Welcome to minimal marathoner!

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Hi! I’m guessing 98% of you reading this already know me from my old blog, The Millennial Next Door. TMND had a great run, but was never able to live up to the mission I originally had in mind for it. It turns out I’m not great at generating content for a broadly-themed blog, so now here we are with minimal marathoner: my attempt to take the lessons of what did work and turn them into a blog that is a little more focused. I like to write about running and I like to write about practicing minimalism (although I was never able to develop as much content for the latter as I would have liked), so that’s what this blog will focus on.

But this blog is more than the sum of those parts. minimal marathoner is also the chronicle of a small but meaningful journey I’m now embarking on. Heat up your coffee and get comfortable, because it’s story time.

I’ve done 3 marathons, and I always approach them the same way. I set big goals for myself. I immerse myself in training, treating it like a part-time job and letting it take priority over everything besides my actual job. I become preoccupied with workout stats and improvement. I push myself to run high mileage with 1 or 2 hard workouts each week, because I have it in my head that that’s the only way I’ll be fit enough to run a good marathon.

Those habits have led to success in meeting my marathon time goals, but they’ve also left me burnt out, lacking perspective, and fighting to restore balance in my life. The benefits of “beast mode” training no longer outweigh the costs, and while I love distance running and marathon training, it’s time to make some big changes going forward.

This blog is my journey to make those changes by applying the practice of minimalism to my running life in the next year, specifically as I build up to and train for the Chicago Marathon in October 2017.

There are as many minimalisms as there are minimalists, but to me, “minimalism” simply means getting rid of excess and focusing your life only on what you really need and love.

How minimalism applies to my running life is an interesting question, and one that will involve a lot of figuring out as I go, but I can assure you of a few things that I already know will be part of my new journey:

No more splurging on new running gear “just because”. The amount of money I’ve spent on cool new running clothes adds up to hundreds of dollars, and I really need that money for other things now. Until my 3 pairs of trusty Brooks wear out, I already have  everything I need to run.

One of the project ideas I’m toying with for this blog is to keep a running/marathon spending diary – like a food diary or a training log, but with the money I spend specifically related to running and marathon training. I think it will help hold me accountable to training minimally, but I also just think it will be really interesting.

Training smarter, not harder. My priority for my next marathon (and any races leading up to it) is to enjoy the experience and run my own race, whatever pace that happens to be. I won’t be running 5-6 times per week unless I want to, because it’s not necessary. I won’t be forcing myself to hit 55-60 mile weeks if I don’t want to, because it’s not necessary. I won’t be doing 1-2 hard speed workouts every single week, because that’s not necessary either. I want to simplify my training to focus only on the running I need and want to do to finish a marathon strong and healthy. I don’t need to keep up with how hard other runners are working or give into my unfounded fear of not doing enough.

Running mindfully and with peace. I’m about to come off a 4 week running hiatus. I voluntarily took this hiatus when years of chasing goals and putting pressure on myself finally came to a head and I couldn’t enjoy the sport anymore. That was a big part of the motivation behind starting a minimalist running journey. Running is something I do because it brings happiness and vitality into my life, and I need to eliminate all the things that get in the way of that: placing too much value on speed and improvement, comparing myself to other runners, excessive social media posting of workout stats and race times that other runners will compare themselves to, taking running too seriously, and failing to have perspective and keep balance in my life.

Those are just the running things, but I also intend to take the theme of minimal marathoner to heart and incorporate minimalism practice into my blogging by trying to write more minimally as well. Obviously, based on this 1,100+ word post, that goal is a work in progress. But it’s coming. I’m going to be selecting content more mindfully and putting more effort into editing my posts. I’m still the same ol’ me, just trying to convey thoughts, ideas, and experiences with fewer unnecessary words.

I don’t really consider myself “a minimalist”. When I told Kevin about my new blog he said to me, “but you don’t really have a minimalist lifestyle..?” And I said, “but I’m trying!” Every journey has to start somewhere, and to use an obvious metaphor, I’d rather this blog begin at the starting line, not the finish line. Well – I don’t actually believe a finish line exists in minimalism, but my point is that I’m not trying to brand myself as a minimalist or this blog as a place you can come to for advice and how-tos about living a minimalist lifestyle. It’s intended to document my own journey into minimalism practice and hopefully hold me more accountable than I have been in the past.

