By Kim Pawelek
It’s that time of year again. The temperatures are cooler, the humidity has dropped, and you’re missing that second workout because the grass isn’t growing as fast. More importantly, there’s an abundance of candy corn from the after-Halloween sales! Tis the season of The MARATHON!
Argggh! It’s a love-hate relationship. No matter what time you’ve run or how many you’ve run, most likely you’ve run the gamut of emotions when training for this distance. I dread the notion of training for a marathon, but ironically I love training for one…once I get started, that is. I hate running at 5:30 in the morning, but love knowing I have 20 miles in by the time when most are just beginning to pour the coffee. I hate when my legs turn so heavy and stiff that no matter how hard I try, I can’t run one second faster. BUT I’m absolutely in love with that “hurts so good” feeling afterwards! I hate when I get so agitated and grumpy after the 2-hour mark that no matter what you say to me, I can’t help but to give you that evil eye and spew out a few not-so-nice words at you. BUT, I love the fact that I have great friends who understand this about me and are still willing to take part in the training. I hate the nervous energy I waste two days prior to race day. I hate lamenting on what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. I hate hydrating. I hate waiting and waiting to see if I’ll be able to “go” in time…to the bathroom. Imagine the Thinker…yep, that’s me! And I hate when I can’t fall asleep till two hours before it’s actually time to wake up. BUT, good or bad race, you’ve gotta love the experience of the marathon! Yes, even those that went wrong from the first mile. They’re character-building runs. Your battle scars are proudly worn on your ugly, black toenails and your calloused, dry, deformed feet. You’re always tired and you constantly ache, but you’re empowered. You’re strong. And your training partners are living proof to “Others” outside the running circle that you are not the only “Freak” out there training like a mad person!
Ask anyone about my training…I’m a social runner. Although I take my training pretty seriously, I can’t wait for the run to end to sit on ice, drink coffee/Gatorade, and gab about anything and everything. I’ve never trained alone. In fact, my training partners keep me sane. They even serve as therapy sessions! They’re my conscience. They make me accountable to waking up early and running hard when I need to. Knowing I have others to be miserable with makes all the difference in the world. I love my training partners for sacrificing their time and efforts for training, but more importantly, I love the bonds we form. Running may be an individual sport, but I can guarantee you this… I did not attain the levels I attained without the extensive and highly supportive network of my training partners (great friends).
As I’ve said, you definitely need that support in order to get through the months of monotonous, rigorous training, while still retaining some sort of sanity through it all. My marathon program begins with about 8 weeks of base miles. No structured intervals or tempos, just a bunch of miles (about 90-100 miles a week). My long runs are usually no longer than 20 during this phase. I then introduce the tempos and intervals for another 8-10 weeks, and long runs are increased as well. Once I reach 20 miles, I alternate between high and low weeks. For example, if I run 20 one weekend, the next weekend it’s back to 15. The 15-mile runs then become my “shorter,” faster long runs. I structure it as such so I don’t have to increase the long run each consecutive week (good mental break). I hate tempos and dread intervals, so that’s when I call in the “reinforcements.” Those guys make me run faster and longer than what I think I’m capable of running. They take me to the “Edge” (the point at which you think you’re going to collapse and die). If you can train on the Edge and get through it without injury or illness, you’re FIT, as we like to proclaim!
This robotic madness usually consists of 5-8 miles of intervals and 8-12 miles of tempos. The pace varies, but it’s usually faster than marathon pace. I like to run 10 Yasso 800s, taking 1-minute recoveries between each repeat. I usually run this workout twice to see the progression; about 8 weeks out the first time and again 10 days out from race day. Other key workouts include: 8xmile, 4x2mile, 8-10x1000m, and16-20x400m, all with 1 min recoveries (2-3 min rest for the 2-mile repeats). I also like to race a ½ marathon 4 weeks out from the race to assess the fitness level. Keeping my weekly mileage up through all this is what puts me on the Edge.
I run my last 20-plus long run (24 miles) 3 weeks out and run a faster 10 miles for my last one. I hate to taper because my body seems to go into withdrawal. I seem to develop what I like to call phantom pains. For some reason, aches and pains that never occurred or weren’t as acute before the week of the marathon will now overtake my body. How ironic is that? You rest your body and it rewards you with pain! But come race day, those aches and pains miraculously disappear with the sound of the starting gun. Go figure!
Argggh! The Marathon! I told you it was a love-hate relationship!
From Wisconsin Tom-girl to NCAA Champion, Kim Pawelek is the blueprint for every strong, young woman desiring to achieve success in athletics and academics. Her inauspicious climb from just one year of high-school track to University of North Florida school record holder was a combination of hard work and laser-like focus. Her personal bests of 33:58 for 10K and 2:37:58 for the marathon have placed Kim in the upper echelons of U.S. women’s distance running. As a three-time U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, Kim is a beacon to those of humble origin but big dreams.