On Saturday I ran my last really long run of this training cycle. I set out to run 20 miles and ended up closer to 21 due to some poor route choices, but in the end, it all helps me get to Copley Square in one piece, so I’ll take it. These long runs are obviously a key part of marathon training, and while I can’t say I always enjoy every minute of them, I do like the hours out on the trail/road with just my thoughts for entertainment. This training cycle, I ran 17 miles in the snow one weekend, and then a few weeks ago, running 19 miles in 60 degree weather felt too hot. Let’s just all hope the weather on April 15th in Boston is mild.
As for training, in the past, I’ve almost exclusively used training plans from Hal Higdon’s website. I guess I can’t really compare my success with these plans versus any other plans, but I think they’ve served me well. The plans range from a goal distance of a 5k to a marathon, so anyone can use them. They’re also exceptionally easy to follow because they list exactly what you should do each day of each week leading up to your race. Another great thing is that they’re free. Thorough, easy-to-follow, and free? Sounds like my kind of training plan. I typically print out the plan, write the dates for each week, and mark off workouts as I go.
For my last marathon in the fall of 2011, I was doing Hal Higdon’s Advanced II marathon training plan, which includes two days of speedwork (track, hills and tempo runs), two shorter days, one medium-long run, one long run, one rest day, and no crosstraining. At the time, I felt like I was doing well, and I enjoyed working hard nearly every day, but considering I finished that marathon with an overuse injury that kept me away from running for a year, I think it may have been too much for me at the time.
This time around, I started training with almost no running base, though I had stayed active by cycling and walking. I was able to comfortably run 3 to 5 miles by around Thanksgiving, but it felt far to be honest. Eventually mid-December rolled around, I was 18 weeks out from April 15th, and I figured it was now or never. If I was going to do this race, I needed to start training and just see how my IT band and foot held up. I adapted the Hal Higdon Novice II plan to develop my own and posted it on my fridge for easy reference. My three main rules were:
- No running on back-to-back days
- Incorporate strength training to fix whatever caused these injuries
- Crosstrain (swimming or cycling) to make up for the reduced running
To avoid running two days in a row, I sometimes end up running just 3 times a week – usually Monday, Wednesday (with Bull City Running), and a long run on Saturday. I try to swim on Tuesdays, and Thursdays and Fridays are an assortment of swimming, yoga, strength, and rest, though occasionally an easy 3 mile jog sneaks its way in.
One of main differences I’ve noticed this time around is how I always feel rested for each run. If I do a strength workout, my arms/back/core may be sore, but I’m not exhausted or already spent going into each workout. Instead I look forward to working out (almost) every time. I think the variety and flexibility help too. If I don’t feel like swimming one morning, I can just do a yoga video at home or after work, and I don’t feel guilty about it.
The second difference is that I really don’t feel like training is taking up all my time or dictating my life. Sure, I go to bed early on Friday so I can get up and run long on Saturday, but I just haven’t felt like each day revolves around my workout. Maybe that’s partly due to my (relatively) laid back approach this time around. I’m not aiming for a particular finish time that feels out of reach, and if my average pace on a given run is slower than I might like, it’s really totally fine. I’m the only one who cares what my finish time is, and I’m more concerned about my long term ability to run marathons than running this one race fast.
I admit I’m a little nervous that I haven’t done enough volume or enough hard runs, but I know I have put the work in, and it’s time to trust my training. If nothing else, I hope the excitement and energy of the Boston spectators will carry me through. So far, I’ve had two race nightmares (one where the course winded through a maze-like school and I couldn’t lock into a pace and one where I missed the start because I was stuck in a port-o-potty). Let’s hope neither of those comes true, and I’m curious what other stressful dreams I have to look forward to in the coming weeks.