Making Time for Marathon Running

This is a guest post by Laura McDonell of Enjoying Every Mile. You can find Laura on Twitter. As with my regular writing, guest posts will cover a variety of topics, today’s topic is all about making time for Marathon Training… something I’ve definitely struggled with. If you’re interested in writing a guest post, fill out my form.

Beep…beep…beep. The alarm goes off. 4:00 has come early. There are mornings when I hit snooze a few times, but today is not one of those mornings! I am eager to get a jump on the day; guzzle down a cup of coffee, crack open my current novel for a few minutes of uninterrupted reading followed by a few moments of journaling. And then, when a half-hour has elapsed, I plug my headphones in, attach my lighted safety wear, lace up my shoes, and I am off. My feet pull me to moments of silence and growth as my feet touch the ground and sweat drips off my forehead. It is truly an unbelievable feeling to be enjoying the early morning. It is when I do some of my best thinking. Work is planned, family projects are designed, prayers are spoken, and I reflect on who I am, and where I am going.

Growing up, my Dad always got up early to exercise. Around 5 am each morning, he could be found in our basement lifting weights, doing sit-ups, and working up an incredible sweat on the Stairmaster or in the early days running on the treadmill. I was always impressed by the fact that he was a no excuse person. Even when we were on vacation, he would be sneak out before everyone was up and hit the streets for an early morning run. I don’t remember seeing him miss any workouts over the years.

My Dad was an athlete in every sense of the word. He never made excuses. As a former Triple-A baseball player, he modeled what it looked like to be healthy and stay in shape. I remember seeing a runner in the snow on the way home from church one Sunday, and asking my Dad why this man was running in the freezing cold. He told me, “Runners always run. It doesn’t matter what the conditions are; they always find a way to do what they love. There are no boundaries. No excuses when you are a runner and an athlete”. I have not forgotten those words. I don’t feel any boundaries when I peer out the window during some of the most awful conditions and know that I just have to go and do what I love. I was so fortunate to have had such a great role model growing up who taught me to start the day by taking care of myself physically.

Kate here… That is super awesome to have such an amazing role model. I hope to offer something similar to my children as they grow!

Running is in my blood. My great uncle was a serious track runner, and my Dad’s brother, my Uncle Nathan, was a marathon runner who has run more than 20 marathons. When I first heard about him running marathons, I was not quite sure what that meant, but I was intrigued. The marathon sounded ridiculous on some level. The distance sounded challenging. Some part of me knew I connected with this hobby even when I disliked it immensely as a high school athlete.

As I moved through college, then through teaching jobs that took me to several different schools, I realized how much I not only enjoyed the sport but how much I craved the time to spend running. Running just happened. I did not need to find a way to squeeze it in. I dated and then married, a runner who was also a no excuse person. My husband has offered helpful motivation when I am not sure I have it in me. Some of my calmest moments came during early morning runs. It became a part of my routine.

This is so wonderful to have someone not only understand your passion for running, but to have them share in it and push you to work harder at it while they are showing how hard they work at it as well!

I had run about 8 marathons by the time before I started having kids. I had run a handful of other race distances; but as my uncle told me, there is just something about the marathon. The distance is addicting, and it always makes you want to do another one. I was determined to get back to running soon after my first son was born. I even signed up for a marathon 8 months later as motivation. Since I am married to a distance runner, it was pretty easy to gain support to go out for a long run.

As a new mom, I loved the feeling of being off the grid without a phone for two hours. No matter how exhausted I was when I returned, I would always come back refreshed and rejuvenated ready to take on the world. It was as if there was a part of the run where the noise in my head was quiet and I was completely engaged at the moment. While running, God allows me to feel a sense of control. I even crave the pain I feel after a tough 22-mile run. It is during those moments that I am so proud that I have decided to take on what once seemed impossible.

I can completely identify with this concept of breaking away from it all, just listening to the voice in your head for a few hours, and even enjoying the soreness after!

While the experience sounds nearly effortless, the prep certainly isn’t. Waking up really early, preparing food well in advance and organizing diaper bags and backpacks shortly after they were unpacked became part of my routine. Running was something that I just did; I decided that nothing would prevent me from enjoying it. Since I work full-time and have three kids, I had to come to the realization that a lot of my “free time” is running and preparing to run. When I return from a workout, I realize that it is game time, and I am “on” as far as taking care of the kids.

Super impressive! I miss the days of running for a few hours and watching Saturday afternoon movies the rest of the day.

As my kids get older and are more involved in their own sports, it gets tough to schedule marathons and decide on mornings to run 16 miles or more. It has helped to look at my workout plan at the start of the week I make sure that I am not setting myself up for failure. If I need to be at the soccer field at 8:30, I don’t plan a 3-hour run unless it is the only day available, and the marathon is quickly approaching.

There are weeks where scheduled runs do not always go as planned… Everyone is different when it comes to squeezing workouts in. I have found the morning works the best for me. I like the quote by Teddy Roosevelt; “Do What You Can, with What You Have, Where You Are.” Sometimes a mile on the basement treadmill is the best option.

After a run of no matter what distance or speed, I come back focused. I feel more prepared to get three kids out the door by 7 am. Once the day hits, I am knee deep in homework, making dinner, driving to sports practices, scrambling to tidy up the house, and spending quality time with everyone. Some seasons of the year are not exactly balanced. But that is okay. The busier I get, the more intentional I am about making my miles really count.

Recently, I had a fellow runner ask me if my kids notice all of the running I do. I think that they do. I hope my kids feel as though they have seen an example of what it looks like to be a no excuse athlete, and it is this mindset that enables them to dig deep and find their own passion for something that they will always make time for.

Laura, this is inspirational to be a marathon runner with 3 children you’re shuttling around to practices and working full-time. You inspire me to keep pressing forward to make more time for running and accomplishing my own goals while I strive to help my children learn about passion, desire, focus, and determination. Thank you for sharing your journey!