Kristen Denninger is a SKLZ team member who is currently training for her first marathon. Read about what she is going through as an athlete trying to reach a goal she has set.
I have been a competitor my entire life. For as long as I remember I have been on some kind of sports team, usually multiple teams at once. Soccer, basketball, softball, track & field...but always as a member of a team, competing against others. Now as I train for my first ever marathon I am involved in a completely different kind of competition - one with myself.
I have always said I would like to complete a marathon, but with playing soccer throughout college my focus was always elsewhere. When I found myself for the first time ever not preparing to enter pre-season in mid-August I began seriously considering training as a way to distract myself from remembering that for the first time "Fall" would not be equated with practically living in my cleats and fighting it out in the rain, wind, and sometimes even snow. By the time late August rolled around I was committed to at least attempting to complete a marathon - and when both my friend and boyfriend signed up as well, well let's just say that I was not going to be the one to back out.
I am now on my 17th week of training and this coming up weekend will be the longest run as of yet at 16 miles. My biggest obstacle thus far really has been myself. Towards the beginning of my training when I began to surpass the distances I was used to running it really was all mental. It was difficult not to focus on the pain in my historically problematic hip, or on my knees that ached from pounding on the pavement. But as the weeks have progressed, I have as well. Physically my hips have almost ceased to bother me, and my knees and shins have built up some kind of a tolerance. Mentally it has become easier and easier to use the training as a time to relax and reflect and to block out pain and negative thoughts.
A few of the long runs have been nothing short of awful - 12 miles in particular stands out. I honestly was not sure if I was going to make it back home in one piece. I had started running a little too late in the morning that day and with little to no wind just felt like I was baking in the sun. I ran out of water with 3 miles left, and those last few miles dragged on for what seemed like forever. But ultimately I did make it home, and was very happy that I did so. That run shocked my confidence a bit, but I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. It made me realize that I still had a long way to go and needed to really focus on training, hydration, and nutrition. Happily, the 14 miles that I ran the following week were the best yet! I am still riding off of the confidence generated from that run, and hope to build upon it with the 16 miler this weekend.
It has been strange that for the first time I am not going in to an event to out-compete someone else, to be declared the winner. But so far my training has been an invaluable tool in how to do more and go further than I thought I possibly could, to really extend and overcome my own limits. I have learned a lot about myself so far, so I can't wait to see what else is to come over the final 9 weeks of training!