Hello! Wow! It’s been a while! It actually hasn’t, it’s only been like a month, but somehow the past month has felt both very long and very short at the same time. This post will have absolutely nothing to do with books, and everything to do with running, and I haven’t done a running post in a while so I expect this will get obnoxiously wordy. Sorry in advance (but not that sorry, obviously.)
So I’ve been training for my first marathon! Let me dial it back on the exclamation points, sorry. It has been amazing, and I want to do a little check-in so I’m not dumping 10,000 words about the ins and outs of my training into the race recap in October. If you’re new here, let me quickly catch you up: I’ve done six half marathons (and recently (finally) broke a 2-hour-half last fall) Since I started running, I’ve kind of wanted to run a marathon, but it was never, like, my ultimate goal so I got very comfortable with the 13.1 distance and I stayed there for a few years. Then, this past December-ish, my friend Amanda texted me out of the blue saying she had this crazy urge to sign up for the 2019 Chicago Marathon. It was decided. I signed up too, and it kind of didn’t seem real from January through April, or even really once I started my preliminary training at the end of April. But over the summer my long runs started regularly turning into double-digit distances, and it finally feels like the race is really happening now. The marathon is on Sunday, October 13, which is less than TWO MONTHS AWAY.
Let me quickly talk about the prelim training! I started out by cobbling a few different training plans together. For a lot of my past half marathons, I’ve relied on the trusty (and free) plans from Hal Higdon. I finally pushed myself to follow an “intermediate” schedule for my most recent half, and that’s the one I PR’d and broke 2-hours – a goal of mine since half marathon #1. So Hal has never failed me, but I’ve also never really blown it out of the water training with those plans. I found a couple other training schedules online and mashed everything together based on these three plans and my own research. That kicked off with a 12-week pre-training plan at the end of April through July 22; then the real marathon training was also going to be 12 weeks, starting July 22.
I think my build-your-own-plan came from good intentions, but it wasn’t well thought out and I ended up revamping the entire thing in early July. A lot of plans are 18 weeks, and I started getting worried about not being ready in 12 weeks. There were some other issues with the plan in general, like too many rest/cross-training days, not nearly enough weekly mileage buildup, and the infamous 20-miler—almost universally set 3 weeks before the marathon—was scheduled only 2 weeks out from the race, which didn’t feel like enough time to properly taper or recover.
Long story short, my schedule got an overhaul and I incorporated a lot from the official Nike training plan that is affiliated with the Chicago Marathon. On some level, the preliminary plan was helpful for me because it got me back out and running with a goal in mind a full 24 weeks before the race. On the one hand, that’s way too much time and it made a difficult 4-mile run sort of hard to reconcile against this huge, looming, unimaginable distance of 26.2 miles, but on the other hand I’ve had a long-ass time to get into a proper training head space, so I am grateful for that.
For reference/in case anyone is interested, I’ll include the daily basics of my initial plan below:
- MONDAY: cross training + strength exercise (I often found excuses to skip the strength portion of my training pretty much every day it was on the schedule)
- TUESDAY: 3-mile run + strength
- WEDNESDAY: cross training
- THURSDAY: 3–4-mile run + strength
- FRIDAY: rest
- SATURDAY: long run
- SUNDAY: rest
Now let me talk about my shiny new Training Schedule: 2.0! It’s been wonderful and sometimes very hard, but in less than two months I’ve noticed significant overall improvement, so I’m really happy with it. The daily basics of my current plan below, so you can compare:
MONDAY: recovery run (anywhere from 5-9 miles at an easy pace, meant to aid recovery from Saturday’s long run)
- TUESDAY: speed work on the track track (distance and type of runs vary week to week, and I almost never have access to a track so I end up doing these in the park and converting meters to miles)
- WEDNESDAY: recovery/cross training (this day has been about listening to my body; sometimes I’ll do a long walk home from work, or a stationary bike/stair machine over lunch, or I’ll take the day off completely if I’m feeling burnt out)
- THURSDAY: speed work (distance and type of runs vary week to week here too, but most often this is a tempo run, fartleks, or hills; this day is about pushing myself and being uncomfortable, and I pretty consistently hate my Thursday workouts 🙂
- FRIDAY: recovery run (anywhere from 2-5 progression miles, finishing at a faster pace than I start)
- SATURDAY: endurance run (this is the typical long run)
- SUNDAY: rest (according to my plan, this day is also about listening to my body and doing a few easy miles or a workout if I feel like it, but I pretty much never feel like it)
So that’s the training schedule I’ve been following since early July. The weekly mileage is a lot, and it’s not always easy to wake up at 6:15am on a Monday and fit in 7 miles before going into work, but my Monday morning runs have recently turned into one of my favorite things, and I kind of can’t imagine not heading out to Prospect Park first thing, bleary-eyed and running all floppy until I find my pace and lose myself in whatever music I’m listening to now.
Before I dwell on that positive thought, I want to share what some of my struggles have been so far. I’m still figuring out how to properly fuel, and that’s forcing me to really listen to and check in with my body both during runs and before/after. I’ve been experimenting with Gatorade endurance gels and Clif Bar Blok energy chews; I kind of hate them both, but I definitely prefer the Clif gummies. Something about the texture of the gel just sets off my gag reflex. I’m also forcing myself to take water breaks frequently and starting early in the run. I live near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and I feel lucky that there are so many water fountains on the main path throughout the park. I’ve also gotten better about looking up access to water fountains ahead of time, and planning my long run routes according to that.
I’ve had some of the typical aches and pains so far, including a killer blister on one of my toes that won’t seem to heal, but (KNOCK ON WOOD, PLEASE, RIGHT NOW) none of my soreness or twinges of pain have turned into any sort of injury. Please, I cannot stress this enough, knock on wood for me. It’s going to be a very busy couple of weeks leading up to the marathon, which I’m a little nervous about. I’m traveling for two different Saturday weddings, and going on a week-long vacation to LONDON (!!!!) (I’m excited.) It’ll be interesting to fit in runs overseas, but I’m going to try to plan out as many of my them ahead of time as possible so I’m not just wandering around London, lost in my trainers (see what I did there?)
Hands down, the best thing so far about my marathon training: I feel like I’m falling in love with running all over again as I push what I thought were my own boundaries and limits. If you had told me in early May—when I was struggling to run 3 consecutive miles and avoiding strength training like I was deathly allergic to it— that I’d be waking up at 6am on a Saturday for a 17-miler, and actually looking forward to it, there’s no way I would’ve believed you.
But now, I have these runs on my calendar and it looks daunting on paper and feels daunting as I’m working up to doing the run, but then I just do it (lol Nike, sponsor me). And then it becomes just another run that I did, another run that proves to me that I am capable of doing The Huge Run, the 26.2-mile run, because at the end of the day, that too is just another daunting number on a page, another run that is daunting until I do it. But even that distance can become just another run that I did.
SO. I’d say training so far has felt like a whirlwind and a privilege. I’m trying not to take for granted that I am extremely lucky to be able to train for and run this race in the first place. Let me also throw in one more little reminder: I’m running the Chicago Marathon as a St. Jude Hero, meaning I’m fundraising for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Literally any amount helps, and here’s the link to my donation page if you’re able to contribute.
Thank you either way, thank you for reading, and I’m sure I’ll be back in no time yelling about my latest reads. ◊