Surviving Preparation for a Full Marathon

I’ve been pondering my ultimate challenge lately.

My first full marathon.

I’m going to do it.

The question is how to do it. How to pick my race. What race to pick. And to go about doing this so it doesn’t potentially trigger a cascade of life-changing drama.

I know I am physically capable now. By then, I will have had four, possibly five half marathons under my belt.

And I have loads of people behind me.

Team Sorechester and my colleague Sergio – heck, all my friends from Rittenhouse Square have just piled it on me to run a full marathon. And some of them just won’t stop encouraging me and reminding me of what I am capable of.

My friend Vee keeps telling me I can do it, and such is the same from loads of other Tweeps.

Friends from college are also encouraging me to step forward.

Jeff continually reminds me of how crazy I am, but I know at the end of the day, he will pull for me. Even when he tells me that running a full is “gross” albeit in jest.

And even Pierre wants me to do it, even knowing that Phoebe’s knowledge of my running a full marathon could permanently shatter my life forever.

Given his somewhat nonconfrontational approach to family matters, that is huge. (And I’ll elaborate on Phoebe later.)

Most of all, I had such a fantastic time in my first race experience. I know the training is gruelling, but there was something in me that just wanted to keep training, that wanted to run. Running cleansed me of all the stress that is happening in my life, and it will continue to be the same if I run a full.

In running my half, I was sad to see mile marker 12. Upon telling this to Sergio, even he said I was nuts. But as I’ve said time and again, I do what I love and I love what I do. I don’t see the distance as daunting, I see it as exhilarating. I don’t view my eating habits as a diet, I have fun cooking with ingredients that I like as part of my new lifestyle. I ran my miles in San Antonio, Boston and so forth because I wanted to.

Not one day did I see training as a chore. I looked forward to it each and every day, regardless of what time I did my training.

I’m not trying to be pretentious. My times to start aren’t that great, and I say that in comparison to other women in their late 20s (my age group). But in keeping perspective I had to start somewhere. I’m coming off 20+ pounds lighter than a year ago, and I only took up serious weightlifting last year. I’m just content with setting my own goals and moving forward.

It’s part of the continuous challenge, but at the same time, this is what I want. I love the networking, I love the camaraderie, and I love challenging myself. Most importantly, every small step forward gives me another reason to believe, another piece of me healing after my wounds of the past 15 years.

However, taking on this endeavour is not without its pitfalls.

Injury is a given. This is yet easily mitigated if I stay responsible, eat properly and train the way I should. I am going to take training (to the point I want to read Hal Higdon’s Marathon book) very seriously because the very last thing I want to happen is for myself to get injured. Regardless of what race I choose, I will be putting time and money (inevitably) and effort that I do not want to see go to waste.

My knees do put me on edge. I need to keep on stretching and keep on lifting without aggravating sensitive points in my knees.

School will be an issue closer to the big race, but I am confident that I can tackle it. Because my full will occur during my first semester (read: more elementary courses in the curriculum) in the grad program and because I have extremely solid time management skills, this is a condition I can easily mitigate, especially when at MOST I have to deal with training, school and work for five (Chicago) or eight (MCM) weeks and not the full 14.

The biggest risk though is surviving training and running my marathon without my mother finding out. As it stands she is currently under the impression (or should I say, delusion) that Virginia Beach will be my last race so that in addition to school I can start thinking about progressing in my personal life, marriage and children.

“You need to do like everyone else and give the parents grandchildren within a reasonable timeframe. You’re overdue as it stands.”

(Yes, she referred to herself in the third person.)

And if she finds out?

“If you don’t make marriage and family a top priority in your life, I will.”

Translation: She will begin the process of setting up an arranged marriage. And then it will get ugly.

How ugly? I’m not sure if I want to know, but I can say with certainty it will involve a trip to court.

Please bear with me and allow me to vent yet again:

I can’t catch a break. I am so flipping sick of this garbage.

The part that defies logic?


Of course, she will go on the prowl for someone that wants to get married and have children in the next year, and she knows I won’t voluntarily date those types of men.

What part of no do some people not understand?

But in any case, that’s the kicker. If I roll MCM, I know I’ll be spending a significant amount of time in DC for professional reasons, so I will take every chance possible to train. Unfortunately this also means my family members (a lot of them live in DC) will start probing, and while I don’t expect anyone in DC to flip out, they could inadvertently let it slip.

