Marathon Training Week Nine- When Feelings Change

I will start this post off by saying that I have spent the better part of today thinking about whether I should write it and then the last hour or so whether I could. It's hard to reach deep inside and talk about our struggles but I also believe that it is through those conversations that we become stronger; that we learn more about ourselves and who we want to be. So I will write this in the only way I know how: honest and real.

Here's how training went last week:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 11.5km run
Wednesday: 1 hour 15min Cycle Pump class
Thursday: 6.5km run
Friday: 1 hour 15min Cycle Pump class
Saturday: 23km long run
Sunday: 50 min spin class

Total distance ran: 41km

My struggle:

I don't know if I want to "be a runner" anymore.

It's not that I don't want to lace up my sneakers and pound out a few kilometres ever again. I just don't know if I want to be associated with a runner's club that I don't quite feel like I belong to.

I'm not sure why, but that membership now feel a bit fraudulent.

The truth is I don't really like running at least not in the way that I feel I should to dedicate so much time and energy to it.

You know things have shifted when you've described it as torture.

I have stopped feeling as accomplished as I used to and nowadays there is less and less to counteract the feelings of boredom and discomfort that come from the sport.

I ran my longest distance ever and had to force enthusiasm to get rid of feelings of inadequacy and disappointment that were generated by the thought that I should have done better, gone faster, pushed harder.

I felt like I let myself down. And I bawled my eyes out about it.

Then I got up this morning, looked at my schedule for the day and realized I was signed up for a 10:30am spin class. And I was ecstatic! I couldn't wait to get there and sweat my ass off for an hour. I literally craved the exhaustion and the burn and the feeling of satisfaction that I knew I would get once it was over.

It was everything I hoped for and more. I almost teared up in the middle of class because as I dug deep and felt that sweat literally dripping from my face I remembered that all those feelings of "not enough" were misguided. I will give it my all if it is in my heart and soul to do it. So what's the problem?

Running no longer equals passion for me.

One things I know is this; If, at the end of my life I were to measure the quality of the years gone by it would not be by the number of kilometres ran but the days spent smiling and truly happy.

So the question I struggle with remains. If running doesn't make me happy (and other things do) why do I bother to run?

Am I afraid to give up?

To be seen as a failure? By someone else? By myself?

I do not know.

I don't know what I thought that I would get to the end of this post and have the answers. It's not the sort of thing you truly figure out in the course of an hour, a day or maybe even a lifetime. Happiness is the constant, the cause is bound to change, grow and evolve.

I'm not sure what this means for the marathon. Odds are I will move ahead with the training and try to achieve my goal. That being said, I will not live in misery for a goal that, by the sheer fact that the path to get there became so bleak, will have lost it's meaning anyway.

To be continued.....

So tell me, do you have any advice? Is this burnout? Has something similar ever happened to you? If yes, what did you do?


  1. Hey Samantha,

    Endurance sports are never easy. If they were, everybody would do them. I have feelings like this sometimes too. mine especially come from the fact that I work so hard and still don't run/bike or swim very fast (relatively). I see first-timers come in top 5 of their age groups while I struggle to get in the top half of mine. It makes my eyes well up when I'm digging deep with everything I have and I get passed by someone who barely looks like their breaking a sweat (or some guy that looks to be 105 years old :P). (I'm not saying you deal with this - this is just my personal experience). But the bottom line is that when I cross that finish line, those feelings go away and I just think about how my crappy little asthmatic lungs just carried me through a grueling race.

    I guess what I'm saying is take a chance to get back to your roots. Reflect on why you are doing this, find that little motivator voice inside you that guides you on the good days. Like I said in the beginning of this post, endurance sports are not easy, you need a good reason to put yourself through that torture and from reading your posts, I think you have a few :) Good luck!
    Nicole Peckham

  2. Hey Sam,
    I agree with Nicole above. Marathons are tough - that's why they're called marathons. I remember feeling the same way at one stage in my marathon training and it was when I started to notice my runs weren't feeling strong any more. I didn't feel like I'd conquered miles, I felt like I dragged my legs throguh them with nothing but the "I can't wait until this is over" thought in my head. But since that race (which I was really happy with - both in terms of performance, and just the sheer fact that I did it), I've decided that racing isn't why I run. And when I am racing, I'm not loving running any more. This was hard, because everyone I knew kept telling me that I should pursue it, that I should enter myself for Boston. After a lot of flip flopping back and forth, I decided that if I wanted to enjoy running, I didn't need races to do it.

    As for your situation, my advice is to just give it a couple of days. You had a really hard run on Saturday and covered a lot of miles in a lot of heat! Let yourself do what your body feels like doing, rather than what your training plan dictates. I didn't run for an entire week about a month before my marathon because I had a sore IT band, and did spin classes instead because I knew I would enjoy them more. After a couple of days, think about why and who you're running your marathon for, and at that point if you think it's worth it, then do it. If not, then that's totally ok too! :) Good luck!

  3. Last fall, I was walking or running every day. Now, I would rather be doing other things like swimming or spinning and I have come to the conclusion that it is totally OK.

