Now that my marathon training is basically over (have I mentioned how much I love taper weeks?), I wanted to do a round-up of things I’ve learned so far in case any of my readers are considering a marathon of their own. Obviously, this is all said without ever having actually run a marathon (yet), but here are a few tidbits I garnered from my training process.

1. Tell everyone you are training for a marathon — or else you will probably quit.
Sure, you put down something north of $100 for this race, but that will start to feel negligible about a month and a half in. (Plus, if you’re smart, you paid for the cancelation insurance in case of injury.) The only thing that is going to keep you running past the halfway training point is pride and the fear of telling everyone you announced your training to that you are wimping out. So tell everyone. Tell your friends. Tell your coworkers. Tell your yoga instructors. Tell the guy at the shoe store. You get the idea.

2. You should probably invest in a fanny pack.
Go ahead, laugh. Get it all out. Then get over it. Because unless you are planning to pack all your snacks, cell phone, headphones, etc. in your pockets, you’ll need something to hold it all. I got through most of my training sans le pac de derrière (as I imagine the French would say it), but long runs required a pouch for gummies and metro cards and and cash and things.

I refuse to ever wear a water belt, though.

3. You will be tired. All the time.
No, really. See also: hungry.

4. Your husband/boyfriend/friends will become running widows. Or whatever the running equivalent of a football/hockey widow is.
Training takes time, yo. Time that you normally would have spent grabbing dinner, drinks, and generally having a life. And unless your friends are also training, odds are they can’t just join you for a quick 12-miler after work one night. So let them know that training is going to take priority for a while. (That is, unless they are willing to swap your usual happy hours for a yoga or cross training class.)

5. You probably won’t lose weight.
Unless you are starting out with a significant amount of weight to lose, don’t bank on training lowering the number on the scale that much. Yes, you’ll be burning more calories, but you’ll also need to eat more to keep up your strength (plus, see the aforementioned “hungry all the time”). Odds are, if you’re training for a marathon, you’ve been a runner for a while and are probably pretty close to your “happy weight,” and your body is going to hold on to extra calories to support these 1,700 calorie-burning runs you’ll do from time to time. Plus, you know, muscle weighs more than fat blah blah blah, and you’ll probably see higher fluctuations from water weight.

Don’t feel too bad, though — my weight stayed exactly the same, but I definitely got more toned and my clothes fit differently. You’re going to get stronger, dude.

6. You can actually gain weight whilst training.
It seems like a sick joke when you’re working out 5-6 days a week, but it’s true. The hungers are fierce, and it’s easy to tell yourself that you deserve an extra slice of cake when you’re training. But gaining weight can affect your pace, so keep in mind that the better in shape you are, the fewer calories each run will actually burn. You should be eating more carbs while you train, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to more food. The best advice I heard while training was to replace things with carbs. So instead of adding a side of pasta to your usual lunch, replace your salad and chicken with quinoa and chicken. You’ll get the calories and carbs you need without overdoing anything. (Obviously take all my diet advice with a grain of salt…everyone is different, and a doctor or nutritionist can give you much better advice for your body and health. I’m just some chick who runs a lot.)

7. You will not be able to sit cross-legged anymore.
This was a weird one. I’m the type of person that is really bad at just sitting normally; I’m usually pretzel-twisted up in the corner of the couch or something. But about midway through training, I realized that if I sat in any way that wasn’t with both feet flat on the ground with my butt in a chair, my muscles would basically fuse in that position when I tried to stand up. It was weird. And annoying. And painful.

I still can barely believe the race is only a week-and-a-half away. Any last-minute advice from marathon veterans out there?

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There are few things in life more awkward than job hunting whilst gainfully employed.

For one, job hunting is a veritable job in and of itself. It takes time to scour job boards, craft memorable cover letters, and go on interviews.

And those interviews? They are definitely the most awkward part. After all, you can only have so many doctor appointments, family emergencies, illnesses, burst pipes, etc. before people start to suspect. (Or at least think you are just a disaster of a human being.) And I’m a terrible liar. I hate doing it.

I tend to get stressed out by phony doctor appointments (the rushing to get there on time, the rushing to get back to the office at a reasonable time…it’s too much) and will often just take a day off, especially if I have more than one interview. The problem is, eventually you burn through 3-4 vacation days, which is fine if you get the job. Not so much if you don’t.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about job hunting while having a full-time job:

1. Timing is everything. Schedule interviews either first thing in the morning (ideal, because there are a myriad of excuses that can happen in the morning…late train, dishwasher overflowed, husband got sick and needs me to pick up a prescription, dog ran away, car broke down, etc.) or last thing in the afternoon (“I need to jet out of here a little early tomorrow evening, but I’ll be in early to make up for any missed work.”). If all else fails, lunchtime is doable. (“My cousin is in town just for the afternoon and asked if I could meet for lunch — is that okay?”)

