A couple weeks ago I emailed the coaches at Team In Training to ask for some advice. I’ve been chomping at the bit to get some extra miles in, and I wanted their advice on how to go about it.
Back story: the first time I attempted to run a half marathon, I failed. I was in good shape, having run 10 miles on three occasions in the previous month. For the first attempt, I was running in my neighborhood, and my definition of success was to run 13.1 miles without stopping. I couldn’t do it. I went out too fast, and I burned out at around 10 miles. I had to walk several times from there to the end of my workout. I ended up taking 2:31 to finish 13.13 miles.
The second time I tried (the next weekend), I failed again. I went out too fast, and didn’t have enough water with me. This time I crashed at mile 8, and there was a lot more walking than the prior weekend. A wrong turn didn’t help. 14.36 miles took 3:00:04. I came very close to calling home and asking for a ride. I felt like a total failure.
The third time was the charm. Third weekend, third attempt… and I did it! I completed 13.45 miles in 2:33:09 without stopping. It felt amazing. It wasn’t a race; these were all just training runs. Having completed the run without stopping, I felt very accomplished. Two days later I would turn in my Boston Marathon application, and in two weeks I’d run my first half marathon race.
I write this to explain some of the jitters I have when I think about the Boston Marathon. I defined failure as not being able to run the entire time for the goal distance, and I have a history of being prepared but not finishing my goal. So I wrote my trainers, explained where I was physically, and that I felt like I could run 26.2 miles before the end of the year. Or at least attempt it, and get it out of the way so I would know what it felt like.
Okay, I said, but I’m already running 15 to 20 miles a week more than the official training plan. How do I adjust my training to maintain my current level of fitness? I was given the green light to run a couple extra miles a day, but that was it.
So I’ve been mostly following their advice, and came up with a compromise that allowed me to get the miles I wanted, but do it in a way that didn’t push as hard.
Yesterday and today, I finished my first marathon distance. Here’s how I broke it down.
Saturday: 10.4 miles on the treadmill in 1:40:29. I worked with my watch and heart rate monitor to keep this an easy pace. My target pulse was low zone 3, or roughly 150 beats per minute (BPM). That’s 30 BPM below my target max pulse of 180. At this level of effort, I can easily sustain conversation.
Sunday: 15.7 miles on the road in 2:38:50 (at which point I was still a mile from home, so I actually logged 16.7 miles – oops). I’m including a couple pictures I took while on the road; it was a beautiful day for a run.
Again I was working with the heart rate monitor to keep the effort sustainable, but this time I allowed myself more latitude. I set the watch to alarm if I left zone 4, or 170 BPM. I tripped the alarm at about an hour and forty minutes in while running up hill, and from that point on had to take the hills pretty slow. If I forgot, the watch reminded me that my pulse was over my objective and that I needed to slow down.
From 3:53 PM on Saturday to 12:00 noon on Sunday, I completed a marathon. One big break in the middle… but I logged 26.2 miles within one 24 hour period. I’ll call that a virtual marathon and take it as a win. Sure, it took 20 hours and 7 minutes to do it, but running time was 4:19:19. Not bad for a rookie…
Now all I need to do over the next 113 days is compress this from two runs to one. I wouldn’t mind if I could shave 19:20 off that time, too; I’d love to finish this thing in under four hours. I’d love to finish it without walking, too. But most of all, I’d love to finish it. So it’s back to paying attention to the training plan, following coaches’ instructions, and doing the hard work now that will pay off on race day.