1. Has anyone else seen this video?
I watched it on Sunday, and I have Thoughts that you, my poor, semi-captive audience, will now be subjected to.
In case you haven’t seen it, the basic premise of this video is that the girl, Michelle, has never run more than three miles at most at once. She (or BuzzFeed?) decides she wants to train for a marathon in 10 weeks. BuzzFeed hooks her up with a personal trainer, and 10 weeks later, she runs, **SPOILERS AHEAD** and finishes the L.A. Marathon, BQing by five minutes in the process, which, if you follow BQing, should be more than enough to get her an entry in 2018, should she want one.
Thought #1: I did not, for one second, actually think she’d make it through training. I was FLOORED that she not only made it through training without getting injured, but also made it through the entire marathon without blowing up. I mean, for goodness’ sake, she BQed! Most runners I know who’ve been doing this running thing for a very long time have never BQed!
Thought #2: I think this video is problematic on SO MANY LEVELS. I could write a thesis, I could do a dissertation, on the many ways in which I find this video problematic. Behold:
Problem #1: The implication that 10 weeks is a sufficient amount of time to train for a marathon.
I take so much issue with that implication, I’m personally offended by it. While I don’t think there’s anything magical about training for a marathon in 18 weeks like I’ve done over the past four marathon seasons (with the arguable exception of last year, when I ran a marathon during week 15 of Chicago Marathon training), I think those eight weeks you’re losing are pretty damn significant. Which eight weeks are you going to shave off? Your cutback weeks (of which there are only five, plus taper, to begin with during an 18 week program)? The first eight weeks of building? The final eight weeks of your highest mileage plus taper? If I took a serious, critical look at my marathon training schedule, I would feel comfortable skipping the first three weeks IF–gigantic, neon sign, IF–I had a really, really solid base going into marathon training and knew that I could easily do a nine mile run. Heck, I would say that I have a solid base right now, at this exact moment in time, since I’ve been half marathon training since the end of January, and I STILL wouldn’t feel comfortable signing up for Grandma’s Marathon (which is just about 10 weeks from now).
Problem #2: The implication that 10 weeks is a sufficient amount of time for train for a marathon if the longest distance you have previously run in your life, ever, is “Maybe 3 miles?”
Not “three miles a day,” not “three miles as my long run,” three miles, ever, period, MAYBE. Every year at the start of marathon training, CARA says something along the lines of, “If you’re not doing 20 or so miles per week right now, and/or your long run isn’t at least six miles, you should probably seriously ask yourself what you’re doing here, because we really don’t think you’re ready to be here.” Now, I know CARA isn’t the final word when it comes to training, but I think that’s pretty solid advice. If you’re not running at all, if you sit down in an interview at the start of your training and say, “Running is just one of those things I’ve always avoided,” maybe, JUST MAYBE, you’re 1) not ready to run a marathon at all 2) aren’t ready to get ready for a marathon in two and a half months.
Problem #3: The implication, put forth by before and after pictures, in addition to before (but no after) body stats about weight and percent body fat, that you need to run a marathon to get in shape, or that marathon training even is a good way to try to get in shape.
The before and after pictures in this video might just be the most mind-boggling part of all, because somehow, this girl started marathon training with a normal body and normal skin tone and came out bronzed, with nary a rogue, running-gear induced tan line to be seen, with a flatter stomach, and most bizarrely of all, bigger arm muscles (?!) than she started with. I’m no body building expert, but to my understanding, it does not involve the hours upon hours of steady state cardio that marathon training almost always entails. I would think running a marathon would actually be a terrible way to try to lean out, given how common it is to gain, rather than lose, weight during marathon training. Running a marathon is a great way to lower your resting heart rate, but it is hardly the best way to go about losing weight, especially when you consider how much more you need to eat to fuel your training, and how many of those calories need to come from carbohydrates. In the article accompanying the video, Michelle says she could “could eat (within reason) whatever I wanted and didn’t gain weight!” which is both such an enormous misconception and so enormously false that it makes me want to scream. Marathon training is NOT a license to eat whatever you damn well please without any consequences, even though everyone who hasn’t ever run a marathon seems to believe that, and, in fact, it’s that very misconception that is the reason why so many people GAIN weight during marathon training. And look, if you decided to marathon train for the sake of your bucket list or whatever, fine. Eat whatever you want during marathon training. I certainly do, because I’m not in it to lose weight. But don’t tell people they can eat anything (within reason, not bothering to specify what counts as “within reason”) in the same breath that you tell them marathon training will help you get skinny, because those two things are completely incompatible with each other, and anyone who knows anything about marathoning will tell you that. This might have been my biggest point of outrage with the entire video/article.