2. Be cautious about dressing too professional if you have to go back to work. Unless you show up every day in a blazer and heels, wear an outfit you can dress up for the interview and down for your office. Nothing tips people off like you showing up late and in a suit.

3. Be respectful of your current employer’s time. 3 pm is not the right time to troll LinkedIn job boards. It’s also not the right time to update your resume. You are still an employee, and you want to leave on good terms regardless of the situation. (If possible.) Save your job hunting for after-hours (and answer emails/phone calls on your lunch break) to avoid leaving anyone with bad thoughts about you after you’re gone.

You’re probably wondering why I’m being so candid about my job hunting process. Well…you guessed it; I got a new job recently. My last day at my current company is next Wednesday. Then it’s off to Paris, and then I start the new gig when I get back.

The long-time readers among you will probably feel like you have déjà vu, but in my defense, I’ve been at my current job for almost two years. That’s a lifetime in the media world. Plus, I’m super excited about the new opportunity.

I’ve got a good feeling about 2014, you guys.

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My blog has been SO boring lately. I promise there are a lot of things in the works, but trust me when I tell you that I am protecting you from an unnecessary amount of thoughts on running. It’s all I think about, but I know it’s not that interesting to most of you.

Here’s a brief recap for those of you who do care.

The second 20 was a bit harder than the first. I think , in general, my legs (and especially my ankles) are just more tired and sore than they were two weeks ago. I also ran this 20 slightly faster. We’re talking about the difference of seconds per mile, but I think it affected things. I ran the first six miles way too quickly, and I could definitely feel it in the second half of the run. (I was excited because I started the run feeling really good, which doesn’t always happen.)

Save it for race day, Justine.

Other than that, not much else changed. I recently purchased what will be my race day shoes, so I’ve been breaking those in. I also tried a new type of running fuel, these gummies called Sharkies. I liked them a lot, both for flavor and the little boost they have me, so hopefully I can find more to bring to Paris.

Eating while running is really the weirdest thing. I always want to explain to people that I’m running 20 miles; I’m not just incapable of going on a jog without snacks.

I still haven’t tried any of the goos or gels. Even thinking about that texture tickles my gag reflex, and the gummies have been working just fine for me.

Speaking of eating (and when am I not), I’ve also narrowed down the best pre-race meal for me: oatmeal with blueberries, agave, and chopped nuts with a coffee with soy milk and a glass of half G2/half water.

Not all mixed together…the oatmeal, the coffee, and the Gatorade/water mix.

So I’m thinking Gatorade is another thing I might have to smuggle in…I recall Joey and I having difficulty finding it when we had food poisoning on our honeymoon.

As for my post-race meal…um, how about everything?

Only two weeks until the race! Any last-minutes advice from runner friends?

(I promise the next post will have nothing to do with running.)

It would be unreasonable to expect that every run would go swimmingly, right?

Enter the bad run: Your legs feel like lead, your stomach bothers you, you can’t focus (or rather, unfocus and get into that weird, mindless running headspace), and the miles seem to molasses-crawl past.

It’s not the same thing as hitting “the wall” because, in this case, the wall smacks you in the face the moment you step outside.

I’m sure I had bad runs when I was a casual runner. I remember how sometimes four miles just flew by, and other times I was killing myself to eke out two. But when you’re staring down an 8-, 12-, or 16-mile jaunt, a bad run just stings a little bit harder.

Saturday’s “12-miles” was a bad run.

From the moment I woke up, I just wasn’t feeling it. Determined to shake it off (and with, you know, this little thing called the actual marathon winking at me from three weeks away), I laced up my new sneakers and donned my fleece.

Because, oh yeah, it’s still freezing. This weekend’s run was a delightful mix of just barely uncomfortably warm (when the wind was at my back) and face-numbingly freezing (when I was running into the wind).

So, you know, generally awful.

I tried all my usual running tricks, including reminding myself how lucky I am to be able to run. Including trying to remember when I couldn’t run because I was injured, and how jealous I was whenever someone sprinted past me on the sidewalk. Nothing worked.

