Marathon Miles: Moderation
By Alexis Mercer
It has been a while. I am in the midst of marathon training and things have been going splendidly. I have also started back to coaching cross country with daily practices and a multitude of tasks that are required to make the season go smoothly above and beyond the two hours a day I get to be with the athletes. I’m adjusting my schedule accordingly, which means a little less time to write.
My mind has been wandering to the question as to why I have never been at all interested in completing a marathon prior to this point. And also as to why I may have changed my mind.
The first thought that I know to be true is that it has always seemed so far beyond moderation that I did not have any interest.
Growing up my Dad has always said “Everything in Moderation” and it is a life lesson I have taken to heart. In various ways I live this out seemingly without exception.
When it comes to food consumption, I have settled into what I consider a healthy mindset using moderation as my guide. Nothing too much of any particular food. Moderate amounts of carbs, healthy fats and meats. Moderate amounts of fruits and vegetables (being careful to eat as many of these as everything else). I stray from pop and sweets for the most part, but don’t deprive myself of them completely if the situation calls for them!
This moderation has worked up to this point in my life with food and its effect on my life. I am respectful of how food fuels my body and how it gives me the strength and energy to do the things I love.
Always before when I thought of running, I never saw 26.2 miles as being within the boundaries of moderation. Why suffer so immensely for such a long distance when it is hard on your body and mind?
Why I decided that a marathon was my next goal I cannot truly fully answer at this point. But what I have come to terms with is that my concept of moderation was flawed in a few ways.
Firstly, my Dad saying his mantra of “Everything in Moderation” was not necessarily advice that he followed himself. Thinking back to years growing up, I have been reminded he himself ran a marathon. The Detroit Marathon in 1984 when my sister was a baby and I was 3. Hardly moderation.
He participated multiple times in the WAM 300, a biking event to raise money for the Make a Wish Foundation that included a 300 mile bike ride in 3 days, sleeping on gym floors along the way. Hardly moderation.
Growing up he would take the aluminum boat he purchased with his own money at 15 and float the river overnight, fishing, sleeping a little, fishing some more and then hauling the boat on his shoulders to his next destination. Hardly moderation.
As a teenager, he and his friends would push the limits to see what the earliest first day could be to waterski in Tawas Bay. The record came on a day when they were skiing past the last remaining floating ice chunks. Hardly moderation.
When it comes to athletic endeavors, my Dad doesn’t know the meaning of moderation. He’s an all in kind of guy. Go big or don’t go. Some of his most epic adventures have come from places far outside of moderation. Maybe I took the moderation concept to a place he never quite intended.
And then there is the concept of the definition of moderation when it comes to running.
Compared to my running in high school, yes, a marathon is outside moderation. I ran cross country, never training more than 8 miles at a time that I can remember. In track my events were the 800m relay (200 meters), the 400m dash, the 1600m relay (400 meters) and high jump. A future dabbling with distance wasn’t in my mindset.
Since becoming a cross country coach, however, I have been immersed in the world of running in a way I never knew before. Thanks to social media and things like podcasts, my eyes have been opened to a whole new world.
Following Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Linden, Shelby Hoolihan, the Nike Bowerman track club members, and other runners of varying talents, has helped me to see that the possibilities are endless when it comes to running these days.
Listening to podcasts, in particular The Morning Shakeout with Mario Fraioli, has meant endless hours of insight into the world of running in a broader spectrum. People who run 100 mile Ultra Marathons, those who run marathons in every country in the world, Tracksmith athletes who run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in a relay straight through for time for fun.
In this broad spectrum of running, a marathon is right smack dab in the middle of moderation.
As I have been completing training sessions on the track that go up to 10 miles of speed (including warmup, repeats and cooldown), I have been finding myself with the greatest of runners highs and a true sense of accomplishment and pride with each one.
Training has gotten longer in the last two weeks. My run today was 14 miles. It hurt a lot. It’s the first run where I didn’t feel like my body was on the same page as my mind. My left arch hurts and my right tendon in the hamstring region aches. It was a good reminder that it isn’t going to be easy from here on out.
My body might want to stick to moderation as it knew before.
But my mind is all in. It loves this entire process. I am growing, stretching, learning.
The ceiling of moderation has been raised to new heights. And I couldn’t be more excited to see where it takes me.