**Disclaimer– I am not a running coach or certified in personal training. This post is solely based on my experiences as a marathon runner and I do not necessarily recommend that anyone follow the same training plan I do/have.**
I am currently training for my 6th marathon which will be right here in ATL- I’ve heard the hills are brutal but I’m ready to take them on. I feel like I have finally learned how to train to run my best and stay healthy in the process. It takes a lot of patience to train for these kind of long races and there is a lot of learning involved.
While training for my first marathon, which was the Chicago marathon in 2009, I didn’t follow any sort of training plan. I just did a long run (16-22 miles) on the weekends and ran an hour or more every other day. No speed or hill work, not a lot of recovery days either.I ran decent, my finish time was 3:29- pretty solid for my first marathon. I had no race strategy and let my excitement get the best of me, my first mile of the marathon was the fastest mile I’ve ever ran- 5 minutes on the dot- and I paid for that later on in the race. The last 10 miles were ugly. For my first marathon though, it was all about the experience and the finish.
My second marathon was in Phoenix, and since we were living there at the time it’s also where I trained. I had no idea that in Phoenix temperatures do not get of the 100 range until mid-October. A lot of my runs were done in pretty extreme heat, and I don’t think I was able to train to my full potential. I ran surprisingly well once marathon day came, and PR’d at 3:22.
Marathon #3 was the Boston marathon. I was so excited and wanted to run a perfect race. I followed their training plan which involved a long run, a recovery day, easy days, 2 speed workouts/hill workouts per week and tempo runs. Best training I have ever done for a marathon, but my nutrition was terrible. I wanted to be as lean as I could, thinking that would make me faster. The course was brutal, I was tired and my body wasn’t fueled the way it needed to be. I ran 3:35 and some odd seconds, making it the first time ever that I didn’t qualify for the Boston marathon (qualifying time for my age group is 3:35 on the nose).
My fourth marathon (the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon) was the closest I have ever come to training perfectly. I didn’t exactly follow a plan but I ran just enough and rested just enough to match my body’s needs for building that perfect fitness level I needed to run 26.2 miles. My nutrition was great. I ran my fastest marathon at a time of 3:20. I felt great afterwards too, and a little disappointed in myself because I felt like I had held back. I could have run faster!
Finally, the last marathon I ran was just this past fall, almost 2 years after my amazing run in Indianapolis (I was busy being pregnant and birthing a baby during that break). I ran my 5th marathon in Chicago again and thought I would definitely PR. My half marathon times had improved since having a baby and I thought my marathon time would as well. It ended up being the worst marathon I had ever run. I don’t even remember my time…I think it was around 3:45. Much slower than the 3:15 I had trained for and envisioned. Looking back, I think I was placing a pretty high expectation on myself. I was over-trained and my body just wasn’t getting the fuel it needed. I knew how to train for a marathon but was running much more than I should have been, all while pushing Carli in the jogging stroller. I would run longer than I had planned because I wanted her to get a good nap in, and if I stopped running it would always wake her. I was eating nonstop but I was also breastfeeding. My body was pulling a lot of the calories it needed to fuel my running for making breastmilk. All in all, it was disastrous but also a learning experience.
As I’m training for my 6th marathon I’m following the Level 4 Boston marathon training plan (it can be found on their website here). I’m taking one rest day per week, I’ve learned through the years that I can run high mileage as long as I’m allowing my body a day off every 7 days. If I don’t, I get injured.
This is a peek at what my last week looked like. My training paces are as follows:
Long runs/easy: 8:10 min/mile
Aerobic runs: 7:40 min/mile
Marathon pace: 7:20 min/mile
½ marathon pace: 6:55 min/mile
10k pace: 6:35 min/mile
5k pace: 6:15 min/mile
This weeks total mileage: 62 miles
Monday: 8 miles (aerobic)
Tuesday: intervals- 2 mile warm up, 6x ½ mile @10k pace, ¼ mile jog between intervals, 2x ½ mile @5k pace, ¼ mile jog between intervals, 3 mile cool down
Wednesday: 6 miles easy
Thursday: 22 miles
Friday: 5 miles easy
Saturday: 2 mile warmup, 2x 3 miles @½ marathon pace, ½ mile jog between sets, 2 mile cool down
Sunday: rest day
As I don’t go too hard on my easy days and take Sundays off it’s a training plan that works really well for me. I have worked hard to build up to the training level that I am at, and the hard work has paid off. I just hope my marathon time reflects it and I don’t have a repeat of Chicago!
Nutrition is just as important, if not more important, than the training plan. I have a lot to say about that, which I will discuss in another blog post. Stay tuned!