November 2, 2013

Marathon Motivation Tip: Run It For Someone Else

I’ve often been asked at expos and night-before-the-race speaking engagements for last-minute tips. At those times, your training is done. Sorry for all you procrastinators right now (believe me that I am sorry for I am one of you!), but doing sprints the night before the marathon is not going to fix any lack of training 🙂

One part of training that runners often neglect is brain training – and it’s honestly too late to do much on that now either. (This article gives a great overview of what I mean by that – lots of work needed!) But there is one last-minute thing you can do that has been really helpful for me and other runners who’ve used it: dedicating a mile to someone you love.

Marathon Motivational Tip: Dedicate each mile to someone who inspires you and run it for them!
Original image credit: Drew Vigal

 When you’re running for someone else, it’s harder to wimp out – because you’re letting someone else down. Charity runners know that when they get to the toughest miles of the race, thinking of the people/cause they’re supporting can help them to keep going. (After all, if you’re running in honor of a 6 year old with cancer, it’s hard to think of your silly marathon as being much of a struggle at all!) But even if you’re not running for charity, you can run for anyone who means a lot to you.

Think of your inspirational person cheering you on (whether or not they’re actually there), and think about what they’d say to you to keep you going when it gets tough. Would they be the type of person to tell you sweetly that they’re proud of you and that you look awesome, or would they yell at you to get your lazy butt going up that hill? For my very first marathon, I actually emailed all my friends and asked them to send me music they thought I’d like. Some sent songs that would make me think of them or a special moment in our relationship, while others sent songs with lyrics that seemed appropriate. I will never forget being at mile 21 of my first marathon and hearing  my dear friend Kelli’s pick come blasting over my iPod: “if you’re going through hell? Keep on going! Don’t slow down; if you’re scared, don’t show it!”

For my 100th marathon, I’m taking my own advice and dedicating each mile to someone special. There are so many people who have supported me on my 50 state (and then 100 marathon) journey, and I know I’m not going to be able to name them all. But this is one tiny attempt at mentioning those who have been so incredibly wonderful.

Mile 0 – Verrazano Narrows Bridge
This mile is slightly uphill but has Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York” at the start. I will for sure be tearing up with excitement, and most likely thinking back to when I couldn’t even run one mile. Here, I’ll be thinking of summer 2006 in Bradenton, Florida, where I first made a running goal: to do one mile without stopping. I’ll be thinking about my coworkers in my internship there, as well as my coworkers at my first job in New York City. My boss Rob ran the New York City Marathon in 2007, and when my best friend Kelly (another coworker) and I went out to cheer him on, that was when I first knew I wanted to run long. (Rob will actually be hanging out at the start area with me and coming to my post-race party after – I’m so excited!) Kelly and I went on to run the Honolulu Marathon together, and she’s been a wonderful friend and supporter of all my endeavors over the years.

Mile 1 – Downhill into Brooklyn
This part of the course will be quiet, but also triumphant – we’ll be heading down the screaming downhill of the bridge (with the fireboats spewing glorious plumes of water on either side), and then starting to settling into our actual race pace. In this mile, I’ll think with fondness of my run with Justin Gimelstob in 2010. He was pushing the envelope to go fast here, and I tried to slow him down because I didn’t think he could do it – but together we finished 10 minutes faster than our goal. I’m hoping to take a cue from Justin and go just a bit faster than I think I should. I never push myself as hard as I should in a marathon, but Justin taught me that real athletes just go for it, grit their teeth, and get it done.

Mile 2 – Slight uphill toward 4th Ave
Right at mile 2, the courses split based on bibs – so this gets even quieter, and we’ll really have room to set the pace. Aside from the bridges, this will likely be one of the calmest parts of the course (especially since it’s still earlier in the morning). To channel that, I’m going to think of my best friend Mat, who keeps me calm. He totally “gets” me and has always been the best at making me feel better whenever I’m stressed out. Mat’s also my early morning buddy – we frequently call each other to go for coffee the second we’re up on weekend mornings. He’ll be up and out on the course with his girlfriend, and I’m psyched to get to run to them!

Mile 3 – Bay Ridge Churches, 4th Ave
This one’s for all the Marathon Maniacs and 50 staters who’ve worshipped with me at the “church of running” so many Sundays. When I was doing the 50 states, it seemed that every Saturday night was spent at some Italian restaurant (or eating a loaf of bread for dinner when we arrived too late to eat at a restaurant – Morgan!), seeing some familiar faces and meeting some new ones, then cramming into a hotel room to get as much sleep as possible before waking up at 5am to run 26.2 then fly home. (And no matter where I went or what marathon I did, Larry Macon was at probably three quarters of them, smiling like crazy when we’d get to see each other on an out and back.) I haven’t been as social with those two clubs in the last few years (lately it seems that I’m always traveling with blogger buddies!) but they were what got me into this whole thing and convinced me that it was “totally normal” to be running a dozen marathons in one season.

