Cabin Fever

While having dinner the other night I noticed that my oldest daughter, who is usually very upbeat, seemed really down in the dumps. When I asked her if anything was wrong I could immediately see the crocodile tears start to well up in her eyes. “I just want it to be summer… I am sick of winter.” She sort of caught me off guard with that one but while I was explaining that “cabin fever” is a real thing, I realized it applies directly to training for the marathon.

I usually run in the mornings before anyone gets up for school and for the last few months that means a cold, dark house with no hint of daylight until well after my run is over. In years past, even though it’s dark and cold out, the morning outside run has been good for me. Getting the cool, crisp fresh air into my lungs always felt refreshing like jump in a pool on a hot summer day. This year, however, has been a totally different story. I don’t think I have ventured out once since the beginning of December. All my runs have been in the basement on the treadmill. Even long runs have been spent staring at the same imperfections in the concrete wall step after step, mile after mile.

So what motivates me to keep training day after day like this while I wait for warmer weather to arrive? The feeling of race day. If you have not had the experience yet, trust me, it’s worth every morning cold floor and pitch dark stairwell to the basement. It’s been about 10 years since my last marathon so I am a bit of a born-again first timer but I still remember how I got pretty choked up when I was at the start line listening to the national anthem. The hard work was over and now the marathon was the victory lap. No more running alone in the basement staring at a wall, now there were hundreds of people with me on my run and way better scenery. For me, who trains alone most of the time, it was an adrenaline rush of sensory overload the whole day. The anticipation of the start, the support and fun of the run itself, and the best runner’s high you will ever feel when you hit the finish line.

As I explained to my daughter with cabin fever, we get outside when we can to ice skate or snowshoe or go sledding. We think about things like Disney vacations, going to the lake, and race day to keep us going through the blah tail-end days of winter. The journey to get where we want to go is truly the hardest part but when you are standing on that start line in May, it will all be worth it.

-Joel McCaw

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