There’s a lot of stuff they don’t tell you as a neophyte would-be marathon runner.
I think I was a bit overconfident in trying to feel my way through the process. Somehow, I was under the impression that I could find an online plan, blindly follow it, and everything would work out. That clearly didn’t turn out to be the case at all. Things would probably have gone better if I had just tried to seek out some advice from friends of mine, and there are a few, who are veteran marathoners. Pride cometh before a fall, as they say.
So, for this post, I thought I’d look back and try to come up with some clear lessons learned, in order to help myself and maybe anyone else who reads this.
Here we go:
1. Marathon plans involving rigid running schedules and a specific number of miles don’t work for me.
I felt like absolute shit after I ran my first 40-mile week, and I got hurt shortly after that. In addition to the problems with actually fitting all of the mileage into my schedule, I never felt like there was enough time for me to recover in between runs. The other thing I noticed was that it TOTALLY sucked all the enjoyment out of running for me. It really made me wonder about the concept of “junk miles”. A lot of the training I was doing was probably low quality miles where I was just slogging through and I don’t think it was helping me.
2. I was doing my training runs way too goddamn fast.
The run I got hurt on was an 18 miler that I tried to do at an 8:15/mile pace because I struggle with running slow enough on long runs. This was a theme in training.
3. Going from being basically a couch potato to being a sub 4:00 marathoner in 6 months is probably not going to work for most people (it didn’t for me).
I mean, holy crap. I read that sentence above again and I can’t believe I was so naive. I was really buoyed by some encouraging early results when I made the commitment to do a dozen races this year, but I was ignoring the clear fact that a marathon is so far removed from even the 1:40 half marathon I ran in February that it might as well be another sport. Building a base on which I could work toward the marathon should have been the priority, and it wasn’t. As a result, the overuse injuries killed me. The good news is, I have that base now.
4. I probably don’t need to run all that much to be successful, as long as I put in quality work.
I’m not saying I can do a marathon on 20 mile weeks. But consider this: I ran three half marathons this year. My fastest time came when I was “undertrained” and running… uh… 20 mile weeks. To be fair, I did throw runs of 8, 10, and 12 miles in there. The key was I did all my mileage at or near half marathon pace and added speedwork every couple of weeks. Yes, I did feel the lack of work in the second half of the race in Toronto and given my 10K split I should have been faster. But feeling great physically going in really helped.
5. I’m wayyyyyy faster at the shorter distances.
My half marathon PR equates to a 21:17 5K, apparently. My real 5K time is almost down to 20:00 flat. I will continue to do a mix of distances, but my podium finishes in the 5K races have me thinking about leaning a little more toward these as opposed to the longer ones.
6. Half marathons are great, people are still impressed when you say you run them, and you can still, like, do stuff with the rest of the day after you finish one.
I gotta say the marathoners I saw in Cleveland did not look like they were doing well after finishing. Not that I am disparaging the marathon. I still want to run one. But, if your goal is to seem like a badass, you can probably get away with the shorter distance as long as your friends aren’t ultramarathoners or something.
7. On balance, I really prefer running in Florida in the winter.
Because, you know, genital nip and stuff. I also ran in San Francisco when I was there which was pleasant weather wise but, wow. Hills.
8. Don’t say you’re going to run a marathon for charity when it’s your first time.
Yeesh. This was dumb. It’s pretty tough to admit to a bunch of people that have given you money that you can’t physically do the race. They were understanding. But still, don’t do it.
9. I’m still doing the damn marathon. But next time I’m gonna do it right.
It might not be next year, or the year after. But it is going to happen. Mark it down.