the beach of Maryland's Eastern Shore. And I can even count some European miles - past Big Ben and along a Spanish nude beach (ha ha!) What a great way to sight-see!
My normal runs, however allow me about 20-30 minutes a day in which I cannot multi-task, cannot answer emails or fold laundry, cannot talk on the phone. In other words - a few minutes to focus solely on me and the task at hand. I can actually think. Wow. That in itself is a good goal.
What goals have you set for yourself? What "marathon" do you want to finish?