So, it turns out 40 miles is a lot of running.
It took me quite a long time to figure out how to fit everything into a reasonable schedule and be able to ramp the mileage up without worrying about work schedules, or getting hurt. One of the problems I had was the sheer number of marathon training plans out there, and trying to pick between them. Pfitzinger. FIRST. Galloway. Jack Daniels (did a double take with this one, obviously). Higdon. BAA. Hanson. And so on.
The opinions for and against these sorts of plans seemed to revolve around a couple of important questions. First, what should be the maximum weekly mileage to aim for prior to tapering? And second, how long should the longest runs be?
I wasn’t really prepared for the wide variation in answers to these questions proposed by these plans. In terms of the longest run question, the runs varied from 14-16 miles (admittedly, these distances came up in plans designed just to get runners across the finish line, and I’m looking to do a bit better than just finishing) to 29 miles (this in the Galloway plan, which emphasizes intermittent walking with the running and a very slow pace, which was a deal breaker for me, though I know it works for lots of people).
Now, I’m a novice at this. I know that the goal with a first marathon should be to make that finish line with time being de-emphasized, but I’m stubborn. I want to run a sub 4:00, and am shooting for sub 3:45. Based on my race times at shorter distances, the calculators available to estimate my marathon time tended to spit out around a 3:25-3:30 time. This, I knew, was completely unrealistic.
I felt, according to the bulk of what I read, that multiple 20 milers were probably necessary to reach my goal, but more than 20 miles was probably a concern for me given my propensity for inflammatory type injuries and this training distance was probably best left to the elites.
Interestingly, the most scientific approach to marathon time projection I found came not from Runner’s World, or Running Times, or any of the other major sport-specific publications, but… from Slate.com.
It used real world data provided by runners from over 4,000 races in order to more accurately predict the marathon time in particular. The methodology used was sound, and the results seemed a lot more accurate than with other calendars. It solved the weekly mileage question for me too, as training schedules were surveyed, and the runners who logged 50 miles per week prior to tapering performed better than those who did not (the average being 35 miles).
The calculator and methodology can be found here.
So, I am actually doing a sort of hybrid between the intermediate Higdon and the FIRST program, with the mileage coming from the Higdon, but my running pace more similar to the FIRST (I do my long runs at the slowest marathon pace I would be satisfied with, i.e. a 4:00 marathon pace, rather than 60-120 seconds per mile off pace). I also alternate shorter, easier workouts with longer ones, and take back-to-back days off.
Just for illustration, this week’s runs included:
Tuesday: Speedwork – 8 miles total, including warm-up, cool-down, and 5 x 7 minute reps at a 6:45 mile pace.
Wednesday: 5 miles at slightly faster than marathon pace (around 8:20-8:30 mile)
Thursday: 7.5 miles at marathon pace (8:45 mile)
Friday: 3.5 miles at slightly slower than marathon pace (around 9:20 mile)
Today: Long run of 16.3 miles, at slowest marathon pace I’d be happy with (9:10 mile) followed by 2 days off.
Total: 40.3 miles.
As far as injuries are concerned, it’s gotten to the point where I’m basically managing a couple of minor injuries (left groin tendonitis and right medial tibial tendonitis) and trying to keep them from becoming bigger problems, using the same ice, compression, elevation, intermittent rest, and use of anti-inflammatories that I’ve used before. And it seems to be working, although we shall see if this holds when I get up to 50 plus miles in a couple of weeks. Anyway, now I’m off for a couple of days, so at least there’s that.
I’m gonna go eat some cupcakes now.