So I recently passed day 100 of my marathon training as I prepare for the 2015 Chicago Marathon this October. This is my first marathon, so I thought I’d share a little update as I know there are plenty other first- or never-timers out there who are curious.
First and foremost, I have always viewed the marathon as a bridge too far for me. I’ve only been running since 2012, and have a history of having to take many months off after doing a half marathon due to injury. I couldn’t see how a marathon could be possible. Well, it is. The reason is that I never followed a true training plan for the half marathons I did, so I over-trained by not taking days off and often ran two or more times a day, and also wasn’t working on any of the specific skills I needed for a marathon (speed work, duration without speed to build endurance with lower risk of injury, etc).
For the marathon, I enlisted the help of a running coach to develop a plan. Now you may be saying, “But, Bryan, aren’t you a certified personal trainer? Why can’t you just build your own plan or use one from the Internet.” Good question. The reason is that running, like any sport, has specifics to it that are best served by someone who really focuses on the sport. That would at least answer why I didn’t build my own plan, but not why I didn’t just use one of the great plans out there from the likes of Nike, Garmin or even the Chicago Marathon itself. My reason for seeking a coach out was due to my injury history. I wanted a plan that included strength and flexibility work to specifically address my injury history and root causes, plus I was looking for a longer plan with a more steady build up given that I had the time before the marathon, wanted to be slow and steady with my build to avoid injury, and I wanted to really force myself to get used to being smart and measured with my activity and time off from activity. A condensed or even a standard-duration plan would include a slightly higher intensity build that wouldn’t leave me adjusted to being smarter with my training and would rather speak more closely to my habit of over-doing it. I chose Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running, who I had been following to address some of my lingering injury issues (ITBS, PFPS, etc).
So how’s it gone? Incredibly well, actually. I’ve now run longer than a half marathon several times, and haven’t been injured by my training at all. I did get injured, but that was due to a fall in a trail race that I really shouldn’t have done, and then letting my over-training-self push me back out before I was really ready to, and ended up having to take a week off. I’ve been able to come back and am doing well despite that set back – another benefit of the long plan is that I still had plenty of time to get back to where I needed to be, and my plan allowed for easing back into it because the program isn’t too intense too often.
People warned me that marathon training takes over your life, and I can definitely see that. It’s a constant consideration in terms of fitting runs in, making sure you’re eating enough (definitely can be hard as a vegan, but I have some tricks including smoothies and my newbodi.es bars). It also requires the understanding of those around you – be they family, friends or work. I’m lucky enough to be working at an amazing start up where I happen to work from home, so I save time in the day on commuting, which helps me get my runs in. I have had to switch my plan around now and then to accommodate work travel or meetings, but it’s been doable. The one time it was tough was when I had a last minute flight to San Francisco that got me in around 2am, then I had a long run (14 miles along the water – can’t beat that!) followed by meetings and a red eye home. Unsurprisingly, I ended up getting sick and was just absolutely exhausted for a few days. Otherwise, I’ve been able to make the training work.
The running I’ve done has been almost completely outdoors. There’s been a drought where I live, so I haven’t been rained out too often, and have only done about 12 miles on the treadmill across the 500+ I’ve put in for my training so far. I have a family vacation coming up that will likely require treadmill time. It’s funny because I used to only run on the treadmill and was afraid to run outside. Now I can’t stand the treadmill. I find it so much harder physically, not to mention mentally.
Another thing I’ve trained myself to do is run without music. I almost always had music on past runs, and definitely in all my races, but I decided that I wanted my first marathon to be pure so I could really take the experience in. On the whole, it’s actually been really easy to lose the tunes, and now I don’t miss it at all. Oddly enough, it’s on my long runs that I appreciate not having music the most, and only ever miss it on shorter runs. Seems backward, right?[tweet_box design=”box_12_at” author=”newbodies”]take it #daybyday, give your #body a chance to build what it needs to reach your #goals[/tweet_box]
So as I write this, I have a 16 miler ahead of me tomorrow. When I post this, I will have already run the distance. It will be my longest run ever, which is a neat thing about your first marathon – you set all kinds of PRs along the way. That’s motivating – once I pass 15.04 miles, every step will be a record. And that will be true when I do my 17, 18, 19 and 20 mile runs – not to mention when I do the actual marathon as 20 will be my longest run before the race. I got to experience that in my first half where an injury kept my training to 8.99 miles at the longest (if only I did that extra .01!). That definitely helped push me for the last bit of the race, knowing I was blazing a new trail for myself with every step. I had a broken bone in my left foot, so every other one of those steps was tough, and I needed the mental boost.
I should add that I’m not just running this marathon for myself and my goals, but am running as part of the St. Jude’s Heroes team, raising money for St. Jude to help them provide amazing and totally free care for children battling cancer – and their families. When a child has cancer, the entire family has cancer, so St. Jude really treats the entire family unit. As a father, St. Jude has always been an organization I support with my own donation decisions, so it was really a no-brainer to run for them. I wear their singlet proudly, and am thrilled to say I’ve raised over $4,000 for them as of writing this piece, and I still have two months left. I’m one of the top 2% of fundraisers out of over 250, which makes me really proud. If you are able to contribute, every dollar matters and is appreciated, so you can make a tax-deductible donation online on my St. Jude Hero page.
I’m excited to keep going with my training, and obviously am excited for the race. I never thought this would be possible, and I even had that fear as I signed up and looked at my training plan. But you take it day by day, and give your body a chance to build what it needs to build to take you there. And you know, the impossible becomes more than just possible but absolutely within your ability. I don’t have fear of the marathon anymore, and am sure I’ll finish within my goal time.
What goal do you have that you’ve always seen as impossible? What course of action can you take to make it absolutely possible? How will you enlighten.your.body.