And Facebook? Updates on my running will be out of the question there past next spring. It is one of the key reasons I created this site. What will be even more annoying is directing all my friends here and telling them to stop posting on my running in my profile. Even though I do not have my mother friended, there are others I know that will tell her. Oy.

Challenges aside, my other big decision is figuring out which full to run. Do I go Chicago, MCM or Philly?

A big factor is timing the race early in the fall semester.

Keeping this in mind, fellow Tweep Christina had suggested to me the Wine Country (upstate NY) or Chicago Marathon, but being without a car, both may prove to be cost-prohibitive for me. Given arrangements, I will not have to worry about lodging, but just looking at it now, airfare in the case of Chicago will kill me. Looks like I’ve got to look deep and hard into my frequent travel accounts to see how far they will get me. Nonetheless, logistically speaking, MCM will by far be the easiest – easy $25 bus ticket and lodging is a nonissue as I know a lot of people in DC. Disadvantage, it is at the end of October. Philadelphia will be in my backyard, but again, another 3 weeks deeper into the semester. Plus it will be much colder by mid-November.

That said, Philadelphia is most likely out. It’s going to be a toss-up between MCM and Chicago.

MCM has hills, last I recall at miles 1, 8 and 25, namely the Arlington, VA sections of the course. Chicago, I am told is flat and fast.

Amenities at both are second to none.

The other question is how hard it will be to get into each race. MCM registration starts mid/end February. Chicago’s registration will be sorted through their newsletters. Either way, I will have to do a bit of researching on this one.

The other thing to consider is that if I run into any friends at either race, it will more likely be at MCM. I could be quite lonely at Chicago, tweetups notwithstanding.

Finally, can I handle another 3 weeks of staying extremely tight in the semester?

I’ll have to look into everything. I know people outside of the Tweep community that have run both races, there will be plenty of chatting abound.

But one thing’s for certain: even if I have to keep this one giant secret from you-know-who, it’s going to happen.

As my father Pierre tells me, “If you let her control what you do, she wins.”

4 thoughts on “Surviving Preparation for a Full Marathon

  1. You need to do this. You CAN do this. You WILL do this. Now is the time. You will find the time, even with school. I did one full marathon, 7 years ago….I was married and working full time but had no kids yet. I made the time…..runs after work in the dark, long runs on weekends while my husband slept in. You’ll find the balance.
    As for the other issue? I hate to see you hiding. You should be telling the world—on Facebook, in real life–that you are doing this. Your mother has to deal. She can start an arranged marriage process, but you don’t have to get married. I know it’s a cultural thing, but you have your own mind and are in charge of YOUR life.

    Do it. And tell the world.

    • I want to do it. There’s zero question. Logistics/school/schedule I will make this happen. Just need to figure out how.

      My bigger fear is the family issue. I’ve already seen this end very badly for people. My cousins have had their pictures circulated to men without their permission in an effort to find someone to marry them (without their consent of course). Where the arranged marriage process becomes scary is when people (namely the proposed individuals in our situation) are brought in and they’ve already got the consent of the family and for them it’s just one big free-for-all. In some cases, the immediate family members resort to desperate acts – while I don’t see this happening with my family, I CAN see it happen with the men they bring into the process. Depending on how socially conservative (traditional) people are, where these men live, and how strongly they feel about imposing their lifestyle on me, there is a potential my life and personal safety will be at risk. Both she and other relatives will/have drawn from these types of people, so I have to be prepared for the worst case scenario.

      This is also a major reason I may pick Chicago over MCM and depending on how bad things get between now and the respective race registrations, that may dictate which one I do.

      Again, not WHETHER I do it, but only WHEN (which race) I run.

      I feel she may find out anyhow to be honest, so I may try and have some “fun” with it. Take a picture of my friends and I with our finishers’ medals and send them her way or wearing a shirt that says “I ran (fill in race here) and not even my mother could stop me!” and send the pics to her basically as a way of saying “too bad, my life, my decisions, etc.”

      (And it goes without saying this is a major reason I’m not doing Philly. Not easy explaining to people why I’m not doing the big race in our backyard – people are passionate about all the local events here.)

      In terms of the course itself, I am told MCM is more challenging (3 climbs) than Chicago (zero). But this will be okay either way.

  2. Wow, I can’t imagine your situation with your mother. To be frank, I don’t even understand the legalities of it all or truly get what you are up against. Maybe you could do a post where you explain it in more detail? (if you have already, would you direct it to me by emailing me Either way, I hope nothing but the best for you… I feel for you, even if I don’t completely understand.

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