While “summer” in Chicago is probably the only time you’ll have consistent enough weather to train for a marathon outside, the more consistent weather also makes these months the best time to travel to and from Chicago (I say “summer” because we really only have 2 months of nice weather). With weekend trips, weddings, family vacations, and couch crashing visitors, one’s marathon training can be easily derailed. This has been one of my biggest struggles since about March. In the past six months I’ve been to Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Philadelphia, and Florida. I know, I know, poor me, getting to travel all around the U.S. to whoop it up with friends, but the struggle to get in runs while traveling has increased exponentially along with my weekly mileage. So for you jet-setters out there, here are some of the things to consider while training for a marathon (don’t make the same mistakes I did!).
Know Your Climate: While I consider myself the planner of all planners, I really dropped the ball on this one more the once. To give myself some credit, it’s hard to plan for a climate you’ve never actually experienced. Exhibit A: Miami in July. I got to spend the 4th of July in Miami (which is as amazing as it sounds), but knew that if I didn’t get my long run in before the 4th, it definitely wasn’t going to happen after the 4th when I would be residing in Hang Over City. So I told my friend no fun and games until I got this run in. I landed in Miami around 10:00am and was dressed and ready to run by 11:30am; setting out to run 10 miles, in the middle of the day, on one of the hottest I’d experience since starting my training, in a climate even muggier than Chicago, you can imagine how it went. I probably made it about 3 miles before my body just said ‘naw’, and I had to walk to rest of the way home; defeated, sweaty, and nauseous. Fortunately my friend was roller blading beside me the entire way in case I needed medical attention. Moral of the story: if visiting extreme climates unfamiliar to you while training, get your miles in before hand.
Know Your Terrain: One thing I never realized about Chicago, until a group of other runners brought it to my attention, is that it’s pretty flat, thus a relatively “easy” terrain to train on (running is always hard for me, which is how this fact alluded me). But when I set off on a trip to beautiful McCall, Idaho, I didn’t even give terrain a second thought. I was only concerned with the mild and sunny weather paired with 0% humidity. I was expecting a down right pleasant run through the woods with Bambi at my side. WRONG. The area we were staying in consisted only of hills and windy roads. I’m not talking baby hills, I’m talking like the kind of hills that make you hate gravity and wonder if you’ve gained 20 pounds. On top of that, my sea-level-city lungs weren’t accustomed to the high altitude and fresh air, so my chest burned almost as much as my lungs. Did I still do my run? You bet. Did I have to go back to the house mid-run to sit down and drink water? Yup! Was it the worst? Heck yes! It’s these moments that I try to tell myself it’s better to die a little right now than actually die in front of my friends and family (and a billion other people) at the Chicago Marathon. Although I did recently read in some runner’s magazine that training on hills can be a substitute for high mileage runs, it just might suck more (I added that last part). Moral of the story: find out the hill situation.
Nutrition and Sleep (or lack thereof): While it pains me to admit that eating well and getting enough sleep are crucial to one’s success while training for a marathon (or in life), it’s actually a thing. All along I thought “leading a healthy lifestyle” was just part of the adult agenda to suck all the fun out of life, but now I’m a fun-sucker too, here to tell you veggies are good, and alcohol is bad. It’s common knowledge that processed foods, alcohol, and smoking cigarettes will kill your insides. While getting proper sleep, regular exercise, and daily nutrients through whole foods will help you live a longer and happier life. Typically, the body can easily repair itself after indulging in some fast food or a few drinks, but this isn’t the case when you’re doing intense physical training. For me, as I’ve added on more mileage to my regimen every week my body is continually having to repair itself, so it needs all the help it can get. But when I add alcohol and poor eating habits to the mixture, I’m only adding insult to injury, or rather injury… to injury. This is of course another lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way.
Recently I attended the Minnesota State fair, where all fried fantasies come true, and you could say I overindulged. I had pizza on a stick, about 20 chocolate chips cookies, part of a foot long corn dog, fried olives, cheese curds, beer, beer, oh and more beer! Coupled with only a few restless hours of sleep per night. I thought I was smart, though, getting my run in beforehand. What I didn’t anticipate was what would happen after I got back. Within just a couple of days, I had a sore throat, runny nose, achy head, and found myself napping everyday after work (I never nap on work days). Needless to say my training suffered, it was nearly impossible to get up before work to run, and as I mentioned I was napping everyday after work. Now, with only a month until the marathon, I’m cutting out the booze, stocking my fridge full of good food, taking my vitamins, and actually trying to be in bed by 10:30pm every night. Moral of the story: don’t go to the state fair. lol jk. the real moral, be mindful of what you’re putting in your body if you’re expecting it to perform under extreme physical conditions.
Everyone knows that when you travel, whether for work or play, your routine gets all kinds of jacked; eating, sleeping, and exercise habits most of all. But when you make a commitment to something like a marathon, maintaining healthy habits is part of the deal, but the part no one actually tells you about, you’re just supposed to know. As you can see from my brief anecdotes, I’ve learned this rule the hard way. Life is a learning process, some of us just take longer to get it (me). While I don’t regret the trips I took this summer (because I had a blast), I don’t think I would’ve done things the same a second time around. I would’ve tried to space out my travels a bit more, or postpone them until after the marathon. So if you don’t want to struggle like me, follow these tips for training and traveling:
- Plan like your life depends on it – because your health actually does. If you’re visiting friends, be that annoying friend who has to know all your plans ahead of time. This way, you can decide if you need to get in miles ahead of time, or can at least cut out a designated slot of time to get your run in.
- Check out your travel location – check the weather and consider not only temp, but humidity as well. To find out about terrain, simply Google it. There are running groups in almost every city, many of which are a wealth of knowledge regarding safe running routes, terrain tips, and where the locals go.
- Choose between alcohol or indulgent foods – you can’t have both!
- Be realistic – while you may leave on a trip with the intention to stick to your training schedule, ask yourself if it’s a realistic expectation. If you’re going to hang out with your family for a weekend, might be easier to escape for a 12 mile run. If you’re however in Vegas for the weekend to celebrate your bestie’s bachelorette party, not so realistic. Know yourself, know your limits.
Stay in school, and don’t do drugs,
Arty the (Adult) Alien
oh yeah, plz donate to my fund – I only have 3 weeks to reach my goal. THANKS.