Which brings me to my final point – this blog isn’t intended to be prescriptive. I’m not trying to criticize or advocate for any particular training mode or lifestyle; my intent, again, is simply to document my own journey. I understand that the way I’m choosing to go about this is different than the way many runners prefer to train and spend their money. If you fall into that camp, I do hope that you’ll still find my journey interesting and enjoy following along anyway. My intent is not to be preachy or divisive, and I’m going to try my absolute best not to come off that way; I know the perception of those particular attitudes turn many people off from minimalist writers.

What do you think of the spending diary idea – is it something you’d be interested in seeing on here?

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21 thoughts on “Welcome to minimal marathoner!

  1. I don’t drink coffee, warm cup of hot cocoa work?? Lol

    Really looking forward to see where the new blog goes and where this new journey takes you. I’ve always liked your writing style but this seems to have some more passion. Perhaps it’s the excitement of a new chapter or the excitement of a reader diving into something new. Either way it’s going to be pretty cool.

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    1. Hot cocoa is fine by me! But…but…no COFFEE?? How do you function?!

      Thanks so much for the kind words! I’m definitely excited about this new journey!

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  2. Happy new blog day! I’m excited to follow you on this new journey!

    “My priority for my next marathon (and any races leading up to it) is to enjoy the experience and run my own race, whatever pace that happens to be. I won’t be running 5-6 times per week unless I want to, because it’s not necessary. I won’t be forcing myself to hit 55-60 mile weeks if I don’t want to, because it’s not necessary. I won’t be doing 1-2 hard speed workouts every single week, because that’s not necessary either.”

    This is not meant to be snarky, but is an honest question: Are you at all worried about how you’ll react if you notice your paces (both training and racing) slowing down?

    This is something that I’ve been struggling with as my priority has shifted from running-as-a-part-time-job to school-as-a-part-time-job. I’m really afraid that in the next four years I will be running less and less and losing all of the progress that I worked so hard to make. I know you tend to be a bit of a worrier too, so I was wondering if/how you’ve dealt with these thoughts. I’m sure part of me is worried about nothing, but there is still that voice that says “you’ll never PR again!” Of course, from the rest of your post it sounds like you really have made peace with a new approach to training and racing. So maybe it’s just me.

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    1. Oh boy…where to begin. Sure, I’m worried. I mean, who wants to get slower? And of course, there is always that pipe dream that I’ll PR anyway. But I am more worried about paying all this money and doing all this training, only to not enjoy or appreciate the experience just because I didn’t meet some stupid arbitrary time goal. It became easier to let go of improvement once I realized there was something much scarier than not getting faster. And, perhaps a lot of it has to do with the nature of the marathon versus shorter races: because of its mammoth nature, it’s easier to be proud of just finishing, as opposed to shorter distances that are more inherently competitive because you already know you can finish.

      And, I’ve done a lot of introspection lately, with the whole burn out/break and everything. While it feels good to improve, it really doesn’t make me happier. In fact, the opposite has happened. I realize now that a lot of my drive to always improve and crush goals was borne of my own insecurity as a person and as a runner. Not saying that’s the case for you or anyone else, but I know that’s just not the person I want to be or the way I want to live my life. The runners I admire most aren’t the ones who can blaze through seeemingly untouchable paces, they are the ones who seem happiest to lace up and most comfortable in their own skin, no matter the pace. Those are the people I want to be like. And I’ve decided that if being fast is the sacrifice I have to make to get there, then so be it.

      Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t still wish I could have it both ways. But it came to a point where my desire to improve was in conflict with other things in my life, and after evaluating that conflict I made the decision that one thing had to take priority over another. It won’t be an easy or overnight change but it’s one that needs to happen.

      That was probably more info than you needed to answer your question, but hopefully that helps you see from the POV of a fellow worrier!

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      1. Really helpful response, thanks Hanna! I’ve actually been framing a lot of my running this fall around the same concept of “If it isn’t fun, why am I doing it?” It has been helpful for the short term, occasional missed run, but not so much with the big picture. I still have a lot of drive to improve and I don’t want to shift those goals to something else yet! I’m sure I’ll figure out the right balance of running/school/life eventually, it just is taking some time to adjust to changing priorities.

        Also I’m sure I’ll look back on this and laugh after a few semesters when I realize that I was worried for nothing. That is the one benefit to being a lifetime worrier, I know that 99% of my worries are never going to be realized.

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        1. Ha, I know what you mean. No matter how ridiculous it is I still sort of subscribe to the “worrying makes it less likely to happen” theory.

