18 Weeks Later

For some reason, tonight I find myself practically at the end of many months of marathon training, before my 21st birthday has even hit, and I’m living in Florence, to boot. This is surprising to me because I’ve always been the sort of take-a-jog-along-the-trails or around-the-park kind of girl. 60 minutes tops. Long enough to clear my head, short enough to have a life. Then last spring, I hesitantly signed up for a half-marathon because two of my best friends were doing it, and I fell in love with the 7-10 mile distance, and felt incredibly proud after my first 13.1. I was inching my way up, and finding it a lot easier than I thought it would be. So when Olivia and I joked about running the Athens Marathon while we were abroad, my mind got really stuck on that idea. I got determined. It became a real goal: I got funding, I talked to professors, I blocked out that weekend on my calendar, and eventually, I printed out a training plan (which I must have looked at a hundred times this summer, in agony, imagining the 18- and 20-mile runs) and registered for the race.

Now, it’s a bizarre feeling– I have all those runs behind me, and I’ve actually grown to enjoy them. I finished my first 18-miler still in Omaha and limped up the hill toward my house in tears, not because the run had been awful– it was actually perhaps the best one of the whole experience– but because I was leaving the country the next day and wished I could have spent that last perfect fall afternoon sitting on the back porch with my parents and a glass of iced tea. But I ran as prescribed, and it was fun the next day to tell the incredulous kids on the plane that I’d just run 18 miles (and that no, I wasn’t going to go out into Florence the first night, I was going to go to sleep so I could get up early and run again.)

Turns out it wasn’t just that first night I wasn’t going out. I haven’t been out to a club a single night here. Alcohol doesn’t agree with me well under the best of circumstances, and when putting my body under such physical strain as marathon training, I find that I’m sensitive to the slightest variations in sugar intake, water intake, amount of sleep, etc, so you can imagine that I stayed far away from the club scene.

My social life has suffered as a result, though. My last week in Paris was a glimpse into what humans who are not training for marathons do with their time, and boy, was it fun. I took long walks, I had amazing conversations, I cooked, I went out for dinner, I saw museums, I shopped, I road-tripped, I explored, I caught up on a TV show I’ve been wanting to watch, and I did a fair amount of just sitting/lying around. It was perfection. To give you an idea of the time commitment, I spend 7-8 hours a week just running, feet in motion. When you include getting ready, researching routes, stretching, cooling down, the extra shower, and how much longer it takes me to walk up/down stairs the day after a long run, that probably increases to 10-12 hours a week. At least. And a further hit to my social life: I run alone. I know what a difference having running buddies makes because I have the best ones in the world back at school. But I’m living in a different city from all of them, and (unsurprisingly) couldn’t convince anyone I know here in Florence that running a marathon was a sane thing to do, much less a good idea. So, it’s been a little lonely, but I really valued my social time during the school day and seeing close friends on the weekends. I’m so lucky to have Laura Thrash coming to volunteer at the race and cheer for me during the big event– I really don’t know what I would do without her presence and support. Not be able to find my way around Athens, for sure!

So that brings me to where my life is going after this race. For one thing, my friend Kirsten turns 21 so I’m going to *go out* and celebrate with her next Thursday night. This is really a big thing for me, folks. I hardly even go out at Davidson.

Then there are a few things on my goal list.

-Get back into a normal running routine. This is what my next week is going to look like, as far as easing into running: Monday: walk 20 min. Tuesday: Rest. Wednesday: walk 30 min. Thursday: run 20 min easy. Friday: Rest. Saturday: run 30 min. Sunday: run 40 min. I’ll keep it around that level for the few weeks following, though by the end of the month following the race, I hope to be able to do one long run of 8-10 miles. Then it’s Christmas break time, which has a few goals of its own.

-When I get home, I want to cross-train again. I want to be serious about weight training so I’m stronger for my next half-marathon in the spring and less liable to injury (I’ve rolled three ankles during this training.) I want to do the elliptical and the stationary bike and lots and lots of HOLIDAY YOGA. That was my favorite thing during break last year– I even got up at the crack of dawn and went on Christmas and New Year’s.

-I need to be conscious of what I’m eating again. I don’t have much control over my meals here– breakfast and dinner are served by my host family, and lunch is within the limited selection of the cafe at my school. None of it is what this girl would deem health food. It hasn’t caused much of a problem as far as weight gain because of all the running and walking I’ve been doing. But my energy is really low all the time. I’m probably super vitamin-deficient right now. When I get back home, I want to go vegetarian again (except for fish and the occasional organic chicken or turkey) and eat tons and tons of vegetables and whole grains. That’s the diet I feel best, most energized, and happiest at, and I can’t wait to return to it. In the meantime, I have to brave a whole lot more plates of pasta.

-I just want to re-center in general. Family time, quiet time reading, shoveling the driveway, yoga (seeing Lena and Lora), walking the dog, seeing home friends (Tom! Madeline! Joe!), the gym, Whole Foods trips, I just really need all that. I miss the United States. I miss my routine life.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I don’t think I’ll have time to get into the notorious post-marathon slump because I’ll be filling those extra hours in my week with term papers, trips to Rome and Venice, and trying to figure out how to fit all the stuff I packed and acquired back into my (very small) suitcases.

If you have any advice on any of the above topics, please share!

See ya later,

Jane

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “18 Weeks Later

  1. Paula

    Dear Jane, you can be so proud of your accomplishment! We sure are! I can imagine it will be nice to have it behind you–like a play production, sounds like you are ready for the show now! Take pictures!! xo Mom

  2. Laura

    Hear, hear! Though my context at the moment is much different, I understand how major goals necessarily affect all aspects of your life. It’s hard to stick to it, especially when you’re not surrounded by peers working toward the same goal. It takes a lot of maturity and bravery to stay committed to a plan, and you have done it, day after day, for months. You should be really proud. Congratulations!

  3. Karyl

    Wow, Jane! I have really enjoyed reading your posts, and I can’t wait to hear all about the marathon! You truly are amazing!

  4. Jo

    Good luck, Jane! We are all so proud of you and your accomplishments. I wish you perfect running weather. Congrats in advance!

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