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November 14, 2011 / fionarwbl

Why My Marathon Training Worked For Me

Ok, the very first thing that I have to say as a huge disclaimer is that this is what worked for me. It may not work for you. I am by no means a running guru. I have only been running for a year and a half. I do not really know anything about running itself.

With that said, I did love my marathon training, and I exceeded my own and everyone else’s expectations, when it came to doing the marathon. I’m going to try and break down what I thought my success factors were.

(Can you tell that I’m a consultant?)

My Training Plan started in June, not July.

Here’s my dirty secret: I got into the NYC Marathon through the lottery. It’s true. People do get in that way. Not very many, and I certainly had not been expecting to. In fact, I think I entered when I was very bored at work one day. I then sustained a foot injury in February, and had to take a couple of months off. I started running again in April, but I had lost a lot of hard work. I had only been running for about 4 weeks again when I found out I was in. My stomach literally lurched when I realised that in 5 months, I would have to run a marathon. So, I panicked and started training right away. I was running 18 mile runs when everyone else was running 10. I ended up running at least 6 runs over 18 miles in distance. I honestly believe that this was the key to being able to sustain my pace for as long as I did. I also had the opportunity to run in disgusting humidity, pre-hurricane winds, some hideous downpours, and fresh fall days, so I was pretty much ready for anything the weather gods threw at us. Apart from the freak snow from the weekend before.

I used a training plan that tracked my progress.

I used the Runner’s World SmartCoach training plan. I input a recent 5m race time, the fact that I wanted to run about 20 miles a week, and it spat out a training plan that had a combination of easy runs, speed work, tempo runs, and long runs. Every run had a target time goal as well. The time goals got progressively faster throughout the plan.

This plan really worked for me. It did not have a lot of miles in it – I was only running 3 times a week. I know that this is not a lot for most people, and in fact, the next training plan I put together will have a mixture of 4-5 days a week. However, it definitely worked for me this time around in terms of both lifestyle, no injury, no burnout, and definite improvement. For the first month or so on the plan, I really struggled with the tempo and speedwork goals. However, 3 months in, and I was killing them. I was even putting in 7 min/miles for speedwork, and low 8s on tempos. A lot of marathon runners feel like they lose speed during marathon training. I actually felt like I speeded up a lot, and I’m gutted I don’t have a short year end race to put those fast legs to good use.

With only running 3 times a week, I did end up doing most of my runs, and definitely all of my long runs. This helped me go in feeling strong and prepared.

I did other things. But not too much.

At the start of marathon training, I was a committed barre class girl, always able to hold the position right to the end, and loving it. And I was also doing yoga at least twice a week as well. Midway through marathon training I ditched the barre classes because I was worried about some knee pain they induced in certain quad positions and some of the hip flexor stress that the abs section could bring on. I seriously missed the glute work, the toned arms, and the great core though. I still need to figure out a way to get that back. I’m thinking Refine, maybe? Or trying Figure 4? I kept up on the yoga as much as I could until I started my new job at the start of October. The yoga was, and is, great for stretching out, relieving tightness, and providing stress relief, and I will not be giving it up.

I ran with friends. I ran alone. I ran with music. I ran in silence.

Yup, tried them all, not always willingly. Yes, iPhone headphones, thanks for breaking 0.5 miles into a 20 mile run. Love you too. Of course, long runs with friends were the easiest and most fun. But the fact that my longest run was alone made me feel strong and confident.

I had some help along the way.

I definitely could have gotten through marathon training without these things, but it wouldn’t have been as good, and they are now an integral part of my life.

  • Honey Stinger Waffles. The best early morning run food.
  • Honey Stinger Orange Blossom Chews, GU Jet Blackberry, GU Triple Berry, and GU Just Plain all fueled me up.
  • My FuelBelt is hell on running tops, so much so that I wore the same tank for every long run, but it was amazingly comfortable and kept me in water.
  • The This American Life iPhone app. Ira Glass kept me going on more long runs than he’ll ever imagine.
  • The iSmoothRun app. An amazingly beautifully designed app that lets you create interval runs, speedwork, as well as standard free runs, all with a voiceover letting you know how you are doing. And somehow manages to do that without killing the battery, unlike some of the other running apps I’ve tried.
  • Asics Kensei socks and Feetures socks. Socks make or break my runs.

So that’s what I used to power through my first marathon. Updates will follow on what I change down the line.



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