By Rachel Crooks

My first month of marathon training is complete! My foam roller has become my best friend and I have definitely been frequenting running stores more than is entirely necessary. It’s been great and I’ve already learned a lot.

My biggest learning so far is the importance of building a low intensity training base. Prior to starting the marathon program, my philosophy for every run was to go as fast as I comfortably could – my barometer for success was trying to constantly beat previous times. Learning to slow everything down is a big adjustment, and setting out with a goal to keep my heart rate low feels backwards. During one frustrating run in Nose Hill when I was having trouble slowing down and my heart rate kept shooting sky-high, I developed a mantra based on my horseback riding days, “You’re a mule, not a racehorse”. For the marathon, I’m not out to win any trophies – I just want to keep plodding along until I cross that finish line.

It hasn’t all been frustrating though – on a run after our session on technique and form, I was being passed by an elite-looking runner who said “Wow, you have great form!” – if people are noticing, I must be doing something right!

One of the best things about the program so far has been training with like-minded people. Being someone who has only run alone in the past, having a sense of community and a shared goal has been incredibly motivating. One thing I really appreciate about this program is the diversity in experience levels. The alumni have the first-hand knowledge and tips, but it’s also nice to talk to other newbies and share fears, “Have you seen the schedule? Can you believe we have to run for four hours?!”.

So far I’ve been pretty comfortable with the program – we’ve been running distances that I’m very used to, but in the upcoming month our runs start to get into the 1+ hour range. I’m looking forward to these runs and I think that is where pacing myself will become key for me. Moving ahead, I think the biggest challenge for me will be perfecting my work-run-study balance – I’m applying to medical school in the fall and am writing my MCAT in July. I could study physics… or I could go for a run in the warm spring sun.

Tough choice!