Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How I Survived Marathon Training

Training your mind and body to run for 26.2 miles is not an easy task, but it is 100% doable. After a year and a half of running, a few long distance races under my belt, and a lot of marathon training research, I felt I knew myself well enough to say that I could realistically handle the challenge. There are a number of things that, together, helped me to get through marathon training, and more importantly, get through it strong and injury-free:

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Desire
I did not sign up for a marathon simply because I thought I should, or I figured it was the next step. I signed up because I truly WANTED to take on the challenge, and I knew the realistic effort it would take to train properly. Basically, my view on running a marathon went from Woody’s look of fear, to Buzz’s look of excitement (photo below)!

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A Plan
I spent a LOT of time researching the best training plan for me. The base plan I went with was from Marathon Rookie. It is a 16-week program that I modified to meet my own comfort level. I increased it to an 18-week plan as I wanted to give myself a couple of safety weeks in case I got sick and had to miss a long run, or a significant amount of week-day training runs. Plus, I was not sure how my body would handle some of the longer distances so I felt as though the extra weeks would help me adjust better. What I liked about Marathon Rookie is that it plans for a consistently small increase in mileage each week, and the long runs don’t randomly jump up and down in mileage every 2-3 weeks like some of the other plans. I am strict about not increasing mileage by more than 10% per week, so that is why I felt comfortable going with this one.

Variety
I did not run at a steady pace during every single run. I would have gone insane if I did that for every running workout for 18 weeks. I incorporated speed work, including tempo runs and interval runs, and negative-splits practice. I also ran on different terrain, including the treadmill, concrete trail, and dirt trail at a popular Houston park for runners.

Internal Motivation
Arguably the most important thing to have during marathon training is an intense internal motivation. The only times I ever got to run with company was on Saturday mornings, and even then company wasn’t guaranteed for the entire run. Within the months of training, I ran solo far more than not. When there is nobody around to give you an extra boost of motivation to finish a tough run, you have to find it within yourself to get through it.

I remember one run in particular – I had a 13-miler scheduled for when I was in Dallas over the holidays, and when I woke up it was near freezing and pouring rain. I did not want to go; who wants to run in those conditions for over 2 hours? I did it, however, and I finished strong (and after my entire body thawed out, I was proud of myself). Nobody made me go out there to get the miles done. It had to come from within.

Support
My husband, Robert, has always been one of my biggest supporters, and that did not change when I told him I wanted to do a marathon. He told me to go for it! Throughout training he joined me at the park for Saturday morning long runs (even though we didn’t actually run together since we train differently), he helped me prepare my ice baths and kept me company during them for a distraction from the cold, he picked up Clif bars from the grocery store when I would forget to buy them, and in my moments of weakness, he reminded me how far I have come and how strong I truly am!

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My parents and brother are also a huge part of my support team – they have always voiced their excitement and pride in my goals and accomplishments. My mom and dad even drove all the way from Dallas just to cheer me on at the marathon!

One of my best friends, Long, made the trek down from Dallas to run my first marathon with me! He would also check in with me every once in a while to make sure my training was going well, and to remind me that I am doing a great job!

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Finally, meeting up Saturday mornings with my Team RWB running group has helped provide me with support, motivation, accountability, and so much FUN! Meeting new friends through this team and being able to have company during some of my long runs over the last few months has been a blessing.

Preventative Maintenance
Yoga, stretching, and foam rolling consistently have been great ways to make sure any injuries were prevented throughout my training.

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Proper Recovery
Ice baths, compression sleeves, and Biofreeze all aided in a better and faster recovery to help prepare me for running throughout the weeks. Once my Saturday long runs reached the double digits, I began doing ice baths on a weekly basis – they really do work!

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Now, the million-dollar question: Knowing what I know now, would I have done anything differently?
The answer is yes. I would have tried to find more time to incorporate strength training for core and glutes. Although yoga was extremely beneficial, strengthening these areas is always a great way to become a stronger runner.

QOTD: What helps keep you strong through training for a long-distance race?

16 comments

  1. I think the key to keeping strong while training for a long distance run is to have several days a week of cross training that would include either biking, elliptical or swimming. I am firm believer that fewer days of running (I typically run 3 X per week) will make you a better runner if they are quality runs and then good cross training a few days.

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    1. I have to admit that when I started this plan, I was worried running 4 x's a week would be too much. Turns out, I actually really enjoyed it! That being said, I plan to cut back to 3 x's a week after my half marathon in late April and really focus on strength/cross training throughout the summertime.

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  2. I am still so proud of you! I'm going to check out that training plan you posted!

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    1. Thanks ladies!! You should definitely check it out!

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  3. This is good to know!
    You'll be even more prepared for that NEXT marathon ;)

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  4. I love how well thought out your plan was. I really need to take some tips from you because I always wing it and never feel fully prepared for a race which is not good. When I finally sign up for a full marathon I'm going to follow a strict plan for sure. I like plans that only have you running about 3 days a week with one being your longer run. I also really need to work on my strength training which I know will help me run faster and stronger.

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    1. I'm always here to help in any way I can! I'm far from a professional of course, but I can tell you anything about my own experience that could help your future marathon plans! There are definitely pros and cons for 3 times a week or 4 times a week of running. I have to say I actually enjoyed running 4 times a week - I feel like it really helped increase my endurance and conditioning. I do wish I would have done more strength training though.

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  5. Yup, as I've found out, strength training is crucial. Once I get back into regular running, I need to figure out when to fit in quality strength training and when to do yoga. Maybe one of my rest days will be devoted to yoga instead.

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    1. Yeah, you really got hit bad with the injury :0( I am so glad you've made a lot of progress from it, though!

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  6. That Buzz and Woody picture is so perfect for this! This is such a great, realistic approach to a new long distance. Jess

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    1. I know right! I love that photo...Buzz is such an awesome Disney character!

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  7. Great post!! I agree with yoga and foam rolling for recovery. I also go for graston treatments weekly, which is my life saver as I have super tight calves. I have never taken an ice bath, mostly because I just cannot jump into icy water when I have been running in negative degree temps but I always use my compression socks when I run then switch to my sleeves after I am showered and wear the for the day. I have done every training run for this marathon alone, so internal motivation and good podcasts and audio books are critical for me, so is the support of friends and family. I also love getting beeps from passing cars! :)

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    1. If I ran in negative degree temps, I'd say heck no to ice baths too! Just being outside is cold enough haha. I've never thought about listening to podcasts during runs - good idea! I enjoy getting beeps from passers-by too!

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  8. Thank you for sharing your experience with us! I'm sure I will need to refer to this from time to time in the near future!

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    1. You are very welcome! I hope that it does help you in the future! :0)

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