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Run For Your Life

Posted by: on February, 9 2015

Found on the blog A Lovely Life

marathon_chicago skyline editeditedfinal{Downtown Chicago on race day}

Marathons are a test of endurance, dedication and willpower. In my circle of friends alone, many of them are running half or full marathons this year. The reasons why they’ve committed to something so intense vary, whether for their love of running, wanting something to train for, a motivation to get moving and in shape, to have a routine and/or to prove to themselves they can do it. With it being the start of the year and lots of marathons ahead, marathoners and soon-to-be marathoners are in training mode. I, personally, have never ran a marathon so I asked my good friend + six-time marathon runner, Leia Espericueta, for her insight and advice on training for and competing in a marathon.

Leia’s most recent race was in October’s 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. She’s also completed marathons in Madison, WI, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Santa Barbara.

marathon_Leia pre race{Leia, the night pre-marathon}

A.L.L.: What’s your inspiration to run marathons? Has your motivation to run this last one changed from your reason to run the 1st?

L: My inspiration to run marathons came in grad school when my mentor told me she couldn’t conceivably see me playing Juliet unless I lost 25 pounds. The next day I started running; I ran a mile and walked the rest of a half hour, 3 times a week. I had always been an athlete but hated any sort of running over 800 yards, so running a mile was a big deal to me. Three weeks later, I ran 2 miles without stopping and walked for a half hour. A few weeks later, I was curious if I could do three. I started seeing the changes in my body which definitely propelled me forward, but I still hated the act of running, just loved the benefits, so I kept doing it. I signed up for my first 5K race thinking having a goal would make it fun. I had never run with thousands of people before and it was more fun than I thought it would be. I remember starting to wonder if I could call myself a runner since I ran a 5K. I was so eager to be “one of them” and didn’t know what qualified me. Looking back, I have such a respect for people who have the courage to get out there. 50 yards, 50 miles, it doesn’t matter. The fortitude and determination it takes to lace up your shoes, to get one foot in front of the other and keep at it is truly admirable and inspiring. I decided to sign up for a half marathon shortly after that 5K and a couple other races. And exactly a year after my first half, I ran my first marathon. I was 25 and was so disgruntled by how painful and awful the experience was, I thought it would be a great idea to run one a year for the next ten years, always running one before my birthday in November. marathon_chicago{Downtown Chicago}

A.L.L.: How far in advance do you begin training? Please give an example of your training schedule. 

L: Most runners take 16 – 20 weeks to prepare for a marathon. My first marathon prep came from the back of a book geared towards marathon running for non-marathoners. It was a combination of running/walking and I hated every second. My longest run was 18 miles and I cried the last hour wondering how I’d ever finish 26.2. By marathon #4, my training schedule consisted interval training, hills, cross-training, and 4 to 5 runs a week, including three 18-milers, two 20-milers, and two 22-milers. That marathon, I ran a sub 4-hour marathon for the first time. I had never been so dedicated to anything in my life. The best training schedules will incorporate cross training with a lot of running. The ideal combo for your most successful race will be weight-training: high reps, low weight and at least 4 days of running.

A.L.L.: What’s your typical daily diet like while training?

L: 60% protein, 40% carbs. A week before the race, the ratio switches and the carbs become really simple, with sporadic splurges of the carbs you never allow yourself that make the training worth it! Coconut water or electrolyte infused water are also staples for me.

A.L.L.: Where’s your favorite place to run? 

L: I fell in love with running 4 1/2 years into it on the streets of Chicago. Lakeshore Drive became my second home. No city is more enthusiastic and supportive of runners than Chicago. I live in New York now, run in the city all the time, and Chicago still takes the cake. On Saturdays and Sundays in the summer, I’d wake up at 5:00 am and would never be the only one out there. Small running stores would set up tables on the path, bring jugs of water and Gatorade, water hoses when it was hot out and would spend hours simply encouraging strangers, offering fluids and high fives. A real sense of community there for runners unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

A.L.L.: Name the top 5 songs on your running playlist.

L: Five is really hard, but here you go:

  1. ‘Til I Collapse by Eminem
  2. Cinderella Man by Eminem
  3. In da Club by 50 Cent
  4. Radioactive by Imagine Dragons
  5. Quiet Little Voices by We Were Promised Jetpacks

A.L.L.: What’s the most challenging & the most positive/enjoyable part of the whole experience? 

L: Finding the time will always be the hardest thing about marathon training. But I’m a firm believer that you don’t find it, you make it. And there are always enough hours in the day to do the things that matter to you. The most positive thing about completing a marathon is the sense of accomplishment. In the last few minutes of a successful race, that euphoria, there’s nothing like it. Running will give you 100% what you put into it. Your parents, your partner, your friends can’t. You’ll always be disappointed at one point or another. But running will give you whatever you give to it and that’s a really incredible thing. marathon_Leia + friends on race day{Leia + her running partners/friends}

A.L.L: Will you run another marathon?

L: I set a goal of 10 marathons when I was 25, one every year until I’m 35. I’m six in. And nothing has stopped me yet.

I hope this inspires + motivates you! To follow Leia’s running (+ life) in pictures, connect with her on Instagram @ladylikeleia. Also, if you have any comments + questions for her, please leave below!

{All pictures courtesy of Leia}