Marathon (Wo)Man: The Time Suck Of Training

Marathon training…it takes time. A lot of time. No really, it does. This, of course, should be fairly obvious. Running 20- or 30-some miles a week will cut into the time you might have previously used to see friends, watch Twin Peaks on Netflix, get a manicure, or call your mother. It somehow requires quite a different amount of time than putting in 15 or 20 miles a week. And, it’s not just the running that’s a time suck.

Take this past Tuesday, for example. I awoke 90 minutes earlier than usual to get to an early pre-work chiropractic appointment while still having enough time to take the puppy to the dog park. By the time we’d had a good wrestle at the park and I’d packed a healthy breakfast, lunch, pre-run snack, running clothes, and multiple water bottles, I was, of course, running late. I rolled into the chiro in that dangerous 15- to 20-minute late zone, where your doctor/hairdresser/old college friend is pretty annoyed but hasn’t yet assumed you’re dead.

I tried to make some charming joke about being “the worst patient ever,” then ripped off my clothes and changed into the sexy chiropractic gym shorts and hospital gown in record time. Twenty-five minutes and several deep breaths later, I’d been adjusted. “You should come at least once a week,” my tall, handsome chiropractor said. Really dude, I thought to myself. Is this where we’re at? Are you being that chiropractor?

I’m typically a reluctant “only if I haven’t been to yoga for a month and can hardly walk” sort of chiropractic patient. But when I told my guy I was training for the marathon, he was like “I like to see my marathoners once a week.” I imagined a squad of stringy 40-something men clad in spandex, regularly biking over to see him. I wasn’t one of those marathoners. But, I was a chick who had already met her health insurance deductible for the year, had minor scoliosis and a minor leg length discrepancy and some funkiness in my hip, so I figured why the hell not.

Now, I can tell you why not: It’s just another thing to cram into the day.

I rushed out of the office and landed at my desk in the pretty-much-on-time-but-certainly-not-the-first-worker-bee time zone that I regularly inhabit. Tragically, there was no time to stop for my iced Americano.

At 12:15 p.m., I slithered out of the office for an early lunch carrying a dirty old pair of running shoes that I’d been using to break in my latest orthotics. At 12:34, I squeaked into the podiatrist in the nearly totally on-time zone. I imagined it’d be a quick, 10-minute appointment for minor adjustments and maybe a short, annoying lecture about how I needed to stretch my calves more or do some special ankle exercises. Instead, it was a 40-minute appointment that seemed to unravel in slow motion. “I don’t like what he did here,” my podiatrist said, thumbing my new orthotics and referring to some unknown, far-off him. Who was he? I imagined an evil orthotics-making elf in a far-off land, living in luxury, slapping together random bits of foam and plastic that he claims are specially made for my feet, cackling as he cashes my check.

“I’m gonna take new molds and send these back to him,” she said. Awesome. I appreciated her attention to detail, but the additional office visits and slaughtered lunch hours that it would require instantly flashed before my eyes. I’m sure full-blown lunch hours are still commonplace in some far-off happy land (maybe where the orthotics elf lives)—where everyone also has health insurance and gets eight hours of sleep per night—but it is not the land that I live in. Or the office that I work at.

Tuesday is typically the day I attempt to leave work at six p.m. on the dot and rush to running class on the Upper East Side. This involves a taking a train from Grand Central Station at rush hour, an act that even on the best of days can lead to a solipsistic evaluation of life and why I’ve chosen to live in a city dependent on sardine-can transport when I could be spending hours each day commuting in a happy, gas-sipping, Japanese-auto bubble, air-conditioned to perfection, soundtrack-ed with all my favorite tunes from my college years.

This past week, as I was rushing off to make class on time, or at least manage to throw on my workout clothes and meet up with the group after they’d stretched (which is usually how I work it), I realized I just couldn’t do it. The summer heat had reached a sweltering peak. After a day filled with rushing and juggling, speeding uptown to run in Central Park suddenly seemed torturous; impossible. The heat. The angry bicyclists. The broken water fountains. It would be a treadmill day. I grabbed the first train back to Brooklyn. (Well, the first train I was able to shove myself onto in the muggy subway station, which was actually the third train.)

I’ve always had a troubled relationship with time… and sleep. I regularly run 10 to 15 minutes late for everything. There are never enough hours in the day, so why not try surviving on five hours of sleep (or less, but that’s the vaguely acceptable, not too horrific number I’m going to throw out here)? I never speak to my mother, or anyone, for a long period of time on the phone without simultaneously doing something else…usually my dishes. I went through a long period from pre-9/11 to 2008, when I liked to get to the airport a few minutes late, just to add a little excitement to the travel process. (Nothing says adventure like sweat trickling down the back of your neck in the ticketing line, or trying to charm your fellow passengers into letting you cut at security.) That period came to an abrupt and tragic end when I wasn’t allowed on an international flight that I was just a few minutes too late for.

Running, however, calls bullshit on my cram-as-much-as-you-can-into a day style. A six-mile “easy” training run at the “easy” pace of 10:30 per mile will take not less than one hour and three minutes, plus at least a couple of minutes of dynamic stretching before, and a few more minutes of stretching afterward. It will essentially kill an entire weekday night. It is not a three or four mile run done at a quick pace that can be crammed in before work or a dinner with friends; it is a fairly long, slow run that gobbles up an extra 45 minutes. A long, 14-mile training run will kill much of Saturday, by the time one has run said 14 miles, stretched (no really, it’s important after 14 miles), gulped done some recovery vittles, and sat on the couch wallowing in exhaustion. Oh, and sleep. You actually need to get that proverbial “healthy night of sleep” not the “somehow I stayed up watching mediocre late night TV and then I had to get up early” sleep. And then there are the multiple appointments with healthcare professionals to prevent injuries/fund their kids’ college education (see above).

Last night, I came home from said six-mile run at the gym and cooked a gourmet dinner consisting of whole wheat bread, olive oil, almonds, olives, and some lettuce – Julie and Julia would be so proud. I peeled off my sweaty clothes and hopped in the shower. A chafed spot on my upper arm ignited as soon as the water hit it, as did several sharp, thin lines of irritated skin on my sternum. Clearly, it’s time for some new sports bras. If only I had the time…

Training Week 1 Summary

Miles logged: 22

Longest run: 10.5 miles (admission, this week’s planned 14 mile long run was broken into two parts, see above notes on time, hellish weather)

Long run fuel: Sport Jelly Beans, fruit punch flavor. I dreamed of Swedish fish, but alas, didn’t make it to the candy store.

Post run recovery food: Banana+strawberry+raspberry+almond butter smoothie—again

New equipment purchased: Nothing, I’m sad to report…

Photo: Courtsey of Nike

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