    Does that mean I am done with running? Probably not. I am all about variety. Sometimes the mind and body just want something different.

    Perhaps that is what is happening to you. That doesn't mean you will never feel passionate about running again, maybe you just need a break.

    My advice is to listen to what you gut is telling you and go with it. Good luck!

  4. I am not a runner...I've wanted to be and sort of tried, but I always get burnt out fairly early on in the process. If I don't enjoy what I'm doing when I workout- then I hate it and dread it and actually feel like I have worse results. I honestly think that if you aren't passionate about running anymore then maybe you should take a break and focus on the things that you enjoy! Maybe a break is all you need to refuel the fire!

  5. For me I find that running is a love-hate relationship. Sometimes you find it amazing and can't get enough. Other times you hate it to death and you really just need a break. Take a break...and who knows, you may just ended up loving it all over again.

  6. I've run a race that I was not passionate about. I didn't want to run it. I was DONE with running (at that time). And it sucked. I mean the race was BEAUTIFUL, but I just didn't want to be there.

    I don't regret doing it - but, I will never do it again.

    I guess what I'm saying is that I've been there. I've found my passion again, but I was just burned out and taking a break from schedules and paces and thinking about running really helped. I still ran, but it wasn't for time and it wasn't for mileage. It was for me.

    Whatever you decide, it's what's best for YOU and that's MOST important.

  7. "there will be days you don't think you can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime of knowing you have"
    Hold onto your Goal, Sam! Hopefully you will work through this rough time!

  8. Hi Sam,

    I have to say your honesty has really touched me. I used to be a runner. I used to train hard. I loved the thrill of a race and the satisfaction of finishing no matter what rank or time. I haven't been able to race in a long time. It's been at least 6 years. Part of the reason why I don't do it anymore is laziness; the other part is I am completely out of shape. But, despite all that... I miss it. I have missed it every day.

    I know it's hard to find something that is SO difficult enjoyable. I know it's impossible to even think that someone who isn't currently a runner can offer advice... BUT, give yourself a break. If you find something that you enjoy you can do that more frequently than running. Maybe, like insweetness said, it may refuel the fire. If it doesn't, you can still pursue the other activity that you enjoy more.

    I just know that someday I hope to have my runner’s legs back. Maybe you will feel that way too. I just wouldn't give up just yet.

  9. Running is not for everyone! Despite my blog name it is NOT my favorite form of fitness. Running also does not equal exercise, it's just a part of it which you seem to have a really good grip on. HEAB's post about this subject is extremely touching http://heathereatsalmondbutter.com/2009/04/24/confessions-of-a-former-runner/

  10. First of all, big hugs to you, one of my favorite bloggers. I follow all of your workouts and you continue to inspire me with how hard you work towards your goals and with your passion for fitness.

    The only advice I can give is to tell you a bit about my relationship with running and hoping that you can relate. I wanted to become a runner because running was always one of those things I hated and feared. I was never "good at it" and I was tired of being terrified of something that other seemed to love. So I put on my shoes and forced myself to become something that I don't believe I'm a natural at. At first, the thrill of doing something new kept me going. Then eventually, the newness wore off and I found that I was torturing myself. Sure I was getting a good workout, but mentally, I was exhausted. I painstakingly obsessed with the numbers: mile ran, pace average, HR average. Always wanting to improve. There was no other form of exercise that I had was so easy to compare one workout to the next. It led me down a negative spiral of feeling guilty if I ran a worse mile than the day before. Basically, what I'm saying is that workouts should be fun and not a mental battle that brings you down. Grueling is fine, as long as you are doing something that makes you feel happy.

    Sure, running a marathon is a huge accomplishment. But you know what? So is rocking an hour spin class. Not only did you get an amazing workout, but it's over in 60 minutes and you can go back to enjoying your spare time in ways that you want to enjoy it.

    I started lifting weights again and I absolutely love it. I love the feeling I get while I'm doing it and afterwards. I never have felt that way running. I kept running and running hoping that someday it would click and each step would feel amazing. It never did. That's okay.

    This may have just been a bad run...or maybe you are starting to become clear about what type of workouts are meant for you, but either way, we've all been there! Best of luck and know that you aren't alone!

  11. I totally burned out during my marathon training too, and I think that's what's happening to you. This was obviously a goal you really wanted or you wouldn't have signed up for the marathon and gone through the past several weeks of training so I really don't think you should give up on it!

    Also, I love running SO MUCH MORE now that I only run 3-4 days per week and I actually look forward to each and every run. Running 5 days per week during marathon training totally burnt me out.

    Anyways, see how you feel after a couple of weeks. Do you have a stepback week coming up? That should help. I LOVED stepback weeks during my training cycle!

  12. Our run group avocates running 4 days a week...and that goes for both the half and full marathon runners. 4 days/week helps prevent injuries and burnout.
    It probably hasn't helped that it has been HOT HOT HOT for long stretches this summer. I am only doing a half in the fall and am so glad I am taking a break from marathon training. It is tough. Period. I will go back in the fall but I know I was burned out from 3 marathon training sessions in a row.
    Chin up!

