Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Yes, You Can Train for a Marathon without Abandoning the Rest of Your Life

It was a beautiful Saturday morning for a long run.  The air was a little crisp, and we made it to the a woodsy part of town before the sun got in our eyes.  My wife Michelle and I were heading for the only hills in flat Toledo, Ohio in preparation for the NYC Marathon in the fall.  Were weren't (and aren't) professional runners nor are we very fast, but we were lucky enough to snag a couple of spots from one of the sponsors.

As we plodded along on our 18-mile journey, we wondered if the kids were behaving with the baby-sitter - a junior-high neighbor girl who came over at 7:30 that morning while the kids were still asleep.  Hiring a baby-sitter was one of our latest strategies to keep on track with our training plan, which had started to get challenging in the last weeks with the longer runs.  
2013 NYC Marathon - Going up the Verrazano 

The idea of hiring a baby-sitter wasn't too crazy.  We had started to do some other extraordinary things as well -- on speed interval days, Michelle drove downtown to where I worked and we ran together there at lunchtime.  On weekends when the kids had activities or we couldn't get the schedule to jive with the training, I would take a half-day of vacation on Friday so we could do the long run.

How we managed to get our training done that season wasn't as important as the agreement we made before we even signed up for the race.  Before we committed to the 16 weeks of training, we agreed we would work together to find creative ways to get our training done without sacrificing the other commitments we had already made.  We didn't think through all of the situations, we just made the commitment to each other.

For us, that was full-time work, marriage, family, two kids with dance, cub scouts, karate, school activities, and other things I've forgotten since.  It was our commitments to our own daily bible study and devotions, the leadership positions we held at our church, and the small groups we were accountable to.

So, what could have been a time of bitterness, frustration, and resentment turned out to be something that taught us some very important lessons.

2013 NYC Marathon - Heading up 1st Ave.
1.  Consider the cost before committing.

A marathon is a big commitment for the whole family, just not the runner.  Just the training alone will be somewhere between 80 and 120 hours of running.  That doesn't include all the pre-run routines, recovery, etc.  Unless you're a very experienced runner, the effects of your training will last throughout the day.  This past year, I decided not to run the Glass City Marathon because there were just too many events on the weekends that I couldn't figure out - including one the night before the race.  I decided instead to volunteer at one of the water stops with my son and we had a great time.  I didn't wait until April to decide that, I did it in November.

2.  Work out an agreement that you are mutually enthusiastic about with your partner

Once you have a training plan, sit down with a calendar and, at a minimum, put in all the long runs.  Michelle and I use a separate Google Calendar called Training for such things.  We have other calendars for Kids Events, and our own meetings, etc.  Way ahead of time, we look for conflicts that might take creativity to work out (like getting the baby sitter).  One time, we even combined a date weekend with one of our long runs.  The point is, don't stop working through the plan until you both feel good about it.  One of the most peaceful feelings is going on a run you know isn't causing someone else frustration or resentment.

3.  Identify the 'must do's beforehand

This goes with #2 - but sometimes you don't plan your life out 16 weeks at a time like we do.  If there are things that are important to you ("We are going to spend Easter weekend at my parents"), get those out now.

4.  Review your schedule on Sunday night as a couple

Once you have a schedule - or even if you don't - we've found it very helpful to take 20 minutes Sunday night to just go over the week's training plan to see if there's any adjustments you need to make because of changing schedules.

5.  If possible, buy your way out of things
2013 NYC Marathon - 100 yds from the finish!

One of the best Father's Day presents I got was a lawn mowing service for the months of July and August when I was training for a triathlon.  Not only did it help me stay ahead of things, it showed Michelle was behind me in my goal.

6.  Count your blessings

At  the end of all this, remember that you chose to do this voluntarily.  There are many reasons people do crazy things like sign up for Marathons, but the reality is that if you can run one, you are blessed.  Act like it.

What things have you done to keep the joy in your family during a season of training?