Marathon Training: 20 Miles and 6 Lessons

So this is what 20 (miles) feels like…

Alas, I’ve reached the longest run of my marathon training plan. It’s been a long journey to 20 miles, lots of ups and downs, lots of random injuries and annoying pain here and there, but 20 miles arrived this weekend and here’s my experience.

When I signed up for the marathon and started doing the training, I never thought I could run past 13 miles. Now that I’ve made it to 20 miles, every mile below 20 seems very achievable. Below is my journey to 20 miles:

L&B Spumoni Gardens

Week 7:

This week’s long run took us from Manhattan into Brooklyn. I was only scheduled to do 12 miles this day, but once I heard there was beer and pizza at the end, that was enough motivation to keep me going for an extra 3.7 miles. 15.7 miles to Brooklyn’s famous pizzeria L&B Spumoni Gardens; but before we got there, let me tell you how at around mile 10 I hit a “wall,” and then again at 13, and with every step, every cell in my body hurt. Then it hurt more to stop than to keep running, so I just kept running. This was when I learned the following lesson: stopping doesn’t help; you have to keep moving, even if at a slower pace.

13 miles hot and humid

Week 8:

For this week’s long run we took back down the mileage. We did 13 miles. It was a very hot and humid day, but I was feeling energized with all the energy chews and Nuun hydration drinks. As my run ended, and my body started to cool down, I felt weaker and sick to my stomach. So apparently, I’m not sure how I forgot to carb load the night before this run, because the night before all I had was a bowl of cereal. Yes, a bowl of freaking Cheerios. I might’ve not been hungry Friday night, but I sure did pay for it on Saturday morning. The little bit of energy I had that morning was from the slice of toast and peanut butter I had for breakfast and all the energy chews I ate during the run. The lesson for this week was NEVER EVER skip out on dinner the night before a long run. You will for sure pay for it, in a very bad way. Luckily, I made it home, but it wasn’t a pretty sight. I felt EMPTY, shaking, and really, really tired.

Autism Speaks run NYC

Week 9:

This weekend was going to be a busy weekend and I knew it would, but I was determined to get it done. This weekend included a short 4 mile race on Saturday and a special long run on Sunday, with the Nike Run Club. The 4 mile race on Saturday went incredibly well, I did my fastest 4 miles at a pace under 9 minutes, which is rare for me, but on Sunday I paid for it.

Queensboro Bridge Run

Well, Sunday we did 16.6 miles around Manhattan and across the Queensboro Bridge and back to NIKETOWN. Let’s just say that from all the training during the week and running the race the day before, my legs felt super heavy and I felt every step, especially after running a few miles. I found myself having to stretch quite a few times, my hips and thighs felt really tight. Around mile 13, the run started to get challenging, forcing me to stop or slow down, also to question myself: Why am I doing this? Maybe I’m not worthy, and all sorts of negative thoughts came to mind. After finding the energy, and positive mantras to shake the negative thoughts away, I kept pushing. Crossing the Queensboro Bridge was the most challenging of all. Very hilly and long bridge across, it felt like I would never make it to the other side and back. This day my pace wasn’t the greatest, but I managed to finish without walking and that’s what mattered to me. The lesson for this week was to keep pushing, find that mantra to reenergize you and block those negative thoughts. You Got This!

triborough bridge run

Week 10:

With 5 weeks left, week ten’s long run was my favorite. The route was just beautiful, the weather was perfect and I was feeling amazing. Learning from my past mistakes in previous runs, I made sure I was well prepared for this long run. This 17 mile run from Manhattan to Queens was truly amazing. We’ve covered many places I’ve never seen before, and you learn to appreciate it even more when you cover these places on foot. Running down the East Side (FDR), up to Harlem, across the Triborough Bridge, running around Randall’s Island, Astoria Park, Roosevelt Island and ending at an awesome beer garden Studios Square, in Queens, what more can you ask for. This week’s lesson was enjoy the run, and appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of the day. It’s okay to snap a pic here and there, just remember to keep on pushing.