In the end, I ran about eight miles. And felt like a total loser.

I’m trying to shake it off, though. I do think I could have forced myself to finish those last four miles. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to hate running. If I had made myself pound the pavement a little while longer, I think I would have ended the run hating it and dreading my next run.

And considering I have another 20-miler next weekend, that’s not a place I want to go to mentally.

So I cheated one of my runs. I don’t actually think this will hurt me significantly. This time next week, I’ll hopefully be back to my confident I’m-running-a-marathon-and-you-can’t-stop-me self.

Any other runners have experience with bad runs? How do you shake it off (in case I wake up on April 6th with a bad case of dead legs)?

I have a confession: I have been dreading my first 20-mile run from the moment the idea of doing a full marathon popped into my head.

I solved this problem in my typical fashion of, well, ignoring it until the actual day arrived.

I mean, I was prepared. I had my snacks (I’ve been chewing on gummy candies…I need to get something that is actually made for runners), I was well hydrated (I’ve learned that the only thing that keeps me from drying out is to drink at least half a bottle of Gatorade G2 cut with equal parts water an hour before I run), and I had my course mapped out (starting at the bottom of Manhattan, then running 11 miles up the West Side Highway and then 9 miles back down). I was wearing one of my favorite running outfits. I had my music. I was ready.

But as I hopped off the subway in the financial district, I was utterly terrified.

It sounds silly, but the long runs, especially those that are a distance I have never run before, give me an extreme amount of anxiety. Anything could happen. I could get injured or feel horribly sick miles from home.

Okay, those are really the only bad things that could happen. BUT STILL.

In the end, though, I knew I had to just do it. I’ve found it helps if I don’t think of it as running 20 miles, but rather that I am going to run for three hours. I hate wasting time in general, and I tend to stress out when I feel like something is taking up too much time. If I just remind myself that I have cut these three hours out of my life just for running, though, my stress level calms and everything feels more manageable.

So I just started running.

I kept my pace slow-ish, running the first half at about an 8:30 mile pace. I also made myself stop at almost every bathroom for a quick drink of water, rather than waiting until I felt thirsty as I had done in the past. I deliberately planned to be at my least favorite part of the course (everything north of 90th street because there’s no where to stop for water or bathroom breaks) midway through the run — I knew if anything was going to go wrong for me, it would be in the last third of the run, so I wanted to be closer to civilization.

Around mile 11, I started to feel tired. But I told myself that I had run so much farther than that multiple times, so I wasn’t allowed to be tired yet. (I actually said this to myself in my head.)

Around mile 16, I was definitely tired (my pace was a solid 9:13), but felt pretty good otherwise. I started to let myself believe that this run was actually going to go well. When I hit 18 and felt infinitely better than I had during my 18-mile run, I was elated. A bad run can really mess with your head (“Am I just incapable of running this far? Has this whole thing been a horrible mistake?”), but a good run is equally as vindicating.

At mile 19, I let myself pick up the pace mostly because I just wanted it all to be over.

When I finally hit 20 and got to stop running, it was like a gift.

The first thing I did after I stopped running: take this picture.

The first thing I did after I stopped running: take this picture.

I finished in just under three hours, which makes me feel pretty good about my race-day pace. It also helped that Saturday was the first spring-like day we’ve had in NYC in about four months — hopefully the weather will be similar in Paris once April 6th rolls around.

All in all, I’m just so relieved it went well. It’s so easy for me to start doubting this whole endeavor (and I do pretty regularly), but a smooth, non-painful run is tremendously encouraging.

You guys. I really think I’m going to run a marathon now.

Hope everyone else had a great weekend too!

Today’s post is brought to you by, Grammerly! I use Grammerly’s plagiarism checker because the only time copying is okay is when you’re stealing my top knot tutorial. Thanks, Grammerly!

The month is winding down (thank goodness…does anyone love February? And this one has been especially brutal), which means it’s time for the most recent installment about what has been flipping through my Kindle lately. Ready? And GO:

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
What it’s about: This is a multi-perspective story that jumps back and forth between past and present. In the past, an Italian small-time hotelier crosses paths with a hauntingly beautiful American actress who bears a secret. They’re together for just over a day before she is torn away from him by a budding director (and Richard Burton, incidentally), but he is never able to fully escape her memory. In the future, that budding director has made a name for himself creating the types of TV shows most of us admit watching with sheepish grins, and his production assistant is ready to quit her soul-sucking job when a handsome wannabe film writer and an elderly Italian man stumble into her office late one night, each with his own mission to reclaim a life he used to think was out of reach.