Mile 4 – Final straight uphill on 4th Ave with a big screaming downhill
I remember seeing my sister-in-law’s best friend Teresa on this stretch the very first year I ran it – which makes me think of my brothers and sisters-in-law. This year, my brother Lars and his wife Andrea are coming out to see me run, and I’m so excited that they’ll be there to celebrate. I’m not sure yet where they’ll be on the course, but I’ll be running this mile for them. My brothers knew me as the prissy little sister who loved ballet/theater and hated sports; I’m thrilled that I’ve grown up to be a runner and to appreciate the football that they love to watch 🙂

Mile 5 – Live music
This mile is known for the live music bands that will be along the way for entertainment, so I think it would be fitting for me to run it for all my high school band/choir friends. I was totally that nerdy kid who hung out in the choir room during every study hall, and when I was in middle school, I went to band camp (Luzerne Music Center!) for several summers. That was when I hated sports and couldn’t imagine running a mile – I was thrilled when seniors who played a sport were allowed to count that for their PE credit, and I was able to count my ballet classes for that. My high school reunion is coming up at the end of the month, and I’m psyched to reunite with my choir and band buddies that I haven’t seen in a while. Kristen, Jano, Greg, Jeff – this one’s for you guys.

Mile 6 – Still on 4th Ave, still rolling hills
We’ve been on 4th Ave for a while at this point, but I’m sure I won’t be sick of it – I love this race so much! Just in case, though, I’m going to think about my friends in the Albany Running Exchange club. I started running in Albany and got looped into the club, and they are all such phenomenal people who were so supportive as I started going longer and longer. My friend John is one of the leaders of the ARE, and he made the trip out to run the Minneapolis Marathon with me as my 50th state, and then celebrate after – it was so generous of him! I love going back upstate and doing races where ARE members are present, and I’ve also bumped into ARE members in unexpected places – like when I did the Bermuda Marathon and found out that the ARE Event Services group had actually been hired to do the timing. For this mile, I’ll think about when I started running and saw ARE pals doing the 10K and thought it was sooooo long that I could never do it. I’m doing it today!

Mile 7 – Bars
My old roommate, Lisa, recently moved to Brooklyn to live with her fiance. When we lived together, we rarely saw each other thanks to my crazy travel schedule, and the fact that we never planned anything. I mean, we lived together – surely we didn’t have to plan ahead? But apparently we should have, because now that she’s moved out and we’re forced to make plans, we’re talking and seeing each other more often. This stretch of Park Slope is lined with tons of bars that we’ve always talked about going to together, so here, I’m going to think about her and start picking out fun-looking places to make it happen.

Mile 8 – Turn onto Atlantic Ave, and the three starts become one
In this mile, year after year since 1979, Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School band blasts the theme from “Rocky” over and over for the runners. The theme, “Gonna Fly Now,” also happens to be my college’s fight song, and I loved going to hockey games and cheering as loudly as possible. My friend Kelli and I met at a hockey game, and often traveled to the away games together to cheer (since she was dating one of the players). In this mile, I’ll be thinking of her, and attempting to “fly” myself.

Mile 9 – Bed-Stuy
There’s a big downhill in this mile, which will be a great chance to use what I learned from the previous mile and “fly.” However, it’s not quite time to go all out yet – I’m not even in the double digits! I want to channel my friend Ashley in this mile. She does an incredible amount of race prep and thinks through her plans like crazy, and I’d do well to heed that type of caution here. Recently, Ashley concocted a really grand plan – to do a two year tour of duty with her company’s Switzerland division! I miss her a lot year, but it’s so neat to think of such a great friend cheering me on from another continent.

Mile 10 – Williamsburg South
Speaking of running friends in faraway places… mile 10 reminds me of my friend Che, who got married at mile 10 of the Grand Rapids Marathon – and then we ran to the finish from there! Che and I met through blogging, and we met for real for the first time at the Portland Marathon. But there are so many friends I’ve met through blogging (like Adam, who’s staying with me this weekend for the race!). This mile is for all my internet friends out there – blog readers, BLEND attendees, and fellow runners I’ve met at races all over the country and don’t get to see that often.

Mile 11 – Williamsburg North
Williamsburg is the quintessential hipster part of Brooklyn – and while I don’t think of Laura as a hipster at all, we’ve definitely run through Brooklyn together enough that it makes me think of her. We’ve run to cassoulet cookoffs, mac and cheese festivals, and for hot chocolate – and I love that Laura can shift from easy fun runs some days to ridiculously speedy races other days – girl is fast! I ran my current PR where she ran her first marathon, at Wineglass 2012, and this is about the point in the race where I’ll start trying to decide whether a PR might be in the cards. (I’m guessing not, with the predicted high winds.) But channeling Laura’s super speediness should keep me going, whether it’s for a PR or just for fun! 

