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Putting Enjoyment Back in Marathon Training

Paint_by_number Remember paint-by-number art?  I used to attempt them as a kid—landscapes, wildlife, portraits.  I hoped the numbered diagram would guide me to create a color-coded masterpiece.  It didn’t take long to forget what color was on my brush and soon some section was the wrong color.  Auugh!   What was supposed to be fun and produce something to remember ended up requiring too much attention, too much frustration, and nothing to show for it,  I’d rather have been playing.

With six plus weeks to go until the Chicago Marathon, the most demanding, intense training is ahead.  This is the same point where in other years my stress increases, I tend to overtrain, try to avoid getting injured, and live guarded.  September and October, the best months for running, surround me, and I let them slip by without fully enjoying them.  Not really the desired outcome of what should be fun getting ready for a thrilling race.

Looking back at my running goals for this year, one is to enjoy running more.  For me that means not letting the mileage, intensity, and a rigorous schedule overshadow the fun of running. 

Running isn’t supposed to be like those paint-by-number efforts, complete with drudgery, stress and a slave to detail.  It’s supposed to have some play, flexibility, and satisfaction in it.   So from now until race day I’m focusing on enjoying the runs, the season, and the anticipation of race day. 

Instead of meticulous running, I’m lightening it up to have a little more fun...

  • Leave my watch at home except for tempo and pace runs
  • Find at least two new trails to take on easy runs
  • Rewards after my remaining 20 milers—Starbucks, a book, and a nap, beginning this Sunday
  • Set two time goals for the marathon—a dream goal and an achievable goal
  • Grant a couple permissions to hit the snooze, roll over and go back to sleep
  • Buy something fun at the expo to remember this year’s race

I want to look back after the marathon and say I had some fun down the final stretch weeks.

Uplifting running post of the week was by Laurie.

"Running has brought many good things into my life. Most importantly, it has greatly improved my mental health. ... I think it helped me give people and other things an opportunity to change my view point."

Hey, Amy runs her triathlon on Sunday morning. 

Join me in wishing her good luck!

Paint-by-Number on Flickr by Jamie Lee Haas


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Nothing like a good coffee after a long run!!

Good luck with the tri Amy!!!

bill carter


What a great post. I tend toward the more obsessive side of running as well. I've gotten so bad that sometimes I will draw up a running plan a full month in advance.....Yeah I know its a little scary. I have also tried to loosen up a little bit and have done some long trail runs sans watch. They have been some of the most enjoyable runs I've had. I have noticed more wildlife, enoyed more of the runners around me, and just kind of felt a better connection to my body. I think a watch is ok as a yardstick, but like anything else in life it should only be used in moderation.


good luck Amy

Kent A

For me, the enjoyment in the marathon training is the participating with group that I train with. Having other runners around you is just that much better than facing the long run with yourself and audiobook -- perhaps a few cows and lately many bugs -- to keep you company. I'll admit I am still the numbers geek and need my GPS feedback to keep going, but of course, I am just a full marathon newbie. Maybe there is a point of diminishing returns for the gps / pace feedback in later stage marathon training. Thanks for posting.


I think the whole "don't take yourself too seriously" thing hit me about a month ago. I was kinda down and doubting myself after a particularly painful 16 miler and had almost decided to bail on the whole thing. I think it's natural. A lot of people I have talked with recently that are inside 2 months to their race seem to hit this point. I did almost exactly what you are doing. I cut back from 5 to 4 days a week, gave myself an extra week between my last two long runs (24 and 26) to recover and decided to just slow down and ENJOY my successes instead of obsessing over every letdown. The week after that I went 22 when I was supposed to run 20. I walked a bit, sniffed flowers, stopped at fountains, patted a dog or two on the head and just had FUN. It was kinda weird... but wonderful.


I love the long run rewards! I start with a huge breakfast (with several cups of coffee) with my pace group as we discuss (and gripe) about the run. Then I head home, take a shower, and crawl into bed with a book. If I fall asleep ... even better. I don't set alarms, make big plans, or worry about silly stuff like laundry. Despite the long runs being difficult, I enjoy the post-run day so much that I actually look forward to it each week ;)


I love those!! Especially the reward yourself after the 20 milers. This whole post reminds me of a quote I just read recently "Running should be fun. If people enjoy running, they'll do it well" - Julie Brown

It's easy to forget the fun aspect and get lost in pace times, miles, and training.



I remember those paint-by-numbers kits well. I spent hours trying to make a masterpiece but usually made a mess.

What a wonderful, uplifting post. You're absolutely right: running can become too much like work if we're not careful. Thank you for the reminder.

Sounds like you have a great plan for enjoying the rest of the journey to Chicago. My favorite treat after a long run is a long nap! Hope you get to sneak one in one Sunday.



BEST OF LUCK WITH YOU TRI THIS WEEKEND! Can't wait to hear about it!






You make a great point about not taking running too seriously, and I have a hard time doing that, especially when I'm training for Chicago! Although I'm planning to take it 'easy' with my Boston training next year. If my sister qualifies, I'm going to dress up as a super hero of her choosing and run it with her :)

Even if I'm in the middle of intense training, I always focus on positive thoughts, no matter how rough it gets. Once positive thoughts are a habit, running is enjoyable no matter how hard I'm training!

Good luck in the Tri, Amy!


Good Luck Amy.............

Tom, it always amazes me the battle in our minds between "getting at it" and enjoying the art of running.



It is so easy for me to let my training runs get boring and routine - and just another thing to check off on my to-do list for the day. I've been trying to keep things fun and fresh, too - mostly I've been trying new routes and new post-run treats. Starbucks iced lattes and McDonald's ice cream cones are always motivators for me!

PS: Thanks for the tips on the long run fuel - I am going to try Vanilla Wafers next!

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This is the one we did, isn't it??? It's one of my all time favorite runs.

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I love running in the hot weather as long as I'm hydrated properly and have Sharkies with me. I may have to slow down my pace a little if it is a really long run, other than that keep your fluids up and wear a hat!

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This is the one we did, isn't it??? It's one of my all time favorite runs.!

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And notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled

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