Editor's note: The first part of this article appeared on May 6 in the Peninsula Clarion. Always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
I am turning 40 in July and as a birthday present decided to run the Mayor's Marathon in Anchorage on June 23. I am not a runner, but thanks to my new bible, "The Non-Runner's Marathon Training Guide," I am acquiring tools to run long distances and still have time and energy for my three preschool-aged children.
Twelve weeks into my non-runner's marathon training program and I am proud to say that I am still going strong and have kept my whining to a minimum. After all, I did run 16 miles for three Sundays in a row! I will not lie. Mile 16 is brutal, and to think that there are 10.2 more miles in the marathon is not a pleasant thought. Running a marathon is no small feat for a Belgian Jew whose first 10 years were spent in the world's most relaxed capital!
Let me tell you a little about where I was raised. I come from a place where businesses close for lunch so that employees can linger at their table and digest their pot roast and Saint-E milion wine and still have time for a sliver of Cantal cheese. I come from a place where sidewalks are lined with tables and chairs so that passers-by can sit down and savor their "petit cafe bien serre" and eclair au chocolat. I come from a place where beer is brewed in monasteries and the beer varieties outnumber the population of Kenai, Soldotna, and Nikiski combined. That place is Brussels, Belgium.
To make matters worse, I am Jewish! Jews are not renowned for their athleticism. Jews are good at science (Einstein), psychology (Freud), comedy (Seinfeld), and even technology (Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook). But marathon running was never their forte. In fact, when I told my mom I was entering a marathon, she said "a running marathon?"
Are there other kinds?
And so, I would now like to share my take on training for a marathon from a European Jewish perspective. If you are looking for a "relaxing" training program, then here are a few tactics I have learned over the past 12 weeks.
One thing I cannot stress enough is the choice of music. I am aware that in the elite running world, listening to music is highly frowned upon. But let's remember where I come from. If I'm going to spend over two hours running, then I am going to meticulously choose songs that I feel will somewhat alleviate the tedium and inspire me towards the last few miles. Once you get into the realm of "long distance" running, then ABBA and Eurythmics just don't cut it anymore. You definitely need something a little more "dramatic" like "Chariots of Fire" by Vangelis or "Children" by Robert Miles.
I also stumbled upon a song that will just do wonders for that last mile when you're about to throw in the towel. I was watching soccer highlights on youtube with my 4-year-old to pump him up for his soccer game, and low and behold, he scored his very first goal right after watching those highlights! I think that the combination of visualization and the upbeat soundtrack contributed to his electrifying last-minute kick. The soundtrack is the 2010 World Cup anthem sung and written by Somali hip-hop artist, K'Naan, "Wavin' Flag". The song opens with djembe drums and then K'Naan's hauntingly mesmerizing voice kicks in:
"Give me freedom, give me fire, give me reason, take me higher.
See the champions, take the field now, unify us, make us feel proud.
In the streets our heads are liftin', as we lose our inhibition.
Celebration it's around us, every nations, all around us."
Another tactic I like to use is the concept of the "water break." If I am running more than 12 miles, I take my water breaks seriously. Hydration is the key to a successful marathon and in true European fashion, I prefer to "savor"my water breaks. As you may know, Europeans do not drink or eat on the go. In fact, coffee huts, or drive-ins for that matter, do not exist in Europe simply because everything one does in Europe has to be done in a "relaxed manner." I take water breaks every five miles and feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle another set of five miles.
Nutrition. A lot of people ask me if I have changed my diet for the training and my answer is simple: nope. As a European, I will NOT compromise my eating and drinking habits. I still sprinkle my salads with feta cheese and drink wine with succulent meals such as steak au poivre or baked salmon roulade and top it all off with three scoops of blueberry ice cream and voila (non-running days only)!
An important lesson I learned on a runner's blog is: "Comparison is the thief of joy." As I was googling "running watch," I came across this runner's blog and she mentioned this quote. It is ironic that she should have that quote because she gets up every morning at 4:30 a.m. to run 85 miles/week so that she can be back home by 6:30 a.m. to tend to her 12 children (nine of which are adopted from Ethiopia and Vietnam). Oh, and did I mention that she is trying to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials 2016 and just began to run three years ago?
I am trying hard not to compare myself to her. The address to her blog is seemomrunfar.blogspot.com; if I had a running blog, it would be called seemomrunhaha.blogspot.com.
There will always be people faster or slower than me. As I am making my way towards the finish line (I have to think positive), thousands of people will pass me and I might even pass a couple of people. But the beauty about running a marathon is that everyone is a winner once they cross that finish line. It doesn't matter if it took 3 hours or 8 hours. It is a personal victory that will be cherished for years to come. To all the Belgian Jews out there, this one's for you!
Nadia Anders lives in North Kenai.