They say getting started is the hardest part. I’d agree, if you add “and not getting so frustrated by the painstakingly slow rate of progress that you say eff it and quit halfway through." As someone who feeds off competition and burns positive affirmations like rocket fuel (we all do a little bit and you're a liar if you say you don't), the grind of a long marathon training cycle is pretty daunting. Months of workouts and skipped happy hours and early weekend mornings pile up, with little along the way to show for the hard work until race day. (Enter more cliches about marathons, sprints, and eating an elephant.)
To keep the grind feeling fresh I've been told to try and find little victories along the way.
In my experience this is easier said than done while you're nipples deep in a painful tempo or trying to muster the will to live through a 20 mile long run. But I'm trying! Pushing hard up a hill that usually gets walked, resisting a bailout on a windy, sloppy, cold day (thanks Kelli!), holding it together when you were like 93% certain you were going to poop your pants in the middle of a workout (the irony of it happening on a fartlek would have been just too much...) You've gotta give yourself a pat on the back here and there to keep morale high.
Whether you're tackling a new distance or climbing your way back from a fall from fitness-grace like I am, try to relish the pure and unfettered starting place you’re in. It's fine being a beginner! Invigorating, even. Just be patient with yourself, honor the process, and when you hit a lull in the motivation department focus on smaller elephant bites and why you started in the first place. Real talk though whatever you do just try not to massively freak out when you realize “holy crap my weekly mileage is less than the race distance” and "this is a disaster and impossible, I might as well eat all this ice cream instead of that proverbial elephant because seriously what was I even thinking attempting this and I think it's illegal to eat elephants anyhow...” Trust me. Finishing a pint of mint chip in one sitting is not necessarily the type of victory we're after here.
10x - 3:00 on / 2:00 off (+ 10min warm up, 10min cool down)
Fleshman calls it: The "Gonna get you in shape, girrrrrl" Long Fartlek
Sarah calls it: "Ha, say fartlek again"
Effort: On = 10k pace, Off = "Going for a jog with your Granny" pace
Threat of puking: 1.5-out-of-10
I don't know what my 10k pace is and neither of my grandmas run, so I went with paces of "I could talk right now but don't really want to" and "Grandma's slow-rolling in a golf cart next to me." Who says you need a fancy GPS watch or complicated data to be a runner?! My roommate Meaghan agreed to run part of the workout with me, and we methodically chipped away at each set at my super specific paces. Having someone there helped keep both "on" and "off" honest, and I knew she'd call me out if I tried the faux-untied shoelace ploy for an extra break. Accountability - get it where you can! Since this workout is more effort based rather than time I picked a route with some little hills to keep things from getting too monotonous. (Little victories!) Everything was going swimmingly until Meaghan had to peel and then suddenly a bucket's worth of lead poured into my legs. Each "on" got super hard and each "off" sped by way faster than I wanted. Picturing my Grandma taunting me from her golf cart with a beer in her hand was the only thing that got me through sets six, seven, and eight. I got a boost at two-to-go and pushed with all my quicksand running might through the last lap, which I poorly planned to take place through a busy park near downtown. Sorry to all the families enjoying a nice evening stroll that were interrupted by the heaving buffalo shouting "on the left!" at you. This workout gave me a taste of end-of-the-race fatigue and a confidence boost in my ability to keep pushing through discomfort. And if nothing else, at least I didn't poop my pants during it. Little victories!