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5 Things I've Learned While Training For A Marathon In Sobriety

I never thought running a marathon was something I wanted to do. Or even any running thing — like a 5K race. I rarely came upon any "5K 'thing'" during my day-to-day life. But, when I did, it brought about a sense of ire; especially because it blocked roads and made it harder for me to commute in the city. However, as I had been living in Boston for a couple years, perhaps something planted in my mind that I was unaware of. Boston is, of course, the spot for one of the world's most famous marathons. Maybe I was destined to complete one...

A friend of mine has recently been training for an Ironman Triathlon — which, if you don't know, is somewhere between crucification and an 'enhanced interrogation technique'. It's pain for those who have some silly relationship with pain; a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run, all without taking a break, can hardly be called anything else.

I was still inspired, though. So I opted to complete something smaller. Something I could do as I sensed a spirit of determination: I'll run a marathon. But that's no small accomplishment, either. So here are the things I learned while training for one:

1. Use an app to track your progress

This lesson is golden. When I know how far I'm running and how long it takes me to get there, then I'm able to start improving my 'time' — that is, how quickly I can run a certain distance. I also discovered something while wearing my iWatch while I ran: my heart-rate! I always knew I had one but often forget about it. Unless I'm laying down at night and the sensation of my heartbeat makes it impossible to fall asleep — lest it stop while I'm listening to it! But I quickly found that if I know my heartrate while running, I know how hard my body is working to keep me going. So if I'm running and, over time, my heart-rate isn't getting as high, I know my body is improving — it's spending less effort to go the same distance — it's becoming conditioned.

2. Your nippy-tippies may get a little tattered

This just happened on my latest run. So, it looks like I should wear particular clothing while running. Because, while running in my cotton tank top, my nips started to hurt a bit from all the chaffing. Other bits of the body are also prone to chaffing, too! The 'down-unders', they say. So I've found it best to wear something that wicks away the wetness and moisture when I start sweating — like a synthetic fiber — and to wear clothing that will be nice upon all my bits whilst I run.

3. The 'Stamina Problem' becomes the 'Ache Problem'

When I started running, I would quickly stop because I couldn't breathe. I was dying! I couldn't get the air into me lungs fast enough. But once I started to run more often, I noticed I wasn't getting tired as quickly. Nice. Yet a NEW problem has surfaced. And this is of aches. Either cramps or 'ouchies' or 'arghs!'. These are the pains that started to come up at specific points in my body. Last night, it was the sides of my left knee. The day before, it was the right side of my hip — along with the right side of chest (a good 'ol fashioned cramp). I definitely thought it was odd that these pains could be precision targeted like that. But it's something for me to keep in mind. Which leads into the next point...

4. Have a plan

I thought I could just run 42.2 kilometers like nothing (btw 1 mile = 1.6 kilometers — I run in km now because, when it comes to organized events, they're done in terms of '5K' and '10K' and so on). So I quickly realized that I can't go 10km (or a quarter marathon) everyday. I have to build up to it. So my friend has told me about doing smaller runs during the week — say, 5k (which takes about 30 minutes). This makes it then easier to get mah body acquainted with running but, also, to make sure that I don't get injured.

5. Have some support

When I mean support I mean 'supportive people'. I don't know if I would have felt compelled to start training for a marathon if I wasn't around someone actively training for an Ironman Triathlon. It's hard to say. But I know many sources point to a supportive environment and supportive people being crucial to building motivation and sustaining a new habit. Eventhough I can't run today (due to my aforementioned knee hurting) I do feel like continuing my training. I need to get back at it. Not because I need to or because someone is forcing me to, but because I feel compelled to. Something out of reach but still close by. Maybe it's the determination that I first had to get sober that's seeping into other areas of my life. Where I thought there was nothing further turned out to be a world of new paths — branching out in all directions — just waiting for me to start the journey.

For today, I will find a dedicated marathon plan, and I will find a way to continue to improve. For recovery has taught me that apathy is easy. Not changing is normal. But life slips away too quickly when I believe it'll go on forever. Something can be done today. I can begin again.

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