Why I Wasn’t Ready To Run A Marathon 6 Months Ago, But I Am Now

Ekiden 10KI signed up for my first marathon 6 months ago, but I never made it to the start line — and that was a really good thing! I was in no shape to do so, mentally or physically. When I reflect on the athlete I am now, versus the “athlete” I was then, I am very happy that I waited. Here are the top 5 Reasons (but certainly not the only reasons) why I wasn’t ready to run a marathon half a year ago, but I am now.

1) I Skipped Workouts: Having a coach who provides a customized workout plan, 24/7 support, and wisdom about everything to do with fitness and nutrition is a luxury and a privilege. When I started with mine almost a year ago, I was not a very good athlete. I regularly ignored speed work, modified strength work that I thought was too hard, and was generally giving about 60% instead of 110% like I do now. Going from working out 3 or 4 days a week to working out 6 or 7 days a week was a huge shift for me and I always felt like I “deserved” to rest more or go easy on a workout, when I actually hadn’t earned it. There would be weeks during the winter when I looked at my training plan and became so overwhelmed that I shut down and just didn’t do the work. My head wasn’t in the game, and as a result, neither was my body.  Today, I look forward to tough workouts, especially speed and strength work, and I can see how this hard work is paying off with faster and stronger running!

2) Mentally, I Was A Mess: I have documented my struggle with anxiety and panic attacks throughout many of my previous posts, here and here. 6 months ago my anxiety level was hovering around a 9.5 out of 10 most days, making it impossible for me to get through a work day without a breakdown or through the night without bolting up in bed, heart racing, mid-panic attack. My main contributor to this anxiety was a toxic work environment. As a result of this, my running suffered big time and I could not make it through a run without a mid-run or post-run panic attack, which could only be cured with a frantic phone call to my mom or a tight hug from my boyfriend who would guide me through breathing exercises until I calmed down. When I look back on this time, it seems so foreign to me now. However, I know that anxiety is always lurking in the shadows and that if I let my mental health slip, I’ll be back in this dark place again. Luckily I switched jobs, and I can now say that I am in a position I LOVE with people who bring out the best in me.

Mid Summer Night's Run Post-Race Pic3) I Didn’t Have Confidence In Myself: 6 months ago, I didn’t believe I could run a marathon, and I was right. Today, if you asked me, “Jenna, can you run a marathon this fall?” I would answer with a resounding YES. Heck, I just completed my very first triathlon a few weeks ago, got a PB in the 15K distance two weeks ago, and I am running paces that I never thought I’d get back to. I am in such a different place right now and I actually see myself as an athlete for the first time in my life. Of course, this confidence doesn’t just come from within, it comes from having kick-ass training partners, an amazing coach, an incredibly supportive family, and a wonderful boyfriend who joins me in a lot of my training. I don’t think you can ever underestimate the power of having a team of people in your life who believe in you. Although we may cross finish lines alone, few of us would ever make it to the start line without the family and friends who tolerate our long hours of training, incessant talk about our sport, and occasional complaining about sore muscles and being tired. You know what they say, hang around people who are doing the things you want to do, and you will do them too.

4) I Wasn’t Excelling At Shorter Distances: As a first-time marathoner, I won’t know what running 42.2 kilometres feels like until I cross that marathon finish line in October. I’m not running the full distance in my training, so there is an element of the unknown going into the race. What I do know now that I didn’t know 6 months ago is what it feels like to give 110% in shorter distances, in which I have been gaining Personal Bests this summer! So far I have PB’ed in the 10K and 15K distances and the plan is to go for a half-marathon PB next month. My 2013 racing season was less-than-stellar, with anxiety making it tough for me to go fast or push myself to my limits. Only this summer have I finally been able to really go for speed and ride “the pain train” as my friend Mike calls it. Now I know what it feels like to run 5K, 10K, 15K and soon 21.1K with little to nothing left in the tank at the finish line and I feel confident that I can transfer this racing experience to the marathon this fall. Excelling at shorter distances has brought on a new level of confidence and commitment that I didn’t have 6 months ago and for that I am very grateful.

5) I Didn’t Sign Up To Run A Marathon For The Right Reasons: While I don’t believe there is one right reason to sign up to run a marathon, there are a lot of wrong reasons to commit to 42.2K. When I look back to when I signed up for that marathon I never ended up running, I can’t really pinpoint the WHY. It might have been because all my friends were doing it, it might have been because I wanted to run a marathon before I turned 30, or it might have been because it seemed like the next logical step in my running journey, but none of those are really compelling or great reasons to run a marathon. When I signed up for the marathon I will run this fall, I did so because I know I can do it. I know I have the training, the commitment and the experience to make it across that finish line in one piece. It might not be pretty, but I promise to honour the experience by preparing right, running smart, and digging deep when it starts to hurt. Running is a privilege and I am lucky to be part of the amazing running community that exists in Toronto and beyond. This fall I am going to run a marathon knowing that I have hundreds of people who have inspired me to complete this distance and who will be with me every step of the way, on the course, on my mind, and most importantly, in my heart.

