I’m not really a runner. Not REALLY. You have to run a little more than I do to qualify as a runner. And you have to care a little bit more about your times and your results. So I’m a not-runner who just happens to be running a marathon tomorrow. Funny how these things happen.
In case you’re also not a runner, here’s the non-runner’s guide to marathon training:
STEP 1: Say the words, “I could never run a marathon,” to somebody you know will contradict you. It helps if this is a person whose opinion is important to you.
STEP 2: Change tactics with lightning speed, and start telling everybody you know that you want to run a marathon. Tell EVERYONE. The goal here is, of course, to eventually find someone, anyone, who will sign up for the marathon with you. Feel free to harass both fast and slow runners. They don’t have to be willing to run it with you, just to run the same race as you are. Remember, this step involves NO actual commitment on your part, so put your commitment issues aside to be dealt with later.
STEP 3: Have slightly too much to drink at your company Christmas party, and get into a conversation with one of your coworkers about how much you both like audiobooks, then seamlessly transition into your favorite conversation stopper: “Do you want to run a marathon?” Anyone who responds to this in any way that is not total confusion or immediate dismissal is worth getting your claws into. Spend the rest of the night telling everyone else at the party, “Guess what guys? Josh is going to sign up for a marathon with me!”
STEP 4: Trick your new race buddy into signing up first by saying that you are going to register one night and then realizing your don’t have the money for it at that particular point. Once your friend has already signed up, feelings of extreme guilt at the idea of not registering will override the commitment issues associated with actually paying for the race.
STEP 5: When you do sign up, make sure to do it so far in advance that the race doesn’t actually feel like a real thing. It’s still just one of those crazy ideas you had when you were bored: “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if . . .”
STEP 6: At some point during the extraordinarily long time leading up to the marathon, befriend a bunch of triathletes who are all training for, or have previously completed, an Iron Man. This will have the slight drawback of making YOUR race seem like no big deal, but it will also provide the bonus of making your race seem like no big deal. How could you possibly NOT finish a marathon when half of your friends have done one AFTER swimming and biking for more than eight hours?
STEP 7: Get someone else to write a training plan for you. This will make it seem like you have less liberty to change (aka shorten) your distances once they are on paper.
STEP 8: Don’t worry when every long run leaves you feeling like you couldn’t possibly run another step. Don’t worry when you spend the last twenty minutes of those runs checking L’s GPS watch every 0.2 miles to see how much further you have to go. Don’t worry, because whatever distance you have to do is going to be the distance beyond which you could not possibly run another step. (Let’s hope that holds true for the jump from 20 to 26 miles.)
STEP 9: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Feel free to substitute crossfit wods for any/all of your shorter runs. Okay, maybe this isn’t the best advice ever. Skip this step. There is a chance that I may not be the best role model in terms of conventional marathon training. Probably you should run more than twice a week.
STEP 10: In the preceding weeks, talk incessantly with your race buddy about the marathon and how your training is not going quite as well as planned and how various parts of your body are self-destructing the closer you get to race day. It’s more fun to be miserable in pairs, and you’ll be pleased to realize that neither of you is much worse off than the other. Your coworkers will begin to groan and sigh with boredom whenever the words “run,” “miles,” or “Gu” crop up in a conversation.
STEP 11: Check the weather incessantly until about three days before the race, at which point you realize that the weather forecast is getting steadily worse. Stop checking the weather altogether so you can at least imagine that it’s going to be nice. When people start to ask whether your race is still going to happen if it’s pouring, look confused like don’t know what they’re talking about. “Pouring? What? The last time I checked there was only a 20% chance of rain.”
STEP 12: Pretend not to notice that there is and has been something seriously wrong with your left calf and/or Achilles ever since your 20 miler. Too late to do anything about it now. Whatever state your legs are in, they’re still going to have to carry you around 26 miles tomorrow.
STEP 13: Eat chocolate chip pancakes for dinner. To hell with this paleo challenge nonsense (only temporarily!). If you ever have an excuse to cheat and eat carbs, today is it.