Preparing for the Marathon

What is life like for the Olympic marathoner? Columbia graduate Lisa Stublic has given us some insights as she will be competing for Croatia in the 26.2-mile event in London on August 5. Stublic has been training — along with basically every other European marathoner — in St. Moritz, Switzerland, over the last few weeks. We truly appreciate her taking the time to share her experience and she even made a video (but I was unable to convert and share it.)

By 2012 Olympian Lisa Stublic

The marathon. 42.195K! It all sounds so very long, and to the person who has never even trained intensively it sounds almost impossible. I must admit sometimes I feel this way. It never really hits me that I am running a marathon until the 40th kilometer. I mean, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually I know I am running a marathon. I have prepared for this one race for five months. But I guess I do not conceptualize this fact until the actual act.

It is like how they say theory is different than practice. In a marathon every kilometer is marked. Now, I have been running since I was 14 years old (now I am 28) so 5K, 10K, even the half marathon do not really feel so “long” to me. So when I pass these marks it all feels somewhat “normal.” Even when I hit 30K it does not feel like such a big deal because on an average training day I run over 30K. However, when I see the 40K mark it always gets me. I have only run three marathons in my life but every time this moment feels so surreal. To actually see a sign and know you already ran 40K … words cannot describe this accurately. I guess I like this feeling of the surreal peaking into a mundane monotonous life.

Just because I describe my life as mundane and monotonous does not mean that it is boring. It quite nice actually. I get to run which is something I would do anyway, and while doing so I make enough money to feed myself and get by. In addition I get to travel around the world for competitions and training camps. I have been to Ethiopia, Switzerland, South Korea, Italy, Germany, etc. In doing these things I have meet so many different people and have come in contact with so many different cultures that I have learned things that you cannot learn in textbooks. And I am thankful for all these extraordinary experiences. I think thy have helped me grow into a more kind and understanding person. The thing is with distance running the most important thing, aside from training and resting, is consistency. I believe that if you train in such a fashion that your results will gradually and steadily improve. I believe that this method offers the most efficient long term personal success.

To have consistent training you must also live a consistent lifestyle. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), that means you must do pretty much the same thing day in and day out. Since my personality is more habitual in matter, the marathon running lifestyle is not hard for me to adopt. Every morning is the same for me. I wake up around 7AM, drink a glass of water, and eat a bowl of cereal. Then I check my email and Facebook and proceed to get ready for morning training. Always in my bag you can find my shoes for training, a protein shake and/or bar for after training, a few bottles of water, a change of clothes, my stretching rope, and because you never know if you’ll have some extra time, my kindle. And when I have a 3-4 hour long run I also pack macaroni so I can immediately refuel my body with carbohydrates after such a long training.

Morning training is the main training of the day, while in the afternoons I have something easier. Main training can range from a steady state lasting just over an hour, to workouts for example 5 x 1600m, 4 x 3K, 3 x 6K, or 3 x 20min uphill. Since the morning is my main training I am always a little tired by lunch time. After lunch most of the time I take an hour nap or just rest. Resting means just laying in my bed and maybe reading or doing some mindless activity like watching some program on my computer (I do not own a TV). About an hour before afternoon training I drink a cup of coffee to wake up and start focusing. As I said earlier afternoon training is more about collecting more mileage. It is the easier training of the day usually lasting around 13K at a pace between 4:15-5:00 depending on the day.

Sometimes I am “lucky” and I only have one training. These trainings are either a long run of 20-25K, an easier yet even longer run of 3-4 hours, or a crescendo, which can last up to 2 hours and 50 minutes. In a crescendo I start out at about 5:00/K and gradually run faster and faster until I get down to 3:30 or faster per K!

Running at this level is a 24 hour job. To reach my potential I have to live the lifestyle of work, order and discipline. This means no going out and parting to the early morning hours. This means always making healthy eating choices. This means sleeping 9 hours each day, etc.  Sometimes people ask me when is my bedtime? It is always such a weird question for me because it makes me feel like I am a child or I am under some sort of punishment. I do not have an enforced bedtime, but I do make a habit to go to bed around 10:30 PM. There is no one who will enforce this, but I know this is something I must do to be well rested to recover from the days training and be ready for the next day.

That is my everyday life. Even though every day is similar, I enjoy what I do. And in the end after completing a marathon I think all the work, dedication and sacrifice was well worth it. In fact I think doing some sort of sport, whether it be professional, amateur, or recreational, enhances your life, because you will experience a whole spectrum of emotion ranging from excitement to fear to elation to disappointment to anticipation.

One Response to “Preparing for the Marathon”

  1. Donn says:

    I love that she mentions how even the fear, disappointment and anticipation are integral parts of her life and of what she loves to do. Although I would have added “anxiety” along with the anticipation, I know when I’m done running I’ll miss emotions like those just as much.