Mile 12 – Greenpoint
In this mile, there’s no question who I’m going to be thinking about – my father and all my family in Poland. My dad will be further along the course, waiting to cheer for me in Manhattan, but I’ll be thinking about him here. Whenever my dad comes to visit New York, we try to go get dinner at one of the cute Polish restaurants in Greenpoint – so I’ll be passing a lot of my favorite spots. My family in Poland has never gotten to see me run, but I know that my cousin Philip did his first marathon, the Warsaw Marathon, this year. I want to run Warsaw someday, but for today, I’ll settle for running by all the Polish marathons and calling “dzien dobry!” (“good morning!”) as I go.

Mile 13 – Bridge to Queens
Halfway through the race and we’ll finally exit Brooklyn – it will be nice to get a real change of scenery! The borough of Queens is one that brings back memories of when I worked for an airline that was headquartered there. Working for an airline helped me to get cheap tickets to run a lot of marathons, and my coworkers were always really supportive of my running. I kept a map of the US on the wall by my computer, and colored in each state as I ran a marathon there – it was a really fun visual progression of my progress! In this mile, I’ll be thinking about my awesome coworkers there and how it helped me find my current position as a travel industry consultant – I love airlines!

Mile 14 – Court Square
This mile is our final one in Queens before we head to Manhattan, and since we run by Court Square, I’m going to think about my friend Jen – who recently passed the bar exam and is now officially a lawyer! Jen ran her first marathon in Chicago a few weeks ago, and totally crushed it with a 4:20 finish. Her best case scenario A-goal for Chicago was a 4:22, and it was so amazing to see her not only finish the marathon but exceed her wildest dreams by doing it faster than she thought possible! Mile 14 is a tough part of the race, since you’ve been going for a while but don’t yet have single digit miles left, so I’m going to use Jen as inspiration to push harder than I think is possible in hopes of achieving a great time.

Mile 15 – Queensboro Bridge
This one will be the quietest mile of the course – just feet pounding as we gear up to enter Manhattan. I’m not bringing headphones to listen to any music or podcasts, but in this mile, I’m going to be thinking of someone I’ve never met – Jillian Michaels. Her therapeutic podcasts have helped me zone out and relax through many a quiet marathon. But Jillian herself is certainly not quiet! If I start slowing down on the uphill to the bridge, I’ll channel Jillian and remind myself to toughen up – there’s a downhill and a huge party on the other side.

Mile 16 – First Ave: party time!
My friend Beth is running the NYC Marathon as her very first marathon, and I have never seen someone more excited about a race. I know she is going to have the time of her life out on the course, and I’ll especially be thinking about her in this mile when the crowds of the Upper East Side are out in full force to celebrate. For Beth, I am betting that this whole marathon will be one big party, and in this party mile, I’ll be thinking of her and how much fun I hope she’s having. I want my own NYC Marathon experience to be one big party too, and thinking of Beth’s excitement at running her very first marathon is a great way to remind myself just how magical the 26.2 mile journey is.

Mile 17 – 77th Street
This mile has the Athleta UES store in it, which holds a really special place in my heart. When Athleta first opened, I started going there a lot for the free in-store fitness classes… and then the amazingly encouraging staff convinced me to apply to become one of their 2012 Sponsored Athletes. Last year was amazing – getting to know the incredibly Athleta staff, and also coaching an awesome group of women for the 2012 More Half Marathon. So many people went from 0 miles to 13.1 miles, and getting to witness and be a part of the transformation made me so happy.

Mile 18 – 96th Street
This week, my friend Becca reached out to me to wish me luck on the marathon. Becca was one of my closest friends in high school, when we did theater together, but unfortunately we haven’t really stayed in close touch since. However, like me, Becca has turned to sports (even though we both used to loathe gym growing up) – she’s now done several marathons and Olympic triathlons! Becca’s going to be out cheering in this mile, so I’m going to be running it thinking of her and my other Guilderland Players / Albany theater scene friends.

Mile 19 – 118th Street, Willis Ave Bridge
This mile is my least favorite mile of the race. You’re still heading away from the finish line (at mile 20, you start to turn back and come toward it), there aren’t that many spectators, and you have a little bridge to go over – with grates that can be tricky on your feet. I’ll really need a big boost as I run through here, so I’m going to think about all the wonderful people I’ve met pacing races. So many of the people I’ve paced have shown such incredible strength when times get tough, and I love seeing people push themselves to do more than they thought possible. In this mile, I’m pulling out all my pacing tricks on myself and hoping I can be as strong as those in my pace groups at previous races.

