What got me through the treadmill marathon
Question of the week: You ran a treadmill marathon?! [trust me, it’s always been a question, never a statement]
There are lots of reasons. One reason: running the ‘mill offered me a race-simulation. I could wear shorts and a sports bra and had all my nutrition needs at my fingertips. Another reason: my buddy, Erik, talked me into it. But in all honesty, I had a good time (seriously!).
It was quite the experience, that’s for sure. And the time actually went by rather fast (considering). Here’s what I learned:
- Setting a goal in advance is key. I knew when I stepped on the treadmill that morning that I’d be running 26.2miles. I knew I’d be there for several hours. I didn’t have anything planned that morning, nor did I feel rushed to get the workout done. And because I wasn’t running “just to run”- the time really did go by fast. The first hour just flew by. Plus, I had friends that were in it with me, and friends that knew what I was doing, so I had a few companions and fans coming in and out of the gym that morning. That made the time go by faster, too.
- Have a plan, and stick to it. I wasn’t just going for a training run, it was a more serious venture. I had the whole workout planned: when I was going to eat food or take drink, what it was going to be, and what pace I was going to run. I could have got caught up in the fact that a) I overslept and missed running the first 40minutes with my training partners and b) my neighbor treadmill was pumping out 6:30min/mile [it should be known that I have a very, very bad habit of racing my neighbor treadmills, especially when they are operated by males]. But I didn’t get caught up, and I really stuck to my plan. I ran the first hour at around an 8:30min/mile pace, which was right around a 3:40 marathon pace. I was able to eat solid foods and feel comfortable. My second hour, I slipped to a comfortable 8:10-8:15s and slurped down mostly liquid calories that sustained me the rest of the run. My third hour: I was running sub 8-min miles, feeling great. The last 10K was more of a let-loose-and-have-fun, with a few 7:15s thrown in for kicks. Truth be told, the last two miles were the hardest, and I just wanted to be done. But who doesn’t feel like that at the end of a marathon?
- Be prepared. My training didn’t put me at running a 26.2mile run last weekend. The longest run I’ve done since Ironman was about 20 miles. But, mentally, I was in the zone and I knew my body could handle the miles. I threw a towel over the treadmill display so that I wasn’t staring at it the whole time. I knew what I was getting myself into, and that really made all the difference. I told myself that I couldn’t look at the mile-mark or clock until a commercial break. I had my nutrition laid out, I knew what to eat and when, and I had my music stacked just right.
- Another thing to be prepared for: when you get off the treadmill to go to the ‘loo… try not to fall down. Seriously, the longer you run on the treadmill, the harder it is to walk on real-ground. Just sayin’.
- Get un-focused. Alright, I’ll say it: Running for 3 1/2 hours on a treadmill can be boring. But when I was running, I wasn’t thinking about the distance or the duration the whole time. The first hour, I was recooperating from oversleeping, so I listened to some really nice, relaxing music for a good 60minutes*. I just hummed along and enjoyed the repetitive, mindless movement that I was engaging in. I felt light, almost weightless. I wasn’t focused on the next 19.5miles I had to run, or the next person waiting to use the treadmill (bonus: there wasn’t anyone waiting). Maybe since I knew I was going to be there for a good while, I didn’t worry about how much longer I had left. I listened to all different types of music, from folk to rap to pop. I watched a movie I had never seen and was enthralled. I giggled at commercials and pointed at them, with much disregard from my running mates.
- I think my favorite song was “Breathe” by Alexi Murdoch. I listened to it twice in the first half hour. Here’s some of his lyrics:
- Don’t forget to breathe, don’t forget to breathe; you know you are here, but you’ll find you want to leave, so don’t forget to breathe. Keep your head above water, but don’t forget to breathe.
- I ramped up the music in the second hour to include:
- Bodyrox & Luciana – Yeah Yeah
- Cake – Mahna Mahna
- Britney Spears – 3 (hey, don’t judge me)
- and other songs by Common, Crookers, Cut Copy, Deadmau5, and Drake
- Hour three, more ramping:
- Mindless Self Indulgence for a good 20minutes
- Ke$ha, KMFDM, Lady Gaga, M83, and Metallica
I would love to say that it was a spiritual experience, that I reconnected with my running in a way I haven’t done in a really long time. And that may be partially true. But what I really got from running a marathon on the treadmill was that I can pretty easily disconnect my brain from my body. I kept my mind entertained, and my legs kept moving. Sometimes I was thinking about stuff, but most of the time, I wasn’t. I knew how far I had to go, and I knew my legs would get me there (or, realistically, that my legs would keep moving until I stopped the belt).
So that’s that. Sorry if I disappointed anyone with my non-earthshattering emotional connection with the treadmill. It was fun and I will do it again. It was challenging and a great test of my early-season fitness. OK, you’re turn!
*Seriously. Mellow music to start is the way to go. It got my mind relaxed, calmed and ready for the run.