Does your family have an official calendar on the wall? It’s probably in the kitchen, and “if it’s not on The Calendar it doesn’t exist”. You know, the one with all of the birthdays, trips, work reminders and visits to Grandma’s. They tend to revolve around Christmas and New Year, the summer holidays and family events; different faiths have their different festivals and we even celebrate Chinese New Year these days (any excuse!)…
Well, you can forget all of those for a few months.
In truth your runner will have been thinking about maybe doing a marathon for a long time, and then finally focused in on one or more events and maybe had to apply for a number before getting a place. So it’s been an idea, a concept, a goal…
But from the date you runner’s marathon is confirmed, their whole world will revolve around it.
Christmas? That family event? That birthday in February? Not any more: now they are all simply
“x months to go” , or
“just x weeks now”, or more specifically
“by that date I should be up to a long run of n miles, doing m miles per week”.
From now on, it’s all a countdown to The Day. Get used to it, because resistance is futile.
Picture an old-fashioned globe, like the ones those older of us might have had at school: the Earth skewered on an axis a bit off-centre and tipped to one side….. well, pull the skewer out and push it through The Day instead, and you begin to get an idea of how your runner feels. The seasons are irrelevant (except insofar as they affect training conditions), the words and numbers on the old calendar are meaningless, the school exams a distraction.
The only thing your runner now measures against is The Day. 6 months away. 12 weeks away. 6 weeks away (eek!)…
This is inextricably tied up with Training (next week’s topic), and the demands of training are absolute. Unlike other runs, your runner can’t “get by” for a full marathon; there can be no fudging or half-measures. If they don’t train, they can’t do it; if they don’t train properly, they will have a disaster, or cant do it well. The Day is ddd, therefore by nnn date they must have reached xxx stage. Wish as much as you might, your runner can’t change the date of The Day; therefore everything else must fit in with it. Obviously.
This isn’t to say that you cant have that trip; or have friends to stay; or celebrate your birthday. No, that’s all fine. So long as there is a timeslot for that big run, and a route that can be identified, and time to recover, and they can bring their kit with them. No problem that the in-laws are coming that weekend, no problem at all; just so long as everyone is clear that these particular runs have to happen, so maybe your runner will skip the garden-centre this time, or else you can all go, but not until after lunch.
They have to. Because it’s only x weeks to The Day.
Your runner has been building towards this for years, now it has become months, now it is down to just weeks.
Make no mistake, your runner does worry about how selfish they are being. They haven’t suddenly stopped being the flexible, compromising, dutiful family person you have always juggled successfully with, give-and-take on both sides. But their personal commitment to running a marathon – after all the daydreaming, the wondering, the stalling and procrastination; the going public and the exposure and the charity commitments; and now the miles and work and hours and doubts and injuries – simply leaves no space. The Day is real now, and it is fixed. And the demands of a marathon training programme leave precious little flexibility or compromise, otherwise they simply cant run it on The Day.
So on top of everything else, they also have guilt at being so selfish, and silently carry this too, along with their other injuries and uncertainties.
Go with it, try it. Just this once, use your runner’s calendar for this year. You’ll give them something more important than any Christmas or birthday-present, and they will love you for it. You just need to put up with it this year, but it will last for ever.
TOP TIP: Ask your runner to put “M –x weeks” on your other calendar so everyone has a reminder and you will all see it if anything comes up. Maybe also some lines in the margin for “Mara miles build-up” and a different colour for “Mara peak weeks”.
[If any of that seemed relevant to you, there are more ramblings on fitting a marathon with everyday life here – I wrote it a couple of years ago but I think it’s still true.]