Running on Yoga
I ran a marathon last week and discovered just how little endurance training one can (or cannot) get away with when it comes to running a marathon. In preparing for this event, my run training has been extremely minimal. For the last two months, I ran only twice a week—one longer endurance-building run on the weekends, and one short interval-style workout midweek. The longest run I did was 18 miles. While the running has been minimal, I maintained a consistent yoga practice throughout this time—public classes 1-2 times per week, home practice 2-3 times per week, and then a longer private lesson with Jason once every two weeks. From the perspective of conventional marathon training programs, I knew I was grossly under-prepared. But I was also eager to see if yoga might enhance my performance.
A marathon is 26.2 miles, and the longest training run I did leading up to this event was only 18 miles. As it turned out, I had a superb race—that is, until about mile 20. That's when I completely hit the wall. I was holding a consistently fast pace, feeling fit and strong, and running better than ever. But fatigue started to creep in during mile 19, and at mile 20, I bonked. My legs started getting extremely sore. With 6.2 miles still to go, I suddenly felt like I had nothing left in me.
Luckily I was accompanied by three excellent friends—my training partner Ryan and my friends Craig and Jim who are both highly experienced marathoners and ultra-distance runners—who used every trick in the book to keep me going. Craig is doing a 100-miler ultra-marathon later this yea, and Jim is a true veteran more than 40 marathons under his belt and finish-times under 2 hours 50 minutes. Craig and Jim had both taken time off from running and were just "easing back into training" by doing this marathon at my snail's pace! So when I started to get extremely fatigued, Craig and Jim gave me pep talks, mile after mile. They motivated me all the way to the finish-line. Thanks to them, I had no choice but to keep going even though my legs were screaming in agony.
After the race, my friends remarked on how my running form looked excellent and relaxed, with efficient biomechanics even when I was in complete agony. For this reason, they kept coaching me to pick up the pace because they were convinced that I had more left in the tank. And despite the fact that I had bonked at mile 20 and crawled at what felt like a snail's pace for the final 6 miles, it turned out I still broke my personal record by several minutes! (With a finish time of 3 hours, 42 minutes.)
Hindsight is 20/20. If I could prepare for this marathon all over again, I would have started training two weeks earlier to allow for two additional training runs of, say, 20 miles and 23 miles. My endurance fitness was simply insufficient leading up to this marathon, and yoga is not going to give me that extra fitness. But I would not have traded the yoga for anything. I believe the training plan of running and yoga was an ideal balance. I attribute my greatly improved running biomechanics entirely to my yoga practice. Now more than ever, I am convinced that yoga will be an indispensable part of my training program for my first Ironman triathlon.