I finally came to the realization that I need a plan. A marathon training plan, to be specific. I have a marathon coming up in August (the Tunnel Vision marathon in Washington state). After a spring racing season focusing mostly on trail races and a disappointing rail trail half marathon time last weekend (possibly my slowest half ever), I realized that going into the upcoming marathon without a plan could be a recipe for disaster.
Before I got a plan, I would think “I should do speed work. Maybe tomorrow I will go to the track.” Sometimes it would work out, but sometimes my track workout came too close to my long run day, and I wound up beginning my long run on legs that were already tired. My lack of planning hindered my training.
I have done many marathons, and for most of them, I followed a training plan. Runners World website used to have a free feature where you could enter some information such as age, current number of miles per week, marathon date, how hard you were willing to train, and recent race times, and the app would spit out a plan tailored just for you. Unfortunately, that feature is no longer available. Fortunately, I still have some of those plans printed out. Unfortunately, I can no longer hit the times from those plans.
Of course, I went to the font of all wisdom, the internet, in search of a training plan. The problem with the internet is that there is so much information there. Too much. How do I select one plan from the thousands available? How do I know which plan is right for me? I spent hours perusing a myriad of plans, and settled on the first one I looked at – a Hal Higdon plan. In this plan, I run six days per week. Three of the days are “quality” days. There are three 20-milers. I may have been overly ambitious when I selected the plan, but it seemed the best fit for my running style.
I am not a good planner, either in running or in life. I am much more likely to wing it. For some reason, I have an “everything will turn out fine” attitude for most events. My hubby Bill, thank goodness, is a planner. Sometimes my spontaneity works out and sometimes it doesn’t. Going out to eat is a good example.
When we go out for dinner, I don’t necessarily like to plan ahead. I like to see what I am hungry for and what type of atmosphere I crave that particular night. Bill likes to make reservations. My “play it by ear” approach has made us go to Plan B (or even Plan C) more times than I like to admit, when the place that I settled on at the last minute has a two hour waiting list. Occasionally Plan B turned out to be a fantastic new place we never tried before. More often Plan B was, well, not as appealing as Plan A.
I thank my lucky stars every day that Bill was a planner in regards to retirement finances. For some fortunate reason, he had the foresight to start socking money away for retirement when we were first married (in our early twenties). Now, thanks to him, our retirement looks like it will be comfortable.
I have to admit that, especially for the big, important things, having a plan is the best plan. I could easily go out tomorrow and run a 5k without a training plan, and have a good time. I could not say the same thing about a marathon. For an important dinner out, say an anniversary dinner, I like to make reservations. For Thursday night after softball practice, I am comfortable winging it.
Here is the tricky part: how do you make an all-encompassing plan for your life and what do you do when the plan you originally made no longer fits? Plans must be revisited and revised periodically to keep them relevant.
As a teacher, I saw many former students enter military service after high school. For most of them, it was a good choice. When they left the military, however, some of them struggled to find a direction in life. While you’re protecting your country, you never have to wonder if you are doing something worthwhile every day; when you leave, it’s something you have to think about. In the service, you don’t need to plan your time. Most of your time is planned for you, down to the last minute. As a civilian, you must make many more choices about how your time will be spent. The ability to make good, thoughtful choices is like a muscle, constant use is needed to keep it strong.
A person’s spiritual life is much the same. I have seen some people join a church, only to seemingly turn off their discernment. They follow the directives of their pastor or their church leaders, sometimes without seeming to put much thought into their decisions and attitudes. Their plan has been made, and they no longer feel the need to examine it.
Paul Tillich, one of my favorite Christian theologians, wrote copiously and fervently about “ultimate concern“. Everyone has an ultimate concern. It may be financial success, nationalism, religion, or any number of other vital concerns which compete for our total allegiance. It is whatever you have complete faith in, whatever you have totally surrendered to. The point is that, by definition, you must spend your entire life considering your ultimate concern. All other concerns must be sacrificed (if need be) to this one. It’s not like you can have a plan, then never think about it again. It must constantly be in the forefront of your thoughts. “Faith is the state of being ultimately concerned“, according to Tillich.
It was Henry David Thoreau who said, “An unexamined life is not worth living”, but living a thoughtful life is not easy. It demands a certain amount of self-reliance and introspection. Honesty and attention are essential. I think that’s why an issue that takes weeks for me to work out, Bill can solve in the time it takes him to mow the yard (his meditation time). He is brutally honest with himself, even when the truth is uncomfortable. I am more squeamish, therefore less perceptive.
As a runner, it is comforting for me to not have to devise my running plan each day. That’s why online training schedules are so popular. The catch is, I must continually evaluate the way the plan fits my life now. A training plan that does not push me hard enough leaves me ill-prepared for my race; a training plan that pushes me too much leaves me drained and worn out before race day. Even though I have a plan, I must still determine that balance; I must still be judicious. To follow Thoreau’s advice is to examine my running plan and my life.
It is a matter of faith.
It’s of ultimate concern.
I am linking up with Jessica and Amy at Live Life Well. If you like this post, you may want to visit to read what other bloggers have to say! I am linking up with Char at Trekking Thru. Visit here for inspirational posts from many other bloggers. I am also linking up with Shank You Very Much for her Dream Team link up. I am linking up with Amanda at Running With Spoons for her Thinking Out Loud Thursdays. I am linking up with Debbie at Dare 2 Hear. Check out the inspirational posts on her Tune in Thursdays.
I am joining Running on Happy, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs for the Coaches’ Corner linkup! I am also linking up with Nicole and Annmarie for Wild Workout Wednesday. I am linking up with Holley Gerth for Coffee for Your Heart. I am linking up with Eclectic Evelyn for her Words on Wednesday link up. and with Jamie Sumner for Sunday Thoughts. Visit here for faith-based posts from many other bloggers.