How To Train for a Marathon When You'd Rather Spend Your Weekend At Bottomless Brunch
Training for my first marathon would be a lot easier if I wasn't such a glutton. My favorite part of running long distances? Eating and drinking immediately after the fact. Of course, I'm well aware of the innumerable benefits of exercise, including, but not limited to: stress relief, improved sleep quality, increased arousal, heightened mental acuity, and sustained productivity. And I appreciate all of that. I do. But I'd be lying if I didn't proudly assert that marathon training would be zero fun without my reliable post-workout buddies: pizza and beer. This rapacious approach to life is precisely why I've chosen to run my first (and most likely only) marathon in New Orleans in January, where I fully plan on pumping my body with fried oysters, beignets, and gumbo for hours on end — and in order to justify doing so, I must first spend the next three months training to put my body through 26.2 miles of sheer hell.
At this point, you're probably wondering how I do it. How do I toast to animal pleasures on Friday night, wake up fuzzy Saturday morning, run a 12 mile loop around the park, slam unlimited carbs via dough and IPAs, then rinse and repeat on Sunday without, umm, wanting to die? Well, contrary to popular scientific belief, binge running, eating, and drinking is not quite as difficult as one would think. For optimal clarity, I've outlined my three glutton-sanctioned marathon training tactics below, providing some helpful web and app resources for my fellow bon vivants out there.
1. Stick to a schedule
Although it's clear I succumb to hedonism on a weekly basis, I do stick to a schedule. This 12 week marathon training schedule to be exact. Twelve weeks is the perfect amount of training time for a commitment-phobic urban explorer who refuses to give up her wine tastings, craft beer festivals, French philosophy lectures, and Moth story slams in lieu of full-time exercise. If I can commit four days a week to running, you can too. It's easy — I put in my shorter runs during weekdays, alternating early mornings with late evenings depending on social engagements, then save my long runs for the weekends. Cross training usually consists of doing sit-ups, push-ups, and yoga on my apartment floor while my cat lovingly spots me before biting my feet between reps. Sticking to an online schedule allows me to save money on a gym membership and breathe fresh air while discovering hidden gems tucked away in the one-way corners of my neighborhood. Just make sure to track your progress by logging these urban explorations. I'm partial to the MapMyRun app, but fellow runners swear by myfitnesspal, RunKeeper, and Tone It Up.
2. Eat as you please, but only on weekends
My good friend and former Philadelphia marathoner was right: while training for a marathon you will become absolutely ravenous. What do I crave after burning 1,300 calories in an afternoon? Everything. I want my carbs to go where no carb has gone before — but only on weekends. Surprisingly, most women gain weight while marathon training, which, for lack of a better term, blows. I'm a writer with a degree in the humanities, which means I can't afford new pants, so I try my best to assuage the beast on weekdays, satiating her with hearty greens like kale and collards accompanied by cruciferous fibers like broccoli and cabbage to prevent the weight gain. But since I'm burning over 3,500 calories per week, I certainly won't pass up the cheeseburger-stuffed donuts come Saturday (that's right, I said cheeseburger-stuffed donuts). By Monday I'll surely return to Thug Kitchen, Naturally Ella, or Japanese Farm Food for herbivorous weekday inspiration.
3. Adopt a mantra
In his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, writer and avid marathoner Haruki Murakami underscores the importance of his personal running mantra:
"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."
"Say you're running and you start to think, Man this hurts. I can't take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner [her]self." I've taken a liking to this mantra business, opting to embrace my own one-liner:
"I will run forever."
Will I really run forever? No. But if I tell myself that mile one is not in fact mile one, and instead forever, by the time mile 12 comes around via friendly automated app voice congratulating me on reaching the day's distance goal, I realize that 12 miles didn't feel like 12 miles at all — because I was anticipating forever. And then the absence of forever affords me the free time to head on over to the bar just in time for weekend brunch bloodies and everything hollandaise. Double win.