But first some bits and pieces I forgot...
|The mental aspect comes into play when one realizes one has run 27.2 miles instead of 26.2. Yes, I actually did that.|
Injuries: At first (marathon #1), I was a big ball of injury - I was not in the shape to attempt a marathon and training hurt. This is why I'm not a proponent of the "You, too, can run a marathon" kind of plan. Sure, anyone can run a marathon. But first you need to build up a decent base, or the mileage increase will injure you!
My biggest injury was excruciating runner's knee that plagued me for months and lead to other, responsive injuries. I fixed that in 2 weeks by throwing out my motion control shoes and going neutral. Bam, just like that, no more pain. My only injury after that was a mild fracture sustained from a hard landing on a rough surface...playing chicken with a train. I know. Sorry. I do dumb stuff sometimes. It serves me right. It healed in a month and has been 100% pain free since then.
Edited in 2013: Since the time I wrote this, I developed a chronic condition (osteitis pubis) and then lost over 7 months to a stress fracture: what was initially diagnosed as a hamstring tear turned out to be a femoral stress fracture. I'm not sure how it happened to begin with, but running on it for 5 months certainly made it worse. I'll re-edit later if I find out more info on what could have prevented this injury!
Gear: I'm not really into fancy running stuff. I got a Garmin for Christmas a year ago, but I only wear it for speed workouts, long runs when I don't know my route distance, and races. I wear an ipod for long runs and races, too, but not for everyday running.
I buy my socks and jog bras from Walmart. They are cheap cotton. I buy shorts off Ebay or Nike clearance. I got tights at Target last year for $1.99. I have only purchased a running top ONCE, since I wear mostly race T's. I snap up clearance shoes and try to spend less than $39.99 per pair.
To me, the appeal of running is that anyone can do it with very, very little stuff. I don't want to lose that feeling of fun and freedom, so I keep things low tech.
Right now, I wear Saucony Kinvaras - men's, since I have wide feet - and I love them. I wear them for long runs, track, races, and every day. I also have a pair of Karhu Fulcrum Fast, which I rotate in about once a week. I love my Karhu's, too, but lately I've been having trouble with fit. I think I'm between sizes in a women's shoe - men's shoes just fit better.
The best thing I ever did for my running was to switch to a neutral shoe. I'm a believer in letting your body, not an external device, correct for any imbalance or anomaly. If you think about it, you've been alive and kicking with that darned pronation or funny gait for 20+ years and it never hurt you before. When you do natural activities like walking, lifting, or sitting, you didn't need special shoes to prevent a catastrophe. So why do you need them for running, which should also be a natural activity? I'm not saying go totally minimalist, which didn't work for me (I tried it, I felt too much impact); I'm just saying, let your body do its thing. If you aren't having problems, don't let some running shoe store sell you a stability shoe to "fix' something.
Fuel: Before I run I have half a cup of coffee - full cup for a race - but I generally do not eat. I eat lightly before a marathon but no other distance. While running, I eat gels or oatmeal or white rice. Yeah, I bring teeny bags of cooked and salted rice and oatmeal with me. It's cheaper than gels.
For long runs, I only fuel for 18 miles and over. I bring two servings of fuel (2 gels, 2 bags of rince, etc).
For races, I usually bring a gel or two for a half marathon, although I rarely will take more than one.
When I race a marathon, I need fuel. I drink Gatorade at about every other water stop, and I bring about 4 gels.
I take my gels in halves since it's easier to get enough liquid down with them that way. I try to stay on a schedule of miles 6, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, and 22 - half a Gu at each. Obviously I will adjust this based on location of water stations.
For the rest of the time, my normal diet is just ok. I drink lots of coffee and have red wine at least 5 times a week. Hey, it keeps my cholesterol in check! I am lucky that I generally like healthy foods, especially fruits, veggies, and legumes, but I eat plenty of treats, too. That's why I'm medium-weight instead of pro-runner skinny. I like eating and food makes me happy.
What I don't do: I do not ice, I do not wear compression, I do not race without drinking water, I do not drink chocolate milk, I do not have mantras, I do not run barefoot, I do not diet, I do not take supplements, I do not bandit, I do not cross train, I do not stretch, I do not carb-load, I do not buy expensive accessories, I do not raise money for charity, I do not negative-split, I do not mid-foot strike, I do not do Yasso 800's, I do not run on treadmills, I do not run ultras, I do not use sunscreen. I do what I can, want, like, and afford...in other words, I keep running a hobby, not a lifestyle. Only you know just the mix of dos and don'ts that work for you! Some things I should do to improve but I'm not willing to sacrifice for them. Some things would be fun to do, but would cut into time and money I should spend on other things. You just have to pick and choose what works for you.
When the going gets hairy: So here's the thing. I don't like quitting or copping out. I don't usually make excuses for myself. I'm not silly enough to not allow myself a pass if I'm sick or injured, but I don't like going easy on myself. I'm not a perfectionist, just pushy.
I'm not built to be a runner. I'm a stocky, muscular build that doesn't promise long smooth strides. I'm heavier than most runners running my same speed. I have terribly damaged feet from wearing too-small shoes growing up, and I heel strike. But I do not give up and I don't make excuses. I think that's helped me more than any natural ability or training plan.
What's helped YOU more than anything else?