What I thought: I really admire the way Jess Walter can paint a lifetime in just a few words. She never overwhelms with details, but her writing style is more what I would describe as impressionist — a fleeting glimpse manages to tell you an entire story. And this particular story is packed with truly lovely moments of despair and redemption that captured my attention completely. Highly recommend.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
What it’s about: After the disappearance of Bernadette Fox, a notorious PTA-torturing, impulsive decision-making, revolutionary building-designing wife and mother in Seattle, her daughter sets out to follow a paper trail of emails, notes, and official documents that led up to what made her mysteriously vanish. The resulting compilation results in a story that is equal parts touchingly relatable and laugh-out-loud absurd. But as to whether it leads to Bernadette…well, you’ll have to read to find out.

What I thought: I love love love this book. The character portrayals are so hilariously vivid, and the way the story is laid out is unique without being difficult to follow. It’s an easy read (pick it up for your next vacation), but still whip-smart in a way that keeps you engrossed until the very end.

Wild (From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) by Cheryl Strayed
What it’s about: At 22, Cheryl Strayed’s life has fallen apart. After the devastating death of her mother, she starts down a self-destructive path of drugs and infidelity that leads to a divorce and depression. In an effort to take control of her life again, Cheryl impulsively decided to hike 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail — completely alone — for three months.

What I thought: I had mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, it’s a tremendous adventure. I had just started training for my marathon when I started reading it, so in a weird way, I could relate to her physical struggles through inclement weather, constant exhaustion, and near ravenous hunger. I also appreciate a fair amount of self-reflection as much as the next gal. What I didn’t like…is that there isn’t that much of a story here. I feel bad saying that because it was obviously such a huge moment in time for the author, and I’m sure if I had gone through something similar, it would have meant more to me. But the bulk of this book is self-redemption. The trail hiking itself is merely environment, and I guess I had hoped for more of a story there. I think my feelings were entirely personal because I have a hard time relating to and sympathizing with self-destructive people, so in the end, I didn’t really like Cheryl all that much. But it’s still an interesting book about an interesting experience. If you’ve read it, I’d love to know if you’re in the camp of people who wanted to hike the trail after you’d finished, or if it made you swear off hiking ever.

Wool Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey
What it’s about: You should have known I couldn’t go a whole month without a single science fiction novel. Wool Omnibus Edition is actually a collection of five short stories that Hugh Howey initially released online. As their popularity grew, a publisher purchased the stories, but Hugh apparently put it in his contract that they had to remain available online. I’m only sharing that anecdote because it made me like Howey even more — he loves his fans.

Anyway, the story. It’s set in the (not-too-distant) future, when society lives in an underground silo that stretches 150 stories into the earth. No one is allowed to go outside because some kind of disaster has rendered the planet unlivable — there’s something in the air that eats through just about anything, and the landscape that is visible through a variety of cameras stationed outside the silo is entirely barren and hostile. It’s illegal to even suggest the thought of going outside, and the punishment is that you are “put to cleaning,” meaning you don a special suit designed to let you live outside for a limited time so you can clean the cameras for the rest of the silo’s benefit. Then, without exception, the atmosphere eats through your suit and you die on one of the surrounding hills in full view of the cameras you just cleaned. But, of course, that isn’t the whole story, and the when the silo’s new sheriff steps into the shoes of the most recent cleaning victim, she starts to figure out there’s more to the silo and its origin than meets the eye.

What I thought: You have so many questions from the start of this book, it’s nearly impossible to stop reading. There are so many mysteries to be uncovered about what is really going on, plus enough harrowing moments where lives literally hang in the balance, it’s not the kind of book you casually read. I would recommend this if you’re one of those people who likes books about how we’ve destroyed the planet and have to figure out how to go on. (That should really be its own genre, don’t you think?)

First Shift/Second Shift by Hugh Howey
What it’s about: These two books are the prequels to the Wool series. There’s actually a Third Shift that I haven’t read yet (because my brother hasn’t sent it to me…hint hint). But these books answer a lot of the questions the other five stories leave behind, including what led up to the destruction of the earth and the existence of the silos. Apparently the third book is what really ties them together chronologically, but I’ll let you know for sure when I read it.

What I thought: If you liked the other ones, you will like these. And yes, you should read them in the same order I did. Knowing how things end up actually made these two books easier to follow for me.

What have you been reading?