So there you have it, the 5 reasons why I wasn’t ready to run a marathon 6 months ago, but I am now. Starting today, my coach has me making the shift to full-tilt marathon training and with 2 months to go, I couldn’t be more excited, nervous, happy, and scared all at once. Get ready marathon, because here I come!


It’s Time To Get Serious

“Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to get serious.”

Those were the words that kicked off this week’s training plan email from my coach. It’s time to get serious. I have a 15K run scheduled for Sunday, my first LSD (Long Slow Distance) in over a month. Am I REALLY signed up to run a Marathon in May?!? I was talking to my friend Christa this weekend and said “So, are we really doing Ottawa?” and simultaneously experienced a mini panic attack. I’m serious, the room spun for a minute and I felt faint.

My training has changed a lot since I started working with my new Coach Brock Skywalker of Skywalker Fitness. Using Training Peaks, I get a personalized plan emailed to me every single morning so I know exactly what to do. Strength training has become an integral part of my training routine, with 2-3 sessions per week.  My eating has become more focused on good fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables, and I have cut out a lot of the gluten-free “frankenfoods” that I was relying on. Both of these things have made a significant difference in the way I look and feel, but it’s also been hard work…and things haven’t even got SERIOUS yet.

I was reading this post, “Training: The Good, The Bad, and The I Want To Give Ups” written by my new running friend Rebecca the other day and it really resonated with me. I liked it because Rebecca was really honest about those moments when all you want to do is QUIT. We all experience those moments, but they aren’t the ones that make it onto Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. For many of us, our online social media profiles portray the adventures of a happy, successful runner, even though we all have our ups and downs. Rebecca’s post reminded me that there are going to be times during this marathon training that I AM going to want to quit, but I am lucky enough to have a tremendous number of awesome running friends who I know will get me through.

Asics from Black Toe Running

To kick off this marathon training journey in style, I headed down to Black Toe Running this weekend to pick up some new shoes. Being a loyal Asics girl, I settled on the BRIGHTEST, MOST COLOURFUL shoes in the store: The Asics Gel Noosa Tri 8. I don’t want to wear them outside until the snow goes away because I am scared of getting them dirty!

Well, tomorrow’s the day that things get serious and my marathon journey officially begins. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, so LET’S DO THIS!

35K Weekend: WE CRUSHED IT

I am still feeling a high (and a slight sense of exhaustion) from our 35k weekend! I can’t believe we did it! WE DID IT! When my friend Linda suggested we run back to back races of 10k and 25k Saturday and Sunday, I was a bit skeptical. I had never run back to back races before, let alone a 10k and then my LONGEST RUN EVER. Before Sunday, I had never run more than 21.1k in a half-marathon.ZOO RUN with Linda

The Zoo Run 10K on Saturday was awesome. Despite the cold and rainy weather, we had SO MUCH FUN. Linda and I wanted to dress up so we found leopard print tights at H&M and some fun animal accessories at Party Packagers. I think our costumes turned out pretty awesome and the tights, which are not actually running tights, were very comfortable to run in.

We didn’t plan to run either of our races on the weekend too fast, but before we knew it Linda and I were picking up the pace and holding it. At 5k I realized we could finish our race in a hour if we maintained our 6 minute/km pace. Up and down the hills, through the ran and mud, we held on to it and finished in an official time of 1:00:17 – right on time! I was SO proud of us, especially on such a challenging course. This means that a 2 hour half-marathon could be a reality next year and I am very excited about that!

The RBC Run For The Kids 25k on Sunday was definitely one of the most challenging runs I have ever done. There were hills EVERYWHERE which I was not expecting at all. Just when we thought there couldn’t possibly be another hill, we’d see one in front of us, taunting our tired legs. I am not exaggerating when I saw that there were probably 12-15 hills along the course. During this race, I started to feel fatigue and soreness in my knees settle in around 15k. I know if I had come into this race fresh, I would not have felt this way.

Linda and I stayed close the entire race and she was such a great motivator. I don’t think I could have done this race without  her. We crossed the finish line in 2:55:03 and I immediately made a beeline for the food. I was incredibly hungry and a bit dehydrated, I think. After 2 muffins, a smoothie, and a banana, I was feeling like myself again. Not sure if I would do the RBC Run For The Kids again as it was a really boring course and there was no one around to cheer us on, but I am still glad we did it and completed our 35k weekend challenge.  Next up: Road 2 Hope half-marathon!

RBC Run For The Kids