Making Time

When people ask me how I make time for marathon training between my 12-hour workdays, active social life and inconvenient need to sleep, I usually tell them what more experienced athletes have told me:

“We make time for the things that are important to us.”

As I’ve already preached on these very pages, it’s simply impossible to have it all during peak marathon training, and some tier-two interests – in my case: television, mid-week happy hours, recipes with more than three ingredients – have been temporarily relegated to the backburner as I focus on the more important things in my life. Indeed, if you’d asked me earlier this summer how I’m able to fit it all in, I would have told you things like:

  • set your priorities and be willing to give up some small-scale time-guzzlers (good-bye Food Network marathons)
  • master the art of social fitness (hello long runs with friends)
  • be kind to yourself trainingwise when you fall off the wagon (and/or drown fording the river. Seriously, what were you doing on a wagon?)

You’re going to have to make some changes,” I would have told you. “But don’t worry. We make time for the things that are important to us.

That’s what I would have told you.

I would have been lying. Or at least not telling you the entire truth.

Now, I’m not saying the above lifestyle tweaks aren’t essential in marathon training; they unquestionably are. Resetting your priorities so you choose an evening tempo run over a midtown open bar is a crucial first step to reaching all 26.2 of your goals this marathon season. But these kinds of lifestyle tweaks – scheduling, prioritizing, multitasking – will only get you part of the way there, and pretending they’re enough to push you through to the finish line is doing us all a disservice because it leaves us feeling inadequate when the rest of us can’t, in fact, squeeze in all our top-tier priorities.

“Making time for the things that are important” only works if your list of important things is very brief indeed: running, eating, sleeping, a spattering of friends. On top of that, I’ve even managed to fit in a weekly date night, a phone call with my sister and the occasional weekend brunch. Looks like I’m winning.

But you know what hasn’t made the cut? A lot of other things that are also very important to me. Reading books. Cross-training. Sleeping more than 6.5 hours a night. Shopping at the farmer’s market. Baking. Spending more than 90 minutes a workweek with my boyfriend. Blogging well, as evidenced by my latest post. Sorry if it felt like it was written on 4 hours of sleep. It was.

Also gone? Some less tangible features I once enjoyed. The ability to be spontaneous. That wonderful feeling where you wake up in the morning refreshed. Getting to answer the question: “What’d you do this weekend?” with a big ‘ol: “Nothing.”

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know this is the point where I usually like to step back, offer a solution to my conundrum and make some kind of broad-sweeping resolution to myself so each entry ends on a conclusive note. I’m not feeling strong enough? I resolve to start lifting! I’m not racing fast enough? I resolve to do more speed work! I’m not blogging creatively enough? I resolve to include more complex camera angles in all future goldendoodle graphics.

Objects in the mirror are slobberier than they appear.
Objects in the mirror are slobberier than they appear.

But the truth is, I don’t have a solution. Until at least November 3, my training is going to keep being intense, my workdays are going to keep being long and my social calendar is going to keep being double-booked. But maybe it’s that one glossed-over phrase – “until at least November 3” – that’s crucial here. Maybe there isn’t actually a solution to this feeling of being in pulled in too many directions other than good old time herself. Maybe waiting it out is the only answer.

As Solomon or English poet Edward Fitzgerald or Abraham Lincoln (make up your mind, Wikipedia) once said, “This too shall pass.” Or as Avenue Q (consequently Lincoln’s favorite play after Our American Cousin) puts it:

Nothing lasts
Life goes on
Full of surprises.
You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes.
You’re going to have to make a few compromises…
For now.
But only for now.


Ten weeks until the marathon. And go.

Runners, how do you make time for the important stuff when there’s too much important stuff and not enough time?



4 thoughts on “Making Time

  1. So true… I always struggle to make enough time for everything. What I tend to do is cut out things that aren’t critical. This week I was having the old “blog about working out and eating well or actually work out and eat well” At some point somethings gotta give. It’s better to give in before things break! Great post!

  2. I’ll be the first to admit that I let a lot of stuff fall by the wayside during marathon training. You just prioritize things naturally. I think what gets me through is that after race day I always allow myself of a week or two of completely unscheduled rest/easy running. Having some unstructured time between cycles makes the heavily structured marathon-mode much easier to deal with.

  3. You had to give up blogging well? Seriously? Given that these last two posts are among your best, when will we see the ones that evidence this decision? By the way, thanks for saying last time what I’ve long waited to hear said — not the part about being a “real” runner (although that too), but about being a “real” snack food enthusiast. It’s given me the courage to state, boldly and unequivocally, these three truths: (1) I have a Cheetos issue; (2) I OWN my Cheetos issue; and (3) my Cheetos issue will not stop me from breaking under 4:00 at Frankfurt come October 27th. (Other things might, and probably will, but those are other stories.) Thanks again, A. — Vaughan

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