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Becoming a Running Nerd: Countdown to the New York City Marathon

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110 days until the New York City Marathon.

I've reached the point in my training for the 2011 ING New York City Marathon where every "long run" of the week now becomes "the longest run I've ever done." Last weekend was seven miles and this weekend will be eight. And you know what? I felt great. Just think -- I only have to do that distance like three more times when the big day comes in November. I've also reached the point where it's starting to become about more than just running.

As I wrote in my first blog, I'm relatively new to this whole distance running thing, so when I met up with the rest of the Team in Training group in Central Park for our morning training run, I was a little nervous. Despite the sweltering heat, we broke up into pace groups (I put myself in at a 10 min/mile to be safe) and took off toward the West Side Highway bike path, where we were encouraged turn off the iPods and -- get this -- talk to each other while we ran. Um, are these coaches crazy? Turns out, if you can keep a conversation going (without huffing and puffing), then you're right on marathon pace. Never at a loss for words, I spent the next hour or so chatting away with total strangers and new friends. Before we knew it, we were back at Bethesda Terrace congratulating ourselves on our accomplishment (okay, there was a bit of high-fiving going on, too).

Feeling inspired, even more like a "real runner" (and wanting to take advantage of a nice Team In Training discount), I went over to JackRabbit (140 West 72nd St) and stocked up on some clothes, Clif Shot Bloks and a super sweet (read: super nerdy) FuelBelt to stay hydrated out on the road. Dropping some decent dough on this new gear, it really got me thinking about how this marathon is so much more than a fitness challenge -- it really calls for a lifestyle change, too.

When I first announced that I'd be running the marathon this year, I was met with many looks of shock and a few "Are you crazy, Em?" reactions, but a couple of my friends seemed to actually get upset with me. Not because they didn't think I could do it and weren't genuinely supportive. They just warned me, "Every person I know who trains for a marathon falls off the face of the earth." I like to think I'm a pretty fun, active, social 25-year-old. And while I don't want to miss out on anything, I do think there are a few things I might have to rethink now that I'm a month into training:

Rise & Shine: It's hot out. And as I learned on July 4th weekend (when I ran on the boardwalk between Belmar and Spring Lake, N.J.), 10 am is a little too late to start a summer run. And since my social calendar is more packed in the evenings than mornings, mornings are the time to hit the road. It might be time to say bye-bye to late nights and hello to my new, early bird alarm clock.

Come On Strong: Honestly, I didn't even know strength training exercises would be such a huge part of my marathon training -- I haven't done some of this stuff (like pesky push-ups and planks) since the high school weight room during soccer season. But apparently when my legs are pleading me to stop, I'm going to need that extra strength. And I'll tell you, it's mighty fine to feel some muscles again.

Ditch the Diet: This one may be the hardest for me. Anyone who knows me knows how much (and how often) I love to eat. But I can't say I always make the smartest choices. My metabolism still hasn't seemed to kick in (I know, you can hate me), so I'd rarely think twice before having waffle fries for dinner, followed quickly by a Wafels & Dinges creation for dessert. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) Oh, and it might be a good idea to start eating breakfast more often, too -- I hear it's the most important meal of the day.

One Water, Please: It's probably clear that some form of alcohol led to my choice of that nutritious waffle meal. I'll admit I enjoy an occasional beer, cocktail or glass of wine (especially in the summertime), but I know my days of casual drinks, happy hours and wild nights are numbered. Maybe it's time to enjoy some low-key movie nights instead? Or maybe I'll just keep referring to these beers as my form of "carbo-loading."

Something tells me once I start creeping into the double digit Saturday morning runs in a few weeks, I might have to adjust this game plan even more. But for now, I'm proud of the balance I'm creating for work, play and training -- while enjoying my slow transformation into a true running nerd.

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