Problem #4: The implication that if this girl can go out and run a marathon on next to no training, so can you, BuzzFeed Video watcher! And you can qualify for Boston while you’re at it!
The video starts out with Michelle’s coach, Erik Steffens, mentioning that he ran the L.A. Marathon a couple years ago and BQed on his first try. While this does check out on Athlinks, what he fails to mention is that (also according to Athlinks), he was a DII collegiate runner, so it’s not like his L.A. Marathon, despite being his first marathon, was his first rodeo. So, if you were to watch this video with no background and no research, you’d walk away thinking that it’s totally reasonable that you, too, could go out and run a marathon AND qualify for Boston in the process. After all, 100% of the people in the video did it! Why can’t you?
To the video’s credit, it does acknowledge that only 10.4% of runners qualify for Boston. What it doesn’t acknowledge is that most of those Boston qualifiers either 1) worked their asses off to BQ, some for years or 2) Have no trouble BQing on a regular basis because they’re already in the upper echelons of running to begin with–elites, local elites, etc.–because they either have a ton of natural talent, or they have been training at a high level for years, or, quite often, have both a ton of natural talent AND have been training at a high level for years. If you don’t know anything about Boston qualifying, I don’t know how you’d walk away from this video not thinking BQing is a routine thing everyone eventually does at some point during their running career.
Problem #5: The implication that any of this was a good idea.
I don’t know why anyone thought this was something necessary to pursue. It’s not like the L.A. Marathon is the only marathon in the world, or even the only marathon in California for that matter, that you could start training for in the beginning of January. I don’t know why training for a marathon in 10 weeks seemed like a better idea than training for a marathon in 16 weeks (San Luis Obispo), 17 weeks (U.S. Bank OC Marathon), or 20 weeks (Mountains 2 Beach), if you’re looking for other marathons that you could get to in about three and a half hours from Los Angeles. Is training for a marathon in 10 weeks challenging? Absolutely. But so is training for a marathon in 16 weeks, or 18 weeks, or 20 weeks, or any longer length of time.
Thought #3: Look, I think it’s great that Michelle could bust out a BQ in 10 weeks. I’m super impressed and definitely wish I could do that, too. But I also think BuzzFeed has a responsibility to, at the very LEAST, be more clear about Michelle’s baseline fitness (she was a professional cyclist for nine months in 2015) AND to point out that what she did is neither smart nor safe for someone whose fitness isn’t high enough to join a professional cycling team. She ran six days per week logging 45-70 miles per week, which, if you started from scratch, is just BEGGING for injury. I’m, admittedly, pretty cautious about mileage (both for the sake of my body and my mind, neither of which like running more than three days per week), but I’ll be honest: I watched this entire video waiting for her to get hurt, and I couldn’t believe it when she didn’t. This video was obviously meant to inspire people to go after crazy fitness goals, and while I don’t think that’s inherently a bad thing, you ABSOLUTELY need to put a disclaimer on that if the person you’re using as your guinea pig to achieve a crazy fitness goal is already crazy fit to begin with.
2. I’ve started taking pictures with my new camera!
And, after a whopping 10 minutes of taking pictures with said new camera, I already want a macro lens. Haha. Even in my point and shoot days, I was always drawn to macro photography: super closeups of flowers, leaves, and the like. You can fake macro photography with a point and shoot, or even decently well with an iPhone, but as I quickly learned on Tuesday, if I want to replicate that with my SLR, I’m either going to need to adjust my shooting expectations, or I’m going to need a macro lens.
I also realized on Tuesday just how much I have to learn about my camera to make the most of it. This isn’t the first time I’ve ever used an SLR, but it’s the first time I’ve ever had one to use whenever and however I want, and as I was taking pictures on Tuesday, I realized I don’t really know what I’m doing, in no small part because while I recognize a decent number of photography terms (f-stop, aperture, etc.), I don’t really know what they mean or how to make the most of them. I imagine educating myself will help dramatically, so I’m going to need to carve out some time to revisit that photography book I mentioned in my last post, or, at the very least, actually read the manual that came with my camera 😛
3. While we’re (sort of) on the topic of plants:
Look! The cacti in my terrarium are growing baby cacti! I’m hoping that’s a good thing…? Haha. At the very least, they don’t appear to be dying, so I consider that a victory.