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Marathon Training Week 7: Most Important Part of Training? Have fun!

by Karl Gruber

During the many days of your training, there are going to be those days where it just seems like a grind. The “grind” just kind of comes with the territory of training for the marathon. While it is always important to keep sight of the finish line in your mind’s eye, one of the more important things that you need to remember during training is to – have fun! 

The easiest way to throw a little fun into your daily run is to seek out new courses to help eliminate boredom. Hooking up with a local running club or training group will also perk up your run as you meet new runner partners. Believe me, many crazy jokes and running stories have been shared between my running buddies and me. Those times always make it a fun, memorable run.  

Heck, you can even throw in a Fartlek! Say what? Yes, according to Dr. Jack Daniels in his book, Daniels’ Running Formula, “Fartlek is a Swedish term translated as ‘speed play.’ Fartlek workouts mix several types of running – easy running, hills, reps, and even threshold pace bouts – into one session.”

Once you quit snickering at the term “fartlek,” it’s time to play with your run and get a good workout. First, ditch your watch or GPS, then find some place where you really enjoy running, like your local park. Start out walking, then throw in a few minutes at threshold pace (just below 10K or 5K race pace), then jog easy. 

If you have a buddy with you, take turns running backwards for a bit, then race each other up the next hill and finish the rep by laying in the soft grass laughing and panting. I know a runner who ran his fartleks on a country dirt road, and he would stop to jump into the creek that coursed nearby, (don’t try this in the winter, ha ha) then get back out and do another threshold rep. 

While this may seem silly to you, the whole point to doing fartleks is to mix things up and run simply for the joy of running. When you do fartleks, you don’t worry about time and distance but still get a good workout. If you do this with a running buddy, an occasional fartlek can be some of the best running memories you will have during training. If anything, at least you can get one of those t-shirts that say, “Fartlek – it’s a running thing. You wouldn’t understand!”

My friend Denny Dicke shares how to rid yourself of any fears you may have about training for and running a marathon in Unleash The Champion:

“At some point in the season, it is common for some athletes to start under-performing. The most common term for this occurrence is a slump…it can happen in any sport. When I talk to athletes in this situation the first thing I ask is, ‘What are the monsters?’ If you find yourself under performing, the important thing to realize is that there is nothing wrong with you and that your mind is functioning perfectly. Know that you possess all the right ingredients to overcome your fears and reach your full potential, a creative imagination and a healthy mind.”

As Dicke explains, one of the biggest “monsters” or fears is not wanting to disappoint yourself, and, especially, those close to you. In a classic scenario of facing your fears, he suggests writing down your fears – in this case, training for a successful marathon run. Then after putting it all out in front of you, write out and state the things that make you happy and excited about your training runs and your goal of running 26.2 miles. By doing this, you will be able to shed this 400 pound monster off your shoulders and keep running without fear, and yes, having fun doing it.


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