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When I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon, in 2006, I remember thinking there was no way I’d want to double that distance to complete a full. If I was going to run long distances, I should have started with 26.2 miles and then done a half — it probably would have seemed a lot easier in that order.

I maintained that mindset for more than 15 years, during which I avoided running with any real consistency. Instead, I centered my fitness routine around strength training and yoga.

But my outlook started to change last summer when I decided to run the Medtronic TC 10-Mile race and fundraise on behalf of a local nonprofit. As my training progressed into fall and race day drew nearer, I realized I was falling a little bit in love with running — how it gave me time to brainstorm and problem-solve, how it got me outside, how it reminded me of my strength and boosted my confidence. For the first time, I started seriously contemplating longer distances.

I achieved my “rundraising” goal and ran those 10 miles — and then I kept up my running routine. I even ran through the colder months; last year’s unseasonably mild Minnesota winter allowed me to maintain solid weekly mileage without relying on a treadmill.

As it warmed up, I realized my mindset had truly shifted: I want to run a marathon, I found myself thinking. It scared me, as unfamiliar challenges often do. But the desire outweighed the fear.

So, in the spirit of my word of the year, “expand” (referring to growth outside of my comfort zone), I registered for a fall 2024 marathon.

My goal is to train for and complete the race knowing I’ve done everything I can to optimize my efforts and be at my peak potential (the theme of this issue). To do so, I wanted a clear understanding of my starting point, as well as a plan for nourishing and supporting myself through the process. So I did a few things leading up to the official kickoff of my marathon training:

  • I got an active metabolic assessment to determine my anaerobic threshold and heart-rate training zones, which inform my workout intensity and help me avoid overtraining.
  • I took a food-sensitivity test to identify anything that might negatively affect my digestion and joint health, as both can be significant issues during endurance training. (I was surprised to learn that potatoes and garlic are potential problems for me.)
  • I had a chiropractic and vestibular assessment to address any structural alignment, balance, or cognitive issues, and to determine performance-focused practices I could do to both complement and recover from training.
  • I sought out support and insight from family, friends, and colleagues who’ve run the marathon distance. I gathered their best tips, tricks, and practices for making it across that finish line.

I’ve also been seeking inspiration from stories like that of pro off-road cyclist Haley Hunter Smith — she bikes hundreds of miles time and time again; I’m leveraging the expertise from “Level Up Your Favorite Cardio With These Strength and Mobility Moves” by incorporating the strength and mobility moves into my postrun and cross-training regimens; and I’m taking note of how to balance my running routine with nature’s cycles (see “How Following Ultradian, Circadian, and Infradian Rhythms Can Boost Your Health“) so I don’t burn out.

I’m excited to push myself to a new limit. How about you? In what areas might you be ready to step outside your comfort zone to see what’s possible?

Jamie Martin, Experience Life
Jamie Martin

Jamie Martin is Experience Life’s editor in chief, Life Time’s vice president of content strategy, and cohost of the Life Time Talks podcast. Follow her on Instagram @jamiemartinel.

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