          I think it helps to keep the long view in mind. We are still young and have many more years to run hard before our bodies push back. We are still young compared to the many many women who are hitting their peak running years in their mid-to-late 30s. It takes a really, really long time to make substantial improvement in running, and many of the people who suddenly see marked improvements only do so after a period of downtime. And by downtime I mean REAL downtime, not “I needed recovery time so I took 3 weeks to just run for fun and *only* hit 30mpw before starting my next marathon training cycle”.

          Unfortunately, we can’t help being products of a society that loves instant gratification and isn’t great at looking at the bigger picture, so it’s just hard to be patient sometimes. But being patient and having faith is really all we can do.

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  3. You will be using a very different approach this next marathon journey! I am glad I get to come along. A spending log is a good idea. It would be interesting to see what it really costs you. I cringe when I think about all the money I spent this past year trying to rehab my feet…

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  4. I’m excited to follow your journey!
    Most marathoners I know (many of whom are BQers and – more importantly – are running marathons well into their 30s and 40s) don’t do the 55-60 mile weeks with lots of hard workouts – they do the 40-45, maybe peak at 50 weeks, because they are running for the long term enjoyment, not just one marathon. Because honestly, why do that if you can succeed just as well on a bit less? I’m a huge fan of moderate marathon training, with 40-60 weeks depending on the person. Good for you for taking that approach as well! I don’t think you will have to give up on PRs either. Training smarter doesn’t just mean doing less mileage; it also means so quality mileage or focusing on the little things that make a big difference.

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  5. Congrats on the new blog! I can’t wait to follow your training as you head into Chicago. I’ve definitely been taking a much more laid back approach to running lately, similar to what you are saying. I run when I want to, don’t when I don’t want to. I’ve definitely been concerned that I’ll be slower, but whatever. I’m not really sure that I care a whole lot. We’ll see in three weeks how this is treating me, but I do think if you don’t feel like running, it might be your body telling you not to run. I think I’ve avoided injury many times by taking this approach. I hope it ends up working for you and you start to really enjoy your training, even if it is scaled back a bit.

    Also, I definitely agree about spending too much money on running. I feel like I spend a ton, and I too need to stop. Making a log of what you spend is a really good idea. Maybe I should try it (after my birthday in 3 weeks though). 🙂

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  6. Congrats on launching the new blog!

    I think it would be interesting to read a log of your running expenses. It’s something that I don’t think about a lot but I bet it adds up. I was talking with my boss about running yesterday and how much shoes cost! The Glycerins are like an extra car payment every 3-ish months. Thank God my car is paid off so I can afford my running shoes! 😀

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  7. Congratulations on the new blog! I hope that the fresh start and fresh focus for Chicago is just the change you need to get back to your love of running. I will be eagerly reading as you as you write about your plan for Chicago – what you’ll do there, where you’ll stay and eat (ahhh the food!), and the experience of the race. I’m excited for you to enjoy it all, because I feel like this is going to be a really great experience for you!

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  8. Hi Hanna! I am so excited to read your blog on a regular basis. I’m a runner and I’m running my first marathon in two weeks and I have been asking myself… Did I train hard enough, should I have done more speed work? I didn’t keep a log of how many miles I ran each week, should I have done that also? But in my world, finishing a marathon has always been a goal and enjoying the ride is something I truly can say I did! Luckily I live in a beach town, and every run was from our town green to the water and back. I think having the beach to run by taught me that no matter how hard this training gets, I need to slow down and take it all in. I am a huge fan of what you are saying in terms on minimalism. (You’ve got a fan in me!) Good luck with your blog 🙂

    Jen

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  9. I love this hanna, so excited! I just got made redundant (lol) so I’m having to rein in my spending- no more sports massages, ridiculously pricey running shoes or impulse food purchases! I also love the approach of not letting it take over your life- that’s what’s I practiced this training season and it had so many benefits… although weirdly it felt like the marathon kinda snuck up on me! Really excited for this new balanced approach to training, I’m sure there’s a ton I can learn! Xx

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  10. Hi Hanna! I just found your blog and knew I would love it just based on the title, and I related so much to this post especially! I try to live my life in a minimalish way (though I haven’t been trying very hard lately…) and have been giving a lot of thought about how that comes through in my running life. I’ve also run 3 marathons with an approach very similar to what you described and have come to realize that I have been doing a lot of things that are unnecessary and make me unhappy. I just finished training for my first Ironman and while I loved the race, I didn’t love how I felt during training and am really striving to find a different approach as I move forward to my next goals (1 or 2 spring marathons and an Ironman in the fall). Really excited to follow along with you as you work through this and hopefully pick up some inspiration and insight along the way! 🙂

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