Mile 20 – Bronx
Only 10K left from here – yippee! I’m going to spend this mile thinking about one of my running idols, Kathrine Switzer. I had the opportunity to meet her when I first ran the Niagara Falls Marathon, and then was honored to sit on a “running experts” panel with her at this year’s Boilermaker. (Still can’t believe that someone puts me in the same category as Kathrine the Great!) When Kathrine started running, women did not run marathons – it was thought to be far too dangerous. Kathrine broke barriers by being the first woman to run a marathon, completing the 1967 marathon before women were even allowed to enter. Five years later, she and Nina Kuscsik dreamt up the New York Mini 10K as a women’s-only race, and that still runs through Central Park every spring. With 10K left in the New York City Marathon, I think this is a great time to be thankful for Kathrine’s efforts to help other women be allowed to run.

Mile 21 – Back to Manhattan
At this point in the race, I’ll have about 45 minutes of running left – which is also about the length of a Flywheel class. Maybe that’s a stupid analogy to give me a boost (since Flywheel classes are tough!), but I’ll be thinking of my Flywheel friends and how their positive energy can always push me to do so much more than I ever thought possible. This mile is “back home to Manhattan” in the race, but in two days, I’ll be “back home to” Dallas – and I want to do them proud.

Mile 22 – Marcus Garvey Memorial Park
It was around mile 22 of the Rehoboth Beach Marathon this year that Steph and I bumped into Ericka – and we all ran together for a mile, picking up the pace considerably while I blasted “Some Nights” out of my phone. There is always some great music on the course in this area, and I’m looking forward to picking up the pace here while dancing along to the DJs near the park and thinking about all the fun I’ve had running with friends in previous races. I’ll be solo here, but just thinking of my friends with me (and knowing that they’re home tracking the race) will keep me from feeling alone. (And really, how can you feel alone when you’re having a 26.2 mile party with 45,000 soon-to-be friends?)

Mile 23 – 103rd St, Museum Mile
Speaking of friends – a few weeks ago, my friends Blake and JP had to come to NYC to see a sick family member in this area. It’s silly reason to pick this mile, but I know I’ll be thinking of them as I go by. Since I’ve been working in Dallas, Blake and JP have become two of my best friends in the world, and I felt so lucky to get to run the San Diego Marathon with them a few months ago. Blake had a tough time mentally on the course, but she got through it and (I think) was even glad for the experience after. I was so impressed by how she pushed herself when she wasn’t feeling it in the later miles of the course, and at this point in the course, I’m sure I won’t be feeling that into it either – this is a long steady uphill that doesn’t even look like an uphill (so it really burns you mentally). I want to channel Blake’s strength in this mile and just keep going, no matter how much it hurts.

Mile 24 – Entering Central Park
Although Theodora and I met at a charity event that Ali hosted, one of the first times we really hung out was when we went for a run counterclockwise in Central Park. She’s since become one of my best friends – and she’ll be out there running too. At this time in the race, just two miles from the finish, I’m going to think of Theodora and how her own race is going. I wish I could be out there cheering for her, but I’ll have to settle for trying to telepathically beam mental energy to her, particularly as we both come into this final stretch where it’s more mental than anything else.

Mile 25 – Final Lap!
This final mile has a water station that’s very special to me, since it’s manned by my college’s alumni group – but I don’t plan to stop at it. With less than 12 minutes left in the race, I don’t want to waste a second! However, there’s one other very special person that I’ll hopefully be seeing in this mile – my mom. She’s been to about a dozen of my marathons, but even when she’s not there in person, she’s always been my biggest supporter, cheering me on from afar. I don’t know where exactly she’ll be in this mile (it’s going to be super crowded and tough for spectators to find a spot!), but I know she’ll be there and probably waving a huge sign in my honor. My mom has been my biggest supporter ever since I was a little kid – taking me to ballet classes and theater rehearsals, helping me study for the spelling bee – and thinking about / seeing her is what’s going to bring me home to the end of the course.

Mile 26 – Columbus Circle
This final bit, this last little stretch, I’m doing just for me. I’m sure I’m going to be crying like a baby as I contemplate that the finish line of my 100th marathon is less than a quarter of a mile away – and it’s a quarter mile that I know very, very well. I want to think about nothing but how close I am and how far I’ve come over the last 2600 miles of marathoning, and I want to charge up the incline to the finish. I’m not doing this race for a time goal, but for this last two minutes, I’m not leaving anything on the table.

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8 thoughts on “Marathon Motivation Tip: Run It For Someone Else”

  1. Good luck and have fun as your run your 100th marathon!! I love the idea of dedicating each mile to someone. I have been considering doing this next week at my marathon too. Great way to really put thought into every step of the race. Enjoy!!

    1. Thank you so much for the well wishes, Christine – I was definitely thinking about you during that “Blend Friends” mile 🙂

  2. You got this , bunny,,,and you know I’m rooting for you every single beautiful mile that passes under your feet. Have the time of your life on your favorite “big race” course! Love you, Mom

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