Flushing Meadows Park Run

Week 11:

For this week’s long run, I decided to do it on my own, 15 miles; I figured I could cover 15 miles somewhere near, even if I have to run around a few times. Well, I did run around a few times, maybe 4 times, I did some hills, some small pedestrian bridges and some stairs. Around mile 13.5, 14 I did find myself questioning myself, AGAIN, why am I doing this? Ugh, I’ll never be able to finish it, let alone run 26.2 miles. Well, somehow, somewhere, I shook these thoughts off my head and I started visualizing being at home and repeating the mantras “I Got This” “I AM WORTHY!!” That got me to 15 miles and eventually, back home. This week’s lesson was to know that I’m worthy, I’m worthy of running this marathon, worthy of this training, worthy of this run, worthy (period). I GOT THIS!! I OWN THIS!

Van Cortlandt Park Run

Week 12:

Enter Week 12, the week of the longest run during training week. The week where I prove to myself all that I’ve been saying in my previous runs, the week where I take it up a notch and know that I can do this. It’s funny that I type this, because a few weeks back, someone on Instagram had posted a pic of their 20 mile run, I mentioned to them that I was nervous about my first 20 miler, and she mentioned that the key to getting it done is to be confident. Now I go back to the beginning of this paragraph, this 20 miler is all about confidence. I CAN DO THIS! I GOT THIS! I OWN THIS! Well, I will say, typing it sounds like it was an easy run, but it really wasn’t, it was mentally challenging, and I do not mean that lightly. TWENTY MILES IS MENTALLY CHALLENGING!!  I specifically remember looking at my sportswatch at mile 13.4 and then looking up as my pacers started fading ahead of me, then I noticed it was just me and an open trail, no one coming, no one going. At this moment, your mind starts playing tricks on you, and you stop, walk for a few steps, think WHY AM I DOING THIS?! WHO AM I KIDDING, I CAN’T DO THIS! It’s CRAZY I tell you! Then you start chugging again, jogging, light running, but not stopping. Somehow you are finding the strength to move a bit. Then you start to see people running and smiling at you and cheering you on, “You’re Doing Great!” “Way to Go” “Great Job,” giving you thumbs up. Now you are really moving again; just what I needed to get to the next water break and stretch a bit. On the way back, I hit the “wall” around mile 18/19. Luckily, I was running with someone else that was giving me tips on getting past these walls, and visualizing the end, and focusing on positive mantras and breathing, etc… I was able to keep up with her for a few miles, before she started to fade into the forest and me looking at my watch and noticing I was almost there, but not quite, I was somewhere between 18 and 19 and I wanted to stop. The path seemed longer, so much longer than before, but I pushed and I found my energy to stop thinking and finish strong. As I gazed far, I saw my running buddies waiting for me and I knew the journey to 20 miles would soon be accomplished. Tears of joy did come out. My running buddy did mention during the run, that it was okay to cry, if you felt like you needed it. I didn’t feel the tears during the run, but when I finished, it was a different story, I choked up and started to cry, it was more like WOW, I can’t believe I did it! The lesson for this week was believe in yourself, you can do it. Also, don’t think, just do!

The Bronx 10-mile run

Not only was I able to do the 20 miler, but the next day I did a 10 mile race. Never doubt how amazing you truly are. Mind over Miles!

This will be my last marathon post before my marathon. I will write about my marathon experience after the marathon.

Let the tapering begin!

Special shoutout to everyone that has been very supportive during my training, I know all these posts and sharing can either be motivating or annoying, I apologize if they were more of the latter. A special thank you to NIKETOWN, Nike Running Flatiron and the NYC Nike Run Club for putting incredible long runs every weekend, and having amazing pacers. THANK YOU!

Last but not least, feel free to drop a comment if you have any running related question.

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