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Kathie’s Marathon Training Blog: The Biggest Loser

Kathie Bergquist
Written by Kathie Bergquist

As someone who is allegedly training for a marathon that is only a month away, I am a total loser. Want proof? There is plenty of it.

First off, the mantra for this training is supposed to be “No excuses.” Except, this summer there have been nothing but excuses that have me putting off my training runs or falling short of my planned distances. There is always another better day to run, and always a reason to stop short of my goals.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, I was traveling on the West Coast to visit friends and family. Nikki and I did manage to get in two lovely runs on the coast in Santa Cruz, a four-mile short run and an eight-mile medium-length run.

Kathie Bergquist, Chicago Marathon, women's fitness, women's sports, women's health, feminist, ms. fit

Everything great after eight miles.

Our long run, which was supposed to be 15 miles, was to take place in Portland. We even scouted out a few places where we could get in a distance like that, including a paved biking and running path that began practically right outside of the door of our Portland hotel.

But when we woke up in the morning it was raining outside, so why not go on a spontaneous visit to a nearby Willamette Valley wine tasting, instead? After all, we could run anywhere, but we could only go on a Willamette Valley wine tasting in Willamette Valley.

So much for No Excuses.

wine tasting

When we returned from the West Coast, I came down with a cold. This delayed my running schedule by a few days. We were supposed to go on a long run during that time to make up for the one we missed in Portland, but my lungs didn’t have the stamina to take me longer than seven miles.  If you are not a runner, or just getting into it, or haven’t done anything more than a 5K, you may be thinking that seven miles isn’t that bad, but remember – we are training to run 26.2 miles. Seven miles isn’t even a third of that distance.

This brings us up to this week’s long run. It was supposed to be last week’s long run, but we pushed it up to Monday because I’d been sick, and also because rain and storms were predicted for the weekend, plus it was supposed to be about ten degrees cooler on Monday. BUT

Rather than being out of the house on our run at the coolest part of the day, in the early morning, we didn’t manage to get out of the house until it was edging into  the warmest part of the day. Eyeroll. If you had any idea how often this happens.

Our goal was 16 miles, basically out and back the distance of the entire north coast of the Chicago lakefront. Oh, also, it was Labor Day.

Kathie Bergquist, Chicago Marathon, women's fitness, women's sports, women's health, feminist, ms. fit

Still fresh at this point, but only about 3-4 miles in.

So, we’re about nine-miles into it, heading south towards downtown Chicago. The further south you get on the Lakefront path, the more congested it gets, even midday and midweek, let alone on the last major outdoor-type  holiday weekend of the year.

Nikki had sped ahead of me; she was feeling it. I was beginning to lag. I felt short of breath. My legs seemed to weigh about 500 pounds each. It just suddenly became so much easier to walk then to run.

I’d try to pick it up again, only to stop within 15 feet. With each stop and start I was having more trouble breathing. Either an emerging panic attack brought on an asthma attack or the other way around.  And I couldn’t drink enough water to quell my thirst.

Meanwhile, the lakefront path swarmed with people; other bikers, runners, beach-goers, families, a small European circus, etc. Okay, I’m just making up the circus. And Nikki, up ahead of me, was nowhere in sight.

This sucked. Nine to ten miles in; I was more than halfway done. I’d run ten miles before. Heck, I ran a full marathon just over a year ago, a half-marathon earlier this year, and completed a 13.75 mile run only a few weeks earlier. What was my f’in problem?

I found Nikki again right after she reached the turnaround spot and had started heading back up north. By that point, I was on the verge of full on asthma mode and/or general freakout. I tried a few times but I could not sustain any kind of run. After sticking with me for about a mile, I finally convinced Nikki to go on ahead. I’d do what I could.

Knowing that I could walk now took the pressure off of me. I was able to regulate my breathing and rehydrated with a sports drink. It was a beautiful late summer day and the expanse of the lake calmed my soul.

Here’s what I was thinking: maybe I just don’t have it in me this year. Maybe I should call it quits. Maybe I was already too far behind to ever catch up again. But here’s the thing: I would rather keep trying and failing than give up. What I had to do was not throwing in the towel, but to recommit myself to get as much good, productive training out of these next five weeks as possible. I had it in me; I’d already demonstrated that. Now I just had to find it again.

I finished my distance that day, although much of the last five miles was walking instead of running. In the end, I found the reserve to run the last half mile or so, and actually had started to feel into my stride again by the time we reached the car. Go figure.

All of this came about at around the time that the 64-year-old endurance swimmer  Diana Nyad finally succeeded in her pursuit of swimming from Cuba to Key West.  In a post swim interview, she said that the mantra that kept her going was “find a way.”

Maybe it’s time for me to choose a new mantra.

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About the author

Kathie Bergquist

Kathie Bergquist

Kathie Bergquist is publisher and editor-in-chief of Ms. Fit Mag. She teaches writing at Columbia College Chicago and edited of the anthology. "Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast" and is co-author of "A Field Guide to Gay and Lesbian Chicago." Pulled reluctantly into a fitness lifestyle by her wife and partner of many years, Bergquist is now a runner, a boot camper, and a yogini.

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