A few things have to give when marathon training. This time around it has been blogging that has taken a back seat. Which, purely on a personal level is a shame because this training session has been such a journey, I should have saved the memories in words more often.
For now however, a quick update. I am currently running week 12 of my 16 week training schedule. I did, however, add two weeks of what I called “pre-training”, so I consider this to be week 14. I am afraid that if I go on about how much more I have enjoyed this third attempt at marathon training that I will sound like one of those people who think everything about running is easy and perfect. There have been hard runs. There have been crappy runs. Last week I was stressed because I knew that there was no way I could fit in the weekly mileage after having successfully completed every other week of the schedule. Marathon training is not easy, nor for the faint of heart. There is a reason why only 1% of the population runs a marathon. But… I have actually really enjoyed the process this time around. I am still not going to be a fast marathoner. Then again, what counts as fast? I am nowhere near a Boston Qualifying time, so I certainly can’t use that as a standard of achievement.
I do, however, feel strong. Well except for this past week when my annual back to school cold hit and knocked me out like a complete wuss. I could whine about this cold for the rest of this blog but I will refrain. Other than that, I feel stronger physically and mentally. I have improved my mileage significantly. In September, despite being sick for the last several days of the month (ok, just a little more whining), I completed 247 km or 153 miles, plus almost two hours of deep water pool running. For some that may be nothing. For me, that is a monthly mileage record! My very first marathon was in mid-October of 2013. I looked back at my August and September mileage combined from that year and it was 120 km less than this year’s combined total of the same months. And this year my marathon is two weeks later.
One of the reasons I have enjoyed this training session more is because of the schedule I am using. When the e-book “Run Your BQ Essentials” by Jason Fitzgerald and Matt Frazier came up for a sale price I decided to purchase it. I, of course, have no immediate plans to try to BQ. Quite frankly that would be an unrealistic goal for me at this point in my life, or maybe at any time of my life! But the subtitle was “Everything You Need to Know to Run Your Fastest Marathon”. I also knew, having read many of Fitzgerald’s blog posts at his website Strength Running that he had a real focus on keeping runners healthy and injury free. He is also very prompt in answering questions from his readers. For the price of a hard cover book I received the e-book that also contained 4 half marathon training plans, 7 marathon plans, off-season plans and links to video demonstrations and interviews. For those looking for something more intense, you could also sign up to be part of the online members club with even more extras. I opted not to do this but I would have to assume it has some great benefits.
The main training schedule I have used in the past is from Running Room. Here in Canada the Running Room programs are hugely popular and I am sure can be credited with getting tens of thousands of people, including myself, started on their running journeys. I used their plans for 5k, 10k, half marathon and my first two marathons. All of the plans worked well for me up to the marathon distance. I have to be honest, the marathon schedule just didn’t seem right for me. Of course I probably didn’t follow the plan as closely as I could have so I am sure I am partially to blame for that. I felt like I was always just a little bit behind, or maybe just not quite prepared for the next long run. I think some weeks the long runs were too high of a percentage of the weekly mileage for my liking.
I had decided that if I was going to try a marathon one more time I needed a clean slate. For me, that meant a brand new training plan. For my “pre-training” I did the first two weeks of the RYBQ introductory marathon plan. I had just more or less taken a month off of serious running and wanted to start carefully. After those two weeks the intermediate plan still seemed a little daunting, so instead I did two weeks of the beginner plan. Once those two weeks were done I felt like I had found my grove, and dove into week 3 of the intermediate “low mileage” plan. My theory was that if I became overwhelmed I could slip back into the beginner schedule.
Thankfully, I never had to go back. The RYBQ schedule builds gradually. Many of the weeks are repeated two times, which made me feel like I had the chance to master a week before moving on. I even slipped into 6 run weeks without even really noticing. In the past I found weeks with 5 runs a little overwhelming at times. The program had me do strides once a week, and they have become my favourite training tool. I started to do core exercises more regularly and dynamic warm ups. While other programs were jumping up to 30 km, I was still in the 20’s, yet my weekly mileage was often higher than my old plan. The long runs were daunting simply because, well… they are long. But they were not daunting because I felt like they were too much too soon.
Throughout my first marathon training session two years ago I often found myself counting weeks until the end. This time around I have realized that I am truly going to miss the training. Do I love 30+ km runs? Nope. I love running up to 20 km, everything after that is a challenge. Would I want to run two or more marathons in a year? Definitely not. But this has been a good journey, one I am so happy I embarked upon. Will I be faster this time around? Based on my training I should be but we all know that with marathons there are just too many factors beyond our control on race day. I may run a strong 32k and then just work to survive the last 10 while watching my average pace slowly fall apart. Then again, maybe I will run a steady race and take some serious time off my 4:38 current best. At least I will know I worked hard to get to that start line on November 1st at the Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope.
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