Priorities and sacrifices often go hand in hand, especially when it comes to marathoning. If one of your priorities is the marathon, it’s likely that at some point during your training cycle you will have to sacrifice something. Whether that is skipping a party because of a long run the next day, passing on your favorite food because it’s race week or giving up lazy Saturday mornings in bed in order to get a run in before the day starts.
Everyone’s priorities and sacrifices are different. What may be a sacrifice for one runner may be something that means very little to someone else. And another runner may put running at the top of their list while another runner may have a ton of other things that out-prioritize running.
It’s a question of What are you willing to sacrifice in order to reach your goals? But it’s not simple and certainly not black and white. If you were to tell me that I needed to give up wine or chocolate in order to run a certain time, then that would be a major sacrifice for me (and quite honestly, one I’m not willing to give up). It’s also not sustainable for me – I could go maybe a couple of weeks but I enjoy them both too much to go much longer.
I know some may look at my 4am wakeups and think that I am sacrificing so much in order to run the miles I want during the week. But for me, I’m not really sacrificing much. A bit of mindless TV at night and an extra 30-45 minutes of sleep (most nights) is generally what I’m giving up.
The early wakeups have always been part of who I am. I remember being in the 5th grade – I would wake before 6am in order to shower, have breakfast and watch my favorite show on TV before I would wake up my mom and sisters. Fast forward to college. We had breakfast formation before 7 each morning. I would get up before 5 so I could run and/or go to the gym before the day started. My roommate of three years (Lauren!) thought I was crazy for getting up to run that early.
So it’s not a huge change for me to get up early to run before work. I’d rather run first thing in the morning while my boys are sleeping than at night after a long day. Add in that my husband is also an early-morning riser – and there’s not much of a reason for me to stay in bed. He owns and runs his own company and is often working by 4:30am. And when he’s not, he’s on the bike or in the basement lifting. Our days are just like most other couples, except shifted to the left a bit. We get up and go to sleep a few hours earlier than others – but it works for us. We sit on the couch, drink our coffee and share 30+ quiet moments together – talking about work, week and weekend plans and anything else that comes up – before our day begins.
Now that I’m mapping out my training plan for Boston, I’m realizing I am still learning what is sustainable for me. There’s really no way to know ahead of time if something is or isn’t. It’s a lot of trial and error. Try it for a few weeks and figure out if you are sacrificing in other areas for something to happen. Determine if it feels sustainable and if the endstate is worth those sacrifices. Yes? Keep moving forward. No? Go back to the drawing board for a new plan.
As I begin Boston training, however, there’s still a lot of unknowns. I think that is what worries me the most. I love having a routine. I crave it. Being home with my boys afforded me the opportunity to follow a training plan to the “t”. There was a lot of flexibility with running. I could get up early and run. I could sleep in and run on the treadmill. If the weather was tough in the AM, I could run at night. Plus I had time to strength train. And I had more time to get the sleep I needed when my mileage and intensity picked up.
I’ve been working and juggling running for only three months. but here is what I know. Getting up during the week to run has not been an issue for me. Alarm goes off, I pop out of bed. My boys are still asleep, so I’m out and back before they even wake up. And I’m fitting in strength and core work when I can. Not ideal or consistent, but enough to keep me injury-free and feeling strong.
The surprising aspect has been the weekends. I feel like I’m stuck. On one hand, I have zero desire to set an alarm for a long run after five consecutive early-morning wakeups. I just want to sleep in and have a couple of lazy mornings with my little guys where I am not jumping up out of bed and starting the rush of the day. I so look forward to cuddles under the blanket on the couch in our pajamas while the sun comes up. That’s how I want to spend my Saturday and Sunday mornings.
On the other hand, I have less of a desire to leave them for 2-3 hours after the day has begun. Before I returned to work, I had zero guilt with doing my long run on Saturdays. I was with my boys throughout the week, so two or three hours of running on Saturday was no issue. During the warmer months, it required an early wakeup; during the winter, it was during daylight hours (for safety/footing/warmer temps). But now that I am away from them all day during the week, I don’t want to be gone from them for hours at a time on the weekend. I think I am subconsciously trying to fit in all the moments I feel I am missing during the week into the weekend days.
And so, right now, the sacrifice of my quiet mornings and time with my kids on the weekend isn’t worth a sub-3:10 or PR at Boston. Not even close. They are at such fun, amazing, wonderful ages (3 and almost 5) and I truly love spending time with them. They are both really into board and card games right now – this past weekend, we spent probably over 10 hours playing games as a family.
Take last weekend, for instance. My plan was to run easy on Saturday and long on Sunday. I opted for the treadmill on Saturday so I could be close to my little guys. They played down the basement and we chatted about Christmas, Santa and Star Wars while I ran.
I set my alarm for 5:30 on Sunday but my littlest had come in during the night, so when the alarm went off, I shut it and opted for snuggles with him until he woke me up at 7:30! I was thankful for the extra sleep (which clearly I needed) but knew that a long run now would be tough. By 9am, I was dressed and out the door. The boys were at the window (as they are each morning when I leave for work). I made it to the end of the block before turning around. I couldn’t get their little faces out of my mind. And I knew my heart wasn’t in a long run. Ever try to do a long run when you really want to be doing something else? Yeah, it’s brutal. So I skipped the run. We finished wrapping all our Christmas presents, baked Christmas cookies and prepped for our Christmas Eve dinner (my whole family comes over on Christmas Eve).
I don’t regret my decision in the least, but it does make me question how the long runs for Boston will go.
And so I’m trying to remain flexible the next few months (not my strong point). Maybe I’ll opt for my long runs early on Friday (right now, the runs are only about 16-17 miles which is somewhat possible but not sure if I will be able to consistently run 20+ miles before work). Maybe I’ll switch to a Hansens plan (shorter long runs preceded by a workout the day before). Maybe I’ll take a rest day during the week so I can sleep in one day – and then possibly be okay with an early alarm on Saturdays. Maybe I’ll be able to work from home in the New Year (one day/week) and that morning can be my long run.
Or maybe I just take a step back from racing marathons and focus on other things that don’t require the weekend time commitment. At the end of the day, running is my hobby. When I was home every day, my days often revolved around running. Now that I’ve returned to work, I am very much focused on my career. It’s s not just a job for me – I have every intention of working hard to do well in the company. And I have other personal (non-running!) related goals that I hope to achieve over the next few years. And so running/racing may have to take a backseat for a bit.
I thought the toughest part of my returning to work would be finding the time to fit in the training/miles I wanted, but it turns out that’s not the case. Instead, the toughest part has been finding the desire to be away from my little guys more than necessary for work.
I’d love any feedback or advice if you’ve been in a similar situation with trying to fit in training while working or having other priorities. Did you have to adjust your training? Does the guilt disappear? <3
Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!