Mary Johnson started running when she was in “the worst shape of her life”, and it didn’t take her long to find her stride as a runner.
The more times she’s run the marathon, the more respect Mary has developed for the distance and the challenge that is inherent in running 26.2 miles.
It’s never easy, and there are times when things don’t go well, but Mary loves the feeling she gets when the finish line comes into view for the first time and the race is drawing to an end.
And I can totally relate.
Learning to Listen to Her Body
In the past year, Mary began working with a coach that really encouraged her to listen to her body especially during recovery runs.
Until then, Mary regularly did her recovery runs too hard because she was so focused on pace.
Now, she has become more comfortable with the idea of slowing down and keeping her easy runs easy, similar to the principals I talked about with Matt Fitzgerald last year.
It’s been a process to get to this point, but it has paid off. And it is a lesson that can be learned in other areas of life beyond just running. Slowing down to rest/recover in all phases of life is important.
Mary’s Introduction to Running
When Mary was in high school, she had the option of running track to avoid having to take PE in high school.
So she signed up for a year of track, and found that she actually enjoyed the sport!
In college, Mary didn’t do much running but she did row competitively. She enjoyed being a part of the team, and was probably the only person on the team that actually liked the dry land/running workouts that the rowers had to do.
After college, Mary ran a couple of marathons, and did the yo-yo training plan: train for a race, run it, and then stop running for a bit.
Once Mary had cycled through this routine for a couple of races, she made the decision to stick to the training and she has definitely seen the fruits of consistent training.
Thoughts on Cross Training
Mary made some great points when we went off on a tangent related to cross training.
We both admitted, as running coaches that should know better, that we too regularly take the easy way out when it comes to cross training.
As runners, we want to run. So we make running a priority. And too often, we devalue (or skip altogether) our cross training because our lives are so busy.
While talking with Mary about this, she had a suggestion that I had honestly never even considered: doing agility drills.
As distance runners, we spend virtually all of our training running straight.
But what happens at the start of a race, especially a race with a lot of runners?
We run anything but straight!
We are zig zagging for at least the first few miles of a race, and by doing some agility exercises on a regular basis we are allowing our bodies to improve our ability to change directions on the fly.
That may sound like a little thing, but it sure beats rolling an ankle 1.25 miles into a marathon!
Spring Races: 2016
Mary tried something this spring that maybe wasn’t the best idea: racing two marathons about a month and a half apart.
Mary felt that she was pretty well recovered physically going into the second race, but mentally she wasn’t there.
Going into Buffalo, she had already given herself permission to DNF if it got difficult. And that isn’t a good place to be at the start of a marathon.
Lesson learned. The next time she signs up for two marathons in the same season, one will be a workout and one will be a race.
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