  13. Hey Sam,
    Maybe it's just the long distance runs that you are dreading. If you run shorter distances or 30 min runs, you can push yourself harder(add in sprints) and the time commitment is reasonable. Plus I think the health benefits are just as good or better. Don't give up on running just yet. Sometimes less is more. Hope you figure it out :)

  14. Couple of things:
    1) DO WHAT YOU LOVE. We spend such a large part of our lives doing things we "have" to do for work, etc Why spend your free time doing something you don't love???
    2) Are you sure it isn't just "burnout" with your marathon training. I've heard it's not uncommon.
    3) Don't let anyone else's goals, achievements, etc dictate how you feel about your own goals and achievements. I recently told a blogger friend that I don't like posting my times for races because I'm slow and kind of intimidated by those bloggers who are so much faster than I am. Seems like I should be faster and I end up feeling a little bad about what I just accomplished (and I know that's ridiculous). Her advice to me was to "to be proud of what I do and OWN IT" and to "blog it". There are probably others out there who feel the same as I do and I possibly help others. That is what i'm now going to do.
    4) And finally... DO WHAT YOU LOVE. See #1, above.

    I look forward to reading your blog to see how you work this all out for yourself. Whatever you decide, I know you will be awesome.

  15. Thanks for your honesty on this post. I think everyone who's commented has given you some great advice. Eight weeks before my marathon, I had some heart issues. Everything turned out fine, but they were pretty scary. Some of it had to do with how hard I was working and not having enough hydration. People told me that my health wasn't worth a race. However, the doctor cleared me and so I did it.

    I took a total of three weeks off of all exercise during marathon training, and you know what? I still beat my goal. Five days a week for 18 weeks was just too much for this newbie runner.

    If you decide you don't want to "be a runner", the only person who will criticize you is YOU. YOU are in charge of your happiness, and if that includes running, then so be it.

    Best of luck and I love your blog!

  16. Hey Sam,

    I check in here occasionally & was surprised to see this post (I remember you blogging your disappointment about having to bail on the Mississauga Half a few months ago). Lots of very thoughtful comments above - thought I would toss my own in!

    I think that the rewards of sticking it out and completing your training (no matter how the actual marathon goes) will far outweigh the discomfort & frustration you're currently feeling. I think that acknowledging your burnout and moving through it is a feat that has nothing to do with how fast or far you run. Perhaps it would help to re-frame your marathon as something that is less about *running* and more about you - why you are committed to fitness, why you choose to push yourself, why you wanted to do something that most people will never attempt.

    I'm not suggesting that you not honour your body if it is just not up for running. But pretty or not, you DID crank out 23K. Your body didn't break down & your legs kept moving. It sounds to me like there's still a runner in there.

    A few suggestions?

    1) Scour running blogs for marathon recaps. I find it really motivating to read about people's race experiences, good or bad. Try to find "first" marathon recaps - 99% of them conclude with some variation of "OMG that was so hard but I can't WAIT to do it again!!"

    2) Have you watched "Spirit of the Marathon"? The trailer alone still gets my heart racing.

    3) When did you last race? I find racing keeps me excited - even just a short one.

    Everything is harder in the summer but I guess that's part & parcel of training for an October marathon. Of course, your vote is the only one that matters here but I do hope you decide to stick it out. If you hate every second of the marathon, THEN maybe it's not going to be your main sport. But give yourself a little more time. You're pretty much halfway there!

    Best of luck no matter what you decide. =)

  17. I feel the same way,I currently train for my 2nd marathon and nothing feels like the first time. The excitement of running the longest long run is gone and I know already what's coming. But on the other side, I had a really bad 1st marathon and I feel I can do better and want to proof it!

    What helped me was I took a break for 2 weeks and just did what I wanted and see if I missed running. If I did, i was not allowed to run, no matter what for 2 weeks. After the 2 weeks I sat down and realized I missed it and started running again.

  18. I understand exactly what you are saying. I feel sometimes as if I am only running because of that next mile, that next goal...or just to be able to say, "I did this".

    You need to decide whether you are running for yourself or to prove something to someone or yourself...and whether or not it's worth proving.

    You may be a 10k race runner. That's OKAY. You never hear anyone say, hey Ben Johnson sucks becuase he hasn't run a marathon. You may be no runner at all.

    Are you afraid of losing face? To yourself? To your blog readers? We don't mind if you don't want to run. Figure out what YOU like and do THAT, whether it's marathon training or line dancing.

  19. Oh Sam. I'm sorry you're feeling this way.

    When I start feeling this way about any goal... running or otherwise... I figure it might not be the right goal for me. But I also try not to make that decision after a bad run (or during it) and give myself a few days to really sort things out.

    I had to make the decision to stop training for my Half Ironman, mostly due to health, and I still gave myself about a week to make the decision. It's a big one. But it's YOUR choice. You don't have to run the marathon if you don't want to.


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