Friday, January 11, 2008

9 Thoughts About My Upcoming Marathon Training


Of course, recounting last night's marathoning dream makes me think about my upcoming marathon-training.

As I've expressed multiple times before on this blog, I'm going to try to do everything I can do to be adequately prepared for my first marathon. I'm giving myself until the end of 2009 to train, which is one heck of a lot of time. I plan to run/race several smaller distances (5K, 8K, 10K, 15K, 20K, half-marathon, etc.) over the next two years. I also plan to do some 15 mile & 20 mile runs as well, and would like to even run a complete marathon distance (atleast once!) well before I enter an official marathon race. (I know it's not absolutely necessary to run the full 26.2 miles in order to be prepared for a marathon, but I might do it just for the heck of it. This is something I've been known to do in the past: In college, I once walked 30+ miles from my dorm to downtown Boston & back, just for the heck of it.)

As I originally started from a point of zero-level fitness back in July 2007, I'm hoping that this'll give me plenty of time to adequately train & complete the marathon in a fairly respectable time. If by the end of this year, I'm not at the point where I want to be, then I will shift plans accordingly. One thing I'm determined to do is to take the proper amount of time to be ready, as I want to be able to do the best possible job that I can for my very first marathon, as well as make it a pleasant & (happily!) memorable experience.

Most experienced marathon runners & coaches will tell you that if you are coming from a point of zero-level fitness, it's not advisable to attempt training for a marathon in periods of a year or less, i.e., like Team Nova did (i.e., in 9 months) for their PBS Marathon Challenge. I agree 100% with the experts; I think it's pure folly, & have actually seen what happens to novice runners who undertrain for the marathon with my own eyes. And it's usually not very pretty, my friends.

For those of you who've seen or know something about the documentary to which I'm referring, you'll recall that several participants experienced painful injuries at various points along the way, during their marathon training. Of course, this wasn't pure coincidence! The body needs time to acclimate to longer distances, and hurrying it along is a good way to set oneself up for injury! A nine-month to a year time frame for marathon-training is simply unrealistic & inadvisable for people who are starting out with completely sedentary lifestyles or who've never run before in their lives!

As Blaine Moore said in his recently recorded conference call, "Just because you can do a marathon in that time frame doesn't mean you should."

Most experts generally recommend that people run for a few years (& try racing the smaller distances first) before attempting a marathon. Firstly, you need to gain the experience (& thus also hopefully the wisdom) that months & years of running will provide -- for so many different reasons, and second, you need to have a strong base of mileage from which to start for your marathon-training, to have enough fitness to properly prepared for the challenge to come & also to avoid injury. For those just starting out, a minimum of 30-40 miles per week seems to be the general base mileage recommendation, before one should even begin to think about running a marathon! For those of you who would like more information on this subject, Blaine Moore talks extensively about this subject in his recently-recorded conference call, which was conducted last Saturday. If I remember correctly, he said that many of the seasoned runners he knows who are training for marathons have closer to 80-90 miles (in in some cases 100 miles!) per week (which I think was actually the figure during the final few weeks of training). Wow!


Now that I've hopefully knocked some sense into those of you who've never run a marathon before but might've been planning to do so in under a year, I'd like to hear from those of you who are new to marathoning, i.e., you've either never run a marathon before & are currently training or thinking about training for one, or you've got a race or two under your belt, but are still relatively new to marathoning.

--What are your marathoning/running aspirations & training plans? How much mileage do you plan to run, or are currently running, in order to get ready for your marathon-training?
--If you're currently training to run a marathon, how many months or years of running experience do you currently have under your belt?
--How long of a marathon-training period are you giving yourself? Do you feel you've given yourself a realistic time-frame in which to train?
--If you've got a full-time job in an office-setting &/or have small children, how do you plan to squeeze in all of your runs?
--For those of you who work from home, do you ever go for your training runs in the middle of day?

Would love to hear about your plans, so feel free to post your marathon-training comments here.


Blaine Moore said...

Thanks for giving the call another mention! Not all of my friends were running in the 80-90-100 mile ranges, but a few of them did. When we were in college, we used to run 85-105 miles per week most weeks, so they were just going back to what they know.

I'd say that most of the marathoners that I know train between 40 and 60 miles per week - my last half dozen or so have been in the 40-50 range with a few weeks getting up near the 60 mark. This year I'd like to raise my mileage a bit more just to see if I can knock another 10 minutes off.

I think that your plan of waiting for 2009 is a good one. If you are interested in a shorter race, you might look into running a 20 miler before hand. There's a great one that starts in Maine and finishes in Massachussetts that is always 3 weeks and a day before the Boston Marathon. I'll be running down in Georgia this year so I can't run it again, but next year I'll probably see how well I can do there. It's a lot of fun - it's called the Eastern States 20 Miler. There are a few others that I've seen as well. A race like that in early/mid 2009 could be a good intro to the marathon distance without having to deal with that last 10 kilometers. Just make sure that you get enough miles in next winter if you decide to do an early one like Eastern States though.

cyberpenguin said...

Hi Blaine,

You're welcome. Sure thing! Thanks for clarifying the mileage per week discussion you'd mentioned during your conference call; that's what I figured was closer to what most marathoners-in-training would do per week! ;-)

As for the people running 85-105 mpw, while doing such high mileage per week is surely very impressive (Wow!), I frankly can't imagine sustaining that kind of mileage week after week. That means that, at the higher end, they'd be running 15 miles, 7 days a week! Wow! Were these people training for ultras too?! ;-)

That's certainly a lot of pounding for the feet & joints to take. Did any of these people have physical issues with sustaining that kind of mileage?! Or were they just in such fantastic shape that they were seemingly indestructible! ;-)

Thanks for the vote of confidence & for the road race suggestion. Wow, that sounds like a great race to do. So how many times have you run the Eastern States 20 Miler so far?

Eric Gervase said...

I ran a marathon this past year... And yes, I hate to admit, I was one of the "stupid". I actually made it all the way through without any injuries. But, 3 months from the marathon and the injuries are starting to pile up. From start of running to the marathon was 9 months almost to the day. Now I'm fighting injuries.

In regards to mileage, I was up to about 35 mpw by the end. But, I plan to do an intermediate plan as soon as I'm healthy that will do more like 40-50 mpw.

Take heed of Corey's advice. The accelerated ramp up to the marathon seems to have really put a hurting on me. But, us runners tend to need to learn the hard way. Fair warning.

Blaine Moore said...


When we used to run up to 105 miles per week in college, we were racing in 8k cross country races, definitely not ultras! During preseason, our mileage would go up even more to the 115-120 mile range. A couple of times I ran 122 miles in one week - it worked well for me the first time I met my peak, but the second time I got injured a few weeks later and the most I've done since then is about 100 miles.

I actually lasted longer than most of my teammates, since high mileage agreed with me. There were 2 of us that it took over 2 years before our first injuries, but most people got injured in their first year. My college coach has since changed his training methods a little, so that only the guys that actually work up to that kind of mileage hit it and they don't train at that level year-round. That's probably why his current runners are so much faster than I am.

Since I've graduated from college, I haven't run more than 60 miles or so in any given week, although I plan on changing that this year.

As for Eastern States, I've only run it once so far. I treated it as a training run, which you can read about here if you want: There are links to other articles about the race that I wrote around the same time w/i the article.

cyberpenguin said...

Hi Eric,
Thanks for your comments!

From what I've been reading on your blog, it seems like you've still been able to get in a fair amount of exercise on the treadmill & bike. So you're still getting the fitness benefit, while hopefully allowing your feet to rest & heal.

Speaking of which, did you ever get a final diagnosis of what's going on exactly with your feet? What did the doctor say? Were you able to get X-rays & have that second doc take a look?

Well the important thing you can feel good about is that you've learned valuable lessons via your marathoning training experiences. I'm sure that if you take care of yourself properly, that you'll be back on the road in due time.

Well, hope you heal quickly & feel better soon!

cyberpenguin said...

Hi Blaine,
Thanks for the link to the Eastern states marathon; I'll definitely check it out!

Now while those current pack of runners from your alma mater might be faster than you & run higher mpw, you'll probably have a much longer running career, & a much better chance of staying injury-free!

Bill said...

I ran my first marathon (Harrisburg 2007) with a base averaging about 35 MPW for the last 12 weeks before the race. I felt that I was light on mileage, and didn't want to hit the wall, so I ran at a pretty conservative pace. My legs and hips were really tired during the last 6 miles or so, but overall I really enjoyed the race.

cyberpenguin said...

Hi Bill,
Thanks for your comments! What was the course of the Harrisburg Marathon like? Do you think you'd ever run it again? (I know you're mostly into half-marathons these days.) Sounds like you had a good race!

tootie said...

I'm currently training for my first marathon! I don't have any tips yet, but I'll keep you posted as I go. (I plan to run it this fall.) Best of luck!

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