First-time Marathoner Lindsay Heuser: Pushing Her Way to New Heights (Part II)

Today I am continuing my discussion with Lindsay Heuser, a 22-year-old AmeriCorps volunteer living in Colorado– a lady I view as wise beyond her years. Currently applying to medical schools, she will be featured at length in my book,  The Complete Guide for First-Time Marathoners.

Lindsay has recently changed her relationship with running as a means of relieving stress, boosting her self-esteem, and pushing herself to new heights. She decided to run a marathon so she could challenge herself to do something she had previously never dreamed possible. Running a marathon, to Lindsay, is the ultimate way of celebrating a positive relationship with her body and affirming a belief in herself.

Today’s post is Part II in a two part series which began on Wednesday. To read more about Lindsay’s adventures, visit Summit Sandwiches, a blog that she authors.

When/why did you decide to run a marathon?

I decided to run a marathon after wrapping up my second half marathon this past April. As I went through my half marathon training in the spring, I realized how much I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment after my long runs. It was such a thrilling feeling to learn that I could accomplish things I had previously never dreamed I could do, and I knew I wanted to challenge myself with the ultimate long distance run of 26.2 miles! Beyond that, I liked the idea of having a structure for my workouts and working towards a goal. I’m a very goal-oriented person, so once I realized that I actually liked to run long distances, I began to ponder the idea of running the marathon. Once I crossed the finish line of my second half marathon, I had made up my mind. The half marathon was such a fun and fulfilling experience, and I just had a hunch that I would enjoy the marathon. A few days later, I took the plunge and signed up for the Denver Rock n’ Roll Marathon!

Tell me about your training schedule. How did you select this one?

I am currently following Hal Higdon’s Novice Marathon Training schedule. It’s an 18 week schedule consisting of four running days, one cross-training day, and two rest days each week. The long run and cross-training are scheduled for the weekend, and the long runs increase in distance from 6 miles to 20 miles over a 15 week period. After perusing a whole bunch of training plans, I decided on this particular training schedule because it was the easiest to understand (i.e. no weird speed interval workouts that may have overwhelmed me), and it seemed the most reasonable in terms of time I would have to dedicate to running. I still wanted to have some semblance of a life during the training, and I liked that Hal offered up numerous tips for fitting in all the workouts into my busy schedule. I also wanted to avoid running 5 days a week; I think I would have quickly burned out on running if I had to run more often than four days a week.

What has been your biggest challenge in training for a marathon? What has been easier than you anticipate?

My biggest challenge in training for a marathon has been maintaining my motivation during the heavier mileage weeks of training. It’s tough to fit 9 or 10 mile runs before work, and it requires a lot of planning and preparation to fit it all in. I can’t count the number of times my alarm clock went off at 5 something in the morning, and I just groaned. I wanted to do anything but running during those early morning hours! For a while, I lost the joy that I once originally found in running. I was always sore, and I longed for a time when I didn’t HAVE to run such long distances all the time. To help combat my lack of motivation, I decided to take a few days off of running, added some new tunes to my i-pod, and shifted some of my morning runs to the evening. Changing up my routine helped a bit, but I will honestly say that running became more of a chore for me once my weekly mileage started gettting up above 30 miles/week. I just had to persevere through these tougher weeks and realize that they were just one of the obstacles I had to overcome to reach my goal. No one said this marathon training business was going to be easy! 🙂 The long runs, however, have actually been much easier than I originally anticipated. I remember when I was first starting off with the training, and the long run at that point was only 6 miles. The prospect of running 20 miles in the peak week of training was terrifying! Luckily, the incremental progression of the long runs is very doable. Running one or two more miles than the prior week’s long run doesn’t overwhelm your body. By the time my 20 miler rolled around, it seemed natural to be running that distance. It was just the next logical step in the training sequence, and it didn’t intimidate nearly as much as it had at the outset of training. After completing so many long runs, I developed the physical endurance, confidence, and mental stamina to know that I could run that far without any problems.

You had a bout with dehydration on a long training run. Can you share the experience? (Feel free to include a link to your post, as I think this post is really advantageous for people to read).

On my very first run over 13 miles (it was a 15 mile run), I made the mistake of not bringing enough water during a very hot and sunny day in the middle of summer. About 6 miles into my route, I ran out of water, and I quickly grew more and more dehydrated throughout the run. Eventually, I had to stop running altogether because I was so thirsty, and by the time I made it back to my car, I was crying, nautious and close to fainting. It was a terrible experience, probably the worst run of my life. I blogged about the run in this post: I look back on that run now and wonder why I didn’t turn back earlier? It would have been so easy to avoid the whole situation, but my stubborn nature spurred me further onward. For whatever reason, I thought that I would have somehow “failed” at the run if I turned around early. To be honest,  I’m lucky that I made it back safely to my car. It could have ended far worse, I’m sure. After this run, I decided to invest in a Nathan’s Hydration Vest, so I could carry 2L of water with me at a time. Prior to my 15 mile run, I carried a fuel belt which carried much less water. I also made it a point to really listen to my body’s cues during the run. If it was really hot out, I drank more water and turned around earlier, so I could refill my hydration vest in time (I did this during my recent 20 mile run). I also walked more often. I just decided that I would treat my body with more kindness when running in tough conditions. It’s just not worth putting your health in jeopardy in order to finish a run at any cost.

What are you most/least excited about as you approach race day?

I’m most excited about the entire race experience. I can’t wait to get to the start line and enjoy the camarederie of all the other runners. While I realize that running 26.2 miles is no easy task, I plan on having fun during the race and reveling in the whole experience. I’ve worked hard to make it to the point where I can run such a long distance, so I plan on savoring it. I want to encourage other runners, enjoy the sights and sounds along the course, and just have a blast! While some people regard running 26.2 miles as torture, I look at it as my reward for all the hard work and training and I’ve put into these past few months. This might be a case of TMI (too much information) and I apologize ahead of time to anyone who isn’t comfortable with this subject, but I’m honestly least excited about restroom logistics on race day. On all of my long runs, I’ve had to make a restroom pitstop at some point during the run. Luckily in Boulder where I run, I can easily dart into the bushes and do my thing. But I’m not so sure bushes will be so reasily available in downtown Denver! I’m really afraid that I’ll really need to use the bathroom where there is no bathroom. Gulp….I just don’t want something as silly as “restroom logistics” to ruin my race day! Fingers crossed that it won’t. 🙂